ACT reading practice test 44

DIRECTIONS: Each passage is followed by several questions. After reading a passage, choose the best answer to each question and fill in the corresponding oval on your answer document. You may refer to the passages as often as necessary.


Social Science

This passage is adapted from the essay "The Trouble with Bright Girls" by Heidi Grant Halvorson (©2011 by Heidi Grant Halvorson).

Successful women know only too well that in any male-dominated profession, we often find ourselves at a disadvantage. We are routinely underestimated, underutilized and even underpaid. Studies show that women need

5 to perform at extraordinarily high levels just to appear moderately competent compared to our male coworkers.

But in my experience, smart and talented women rarely realize that one of the toughest hurdles they'll have to overcome lies within. Compared with our male

10 colleagues, we judge our own abilities not only more harshly but fundamentally differently. Understanding why we do it is the first step to righting a terrible wrong. And to do that, we need to take a step back in time.

Chances are good that if you are a successful professional

15 today, you were a pretty bright fifth grade girl. Psychologist Carol Dweck conducted a series of studies in the 1980s looking at how bright girls and boys in the fifth grade handled new, difficult and confusing material.

She found that bright girls, when given something to

20 learn that was particularly foreign or complex, were quick to give up; the higher the girls' IQ, the more likely they were to throw in the towel. In fact, the straight-A girls showed the most helpless responses. Bright boys, on the other hand, saw the difficult material as a challenge,

25 and found it energizing. They were more likely to redouble their efforts than give up.

Why does this happen What makes smart girls less confident when they should be the most confident kids in the room At the 5th-grade level, girls routinely

30 outperform boys in every subject, including math and science. So there were no differences between these boys and girls in ability, nor in past history of success. The only difference was how bright boys and girls interpreted difficulty-what it meant to them when material seemed

35 hard to learn. Bright girls were much quicker to doubt their ability, to lose confidence and to become less effective learners as a result.

Researchers have uncovered the reason for this difference in how difficulty is interpreted: more often than

40 not, bright girls believe that their abilities are innate and unchangeable, while bright boys believe that they can develop ability through effort and practice.

How do girls and boys develop these different views Most likely, it has to do with the kinds of feedback

45 we get from parents and teachers as children. Girls, who develop self-control earlier and are better able to follow instructions, are often praised for their "goodness." When we do well in school, we are told that we are "so smart," "so clever," or "such a good student." This kind

50 of praise implies that traits like smartness, cleverness and goodness are qualities you either have or you don't.

Boys, on the other hand, are a handful. Just trying to get boys to sit still and pay attention is a real challenge for any parent or teacher. As a result, boys are given feedback

55 that emphasizes effort (e.g., "If you would just pay attention you could learn this," "If you would just try a little harder you could get it right"). The result: when learning something new is difficult, girls take it as a sign that they aren't "good" and "smart," and boys take it as a

60 sign to try harder.

We continue to carry these beliefs, often unconsciously, around with us throughout our lives. And because bright girls are particularly likely to see their abilities as innate and unchangeable, they grow up to be

65 women who are far too hard on themselves-women who will prematurely conclude that they don't have what it takes to succeed in a particular arena, and give up way too soon.

Even if every external disadvantage is

70 removed-every inequality of opportunity, every chauvinistic stereotype, all the challenges we face balancing work and family-we would still have to deal with the fact that through our mistaken beliefs about our abilities, we may be our own worst enemy.

75 How often have you found yourself avoiding challenges and playing it safe, sticking to goals you knew would be easy for you to reach Are there things you decided long ago that you could never be good at Skills you believed you would never possess If the list is a

80 long one, you were probably one of the bright girls-and your belief that you are stuck being exactly as you are has done more to determine the course of your life than you probably ever imagined.

No matter the ability-whether it's intelligence,

85 creativity, self-control, charm or athleticism-studies show them to be profoundly malleable. When it comes to mastering any skill, your experience, effort and persistence matter a lot. So if you were a bright girl, it's time to toss out your mistaken belief about how ability works,

90 embrace the fact that you can always improve and reclaim the confidence that you lost so long ago.

1. The main idea of the passage is that:

A. educational methodology in our society is biased against girls, especially bright ones.
B. paradoxically, bright girls grow up to be far less confident in themselves than they should be.
C. because they mature faster, girls are better at following directions than boys are.
D. contrary to popular belief, there are actually no differences in how girls and boys learn.

2. The passage's tone is best described as:

F. bitter.
G. lighthearted.
H. sardonic.
J. analytical.

3. One of the main ideas of the seventh paragraph (lines 43-51) is that:

A. adults unintentionally contribute to the low confidence of bright girls.
B. bright boys at the elementary school level do not receive sufficient praise from adults.
C. most adults mistakenly believe that girls develop self-control earlier than boys.
D. adults should make more of an effort to praise all students, rather than just the bright ones.

4. According to the passage, which of the following factors does NOT contribute to eventual confidence problems in bright girls?

F. Their knowledge of the fact that adult women, even bright ones, are often underpaid
G. The fact that young girls tend to be better behaved than young boys are
H. A valuable approach to challenges that adults unintentionally instill only in boys
J. Inferences about the nature of academic ability drawn from the language of teachers

5. The passage best supports which of the following as a possible solution to the confidence problems of bright adult women?

A. Removing inequalities of opportunity and chauvinistic stereotypes
B. Encouraging women to reexamine their own views about the nature of ability
C. Refraining from informing children of their IQs until they are much older
D. Teaching boys to develop self-control earlier

6. As it is used in line 86, the phrase profoundly malleable most nearly means:

F. philosophically accurate.
G. significantly different.
H. extremely changeable.
J. inspirationally beneficial.

7. In the context of the passage, the statement in lines 7-9 most nearly means that:

A. the author believes that her experiences have made her uniquely qualified to address this subject matter.
B. smart women are harmed by the fact that they were not encouraged to participate in sports as young girls.
C. professional women often don't devote enough time to maintaining their emotional health.
D. many women don't realize that their own beliefs may be holding them back as much as the sexism of others.

8. The passage best supports which of the following claims about Carol Dweck's study?

F. It uncovered a problem in learning development unique to the smartest girls.
G. It found that IQ is a more accurate predictor of scholastic success in boys than in girls.
H. The methodology used to conduct the study was a great innovation for the time.
J. More recent research has uncovered possible flaws in its conclusions.

9. The passage mentions all of the following as differences between girls and boys EXCEPT:

A. how fast they mature.
B. how easy they are to control.
C. which subjects they tend to excel at.
D. the ways that adults talk to them.

10. According to the passage, success in overcoming challenges of all kinds is:

F. determined very early in life.
G. largely the result of self-image.
H. completely unrelated to gender.
J. completely unrelated to IQ.