ACT Reading Practice Test 84: SOCIAL SCIENCE

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: Passage A is adapted from the book
Seabiscuit: An American Legend by Laura Hillenbrand (©2001 by Laura Hillenbrand). Passage B is adapted from the article "The Flop Heard Round the World" by Peter Carlson (©2007 by The Washington Post).

Passage A by Laura Hillenbrand

The horseless carriage was just arriving in San
Francisco and its debut was turning into one of those
colorfully unmitigated disasters that bring misery to
everyone but historians. Consumers were staymg away
5from the "devilish contraptions" in droves. In San Fran-
cisco in 1903, the horse and buggy was not going the
way of the horse and buggy.

For good reason. The automobile, so sleekly effi?
cient on paper, was in practice a civic menace, belching
10out exhaust, kicking up storms of dust, becoming hope-
lessly mired in the most innocuous-lookmg puddles,
and tying up horse traffic. Incensed local lawmakers
responded with monuments to legislative creativity The
laws of at least one town required automobile drivers to
15stop, get out, and fire off Roman candles every time
horse-drawn vehicles came into view. Massachusetts
tried and, fortunately, failed to mandate that cars be
equipped with bells that would ring with each revolu-
tion of the wheels. In some towns police were autho-
20rized to disable passing cars with ropes, chains and
wires. San Francisco didn't escape the legislative wave.
Bitter local officials pushed through an ordinance ban-
ning automobiles from all tourist areas, effectively exil-
ing them from the city.

25Nor were these the only obstacles. The asking
price for the cheapest automobile amounted to twice the
$500 annual salary of the average citizen-some cost
three times that much-and all that bought you was
four wheels, a body, and an engine. "Accessories" like
30bumpers, carburetors, and headlights had to be pur-
chased separately. Navigation was a nightmare. The
first of San Francisco's road signs were only just being
erected, hammered up by an enterprising insurance
underwriter who hoped to win clients by posting direc-
35tions into the countryside, where drivers retreated for
automobile "picnic parties" held out of the view of
angry townsfolk.

The first automobiles imported to San Francisco
had so little power that they rarely made it up the hills.
40The grade of Nineteenth Avenue was so daunting for
the engines of the day that watching automobiles strain-
ing for the top became a local pastime.

Passage B by Peter Carlson

In the mid-1950s, Ford Motor Company was build-
ing not one, not two, but 18 varieties of Edsel, includ-
45ing a convertible and a station wagon. The designers
came up with some interesting ideas. They created a
push-button transmission and put it in the middle of the
steering wheel, where most cars have a horn. And they
fiddled with the front end: Where other cars had hori-
50zontal chrome grilles, the Edsel would have a vertical
chrome oval in its grille. It was new! It was different!

Unfortunately, it didn't work. It couldn't suck in
enough air to cool the engine. "They had to keep open-
ing up that oval to get more air in there," says Jim
55Arnold, who was a trainee in Edsel's design shop. "And
it didn't look as good."

Edsel didn't have its own assembly lines, so the
cars were produced in Ford and Mercury plants, which
caused problems. Every once in a while, an Edsel
60would roll past workers who were used to Mercurys or
other Fords. Confused, they sometimes failed to install
all the parts before the Edsel moved on down the line.
Cars without parts can be a problem, of course, but
other aspects of the Edsel juggernaut worked per-
65fectly-the hype, for instance. The Edsel PR team
touted the glories of the cars, but wouldn't let anybody
see them. When they finally released a photo, it turned
out to be a picture of .. . the Edsel's hood ornament.
And hundreds of publications actually printed it!

70On September 4, 1957, proclaimed by Ford as
E-Day, nearly 3 million Americans flocked to show-
rooms to see the Edsel.Unfortunately,very few of them
bought the Edsel."We couldn't even get people to drive
it," says the C. Gayle Warnock, Edsel's public relations
75director."They just didn't like the car,They just didn't
like the front end."

But styling was hardly the worst problem. Oil pans
fell off, trunks stuck, paint peeled, doors failed to close
and the much-hyped "Teletouch" push-button transmis-
80sion had a distressing tendency to freeze up. People
joked that Edsel stood for "Every day something else

Another major problem was caused by bad luck:
The Edsel was an upscale car launched a couple months
85after a stock market plunge caused a recession. Sales of
all premium cars plummeted.
Before E-Day, Edsel's hypemeisters promised to
sell 200,000 cars the first year. Actually, they sold
63,110. Sales dropped below 45,000 the second year.
90And only 2,846 of the 1960 models sold before Ford
pulled the plug.

1. Which of the following statements about automobiles in San Francisco in 1903. is best supported by Passage A?

A. They were affordable for the average citizen but unpopular nevertheless.
B. They were used more by tourists for sightseeing purposes than by citizens for practical purposes.
C. They failed to capture the public imagination in spite of huge public relations efforts.
D. They were considered a public nuisance by all but a small segment of the population.

2. Which of the following terms in Passage A is used more figuratively than literally?

F. Puddles (line 11)
G. Monuments(line 13)
H. Bells (line 18)
J. Hills (line 39)

3. The purpose of the quotation marks around the word accessories in line 29 is most likely to:

A. suggest that the features were actually essentials.
B. indicate that the word appeared in legal documents.
C. emphasize that the word was widely misunderstood.
D. clarify that inexpensive automobiles had some luxury features.

4. Which of the following statements best captures how Passage B characterizes the failure of the Edsel?

F. It happened gradually and went unnoticed at the time by the public.
G. It happened quickly despite promising initial sales.
H. It was on a huge scale, occurred swiftly, and was a public event of sorts.
J. It occurred when other automakers were doing well and therefore embarrassed Ford all the more.

5. The statement in lines 43-45 is typical of Passage B in the way it:

A. contrasts data about the Edsel with data about other cars of the 1950s.
B. conveys the obligation that Ford executives felt to involve consumers in the design of the Edsel.
C. combines an industry perspective on the Edsel with that of the typical consumer.
D. suggests the entire Edsel enterprise was marked by extremes.

6. Which of the following events referred to in Passage B occurred first chronologically?

F. E-Day ended.
G. The stock market plunged.
H. Edsel sales dropped below 45,000.
J. Edsel sales reached 2,846

7. As it is used in the passage, the term premium cars (line 86) serves primarily as a:

A. reference to what Edsels have become now that they are valued antiques.
B. name for a type of car that was ushered in by the makers of the Edsel.
C. label for a category of cars that the makers of the Edsel intended it to belong to.
D. derisive term used sarcastically by Edsel owners who were disappointed in their purchase.

8. A similarity between the two passages is that they both:

F. examine their topics from a significant distance of time.
G. reveal the author's professional background as a way of lending credibility to the text.
H. assert that automobiles have contributed little that is worthwhile to society.
J. incorporate information about traffic and road conditions into a discussiong of automobile design.

9. An element of Passage A that is not present in Pas-sage B is a reference to what aspect of the automobile culture?

A. Related legislation
B. Public opinion
C. Economics
D. Quotations from industry experts

10. If publicity experts had been assigned to build enthusi-asm for the cars mentioned in Passage A using the methods described in Passage B, the experts would most likely have first released photos to the press that showed:

F. cars going up Nineteenth Avenue in San Francisco.
G. a single detail such as a gleaming headlight or a polished door handle.
H. the meticulous work done along the assembly line to ensure the quality of the new car.
J. an attractive young couple smiling as they enjoy a car ride past horses grazing in pastures.