Sample Multiple-Choice Exam Questions:
My test requires you to have an in-depth, detailed, and thorough understanding of any terms and concepts listed on a review guide. This includes not only the precise, accurate, and complete details of the term or concept itself, but also the ability to recognize what are and are not examples of that term or concept, as well as a complete understanding of the historical, practical, or theoretical significance of the term or concept. Ideally, you should be able to write a short encyclopedia entry regarding each listed term or concept.
As an example, assume the review guide for an exam lists the following terms and concepts:
“12. anarchy, anti-federalist arguments over federalism, Brown v. Board of Education, Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan, politics”
Here are some sample multiple-choice questions which are typical of the types of questions I would ask, and thus these questions reveal the typical level of understanding I expect you to have regarding terms and concepts on a review guide:
1. Anarchy is:
a. a system of government where a single individual rules
b. a system of government where a small group of individuals are the rulers
c. a system of government where the people in general rule over themselves
d. a system of government where individuals elected representatives to make laws
e. none of the above
The correct answer is “e. none of the above” because anarchy is the total absence of any government or laws, making the other answers all obviously wrong, because each starts out declaring anarchy is “a system of government where . . .” which by definition can not be anarchy.
2. According to anti-federalist "An Old Whig," the Constitution gives the national government too much power over states because:
a. the national government was given the power to replace any state governments it declares are "unrepublican"
b. there will be far more national voters than state voters, and national voters will support the national government over the states
c. there is practically no limit to the power of the national government to make any laws it wants to
d. although the states can vote to "nullify" federal laws, Congress can override that nullification by a mere 2/3 vote
e. the size of the federal government (in employees and budget) will be far larger than even all the states put together
The correct answer is “c. there is practically no limit to the types of laws the national government will be able to make” because “An Old Whig,” an antifederalist, wrote in his piece titled “Where then is the Restraint” that the federalism created by the proposed Constitution would give too much power to the national government over the state governments because the Necessary and Proper Clause combined with the Supremacy Clause of the proposed Constitution would give the national government the power to make and enforce practically any law against the states. The other answers are then all obviously wrong because they are completely made-up arguments that are also completely different than anything “An Old Whig” actually said.
3. The Supreme Court case of Brown v. Board of Education declared that separate public schools for black and white children are:
a. permissible as long as the schools are “equal” in funding, facilities, and other measurable qualities
b. permissible unless students or parents at those schools objected
d. impermissible in elementary/high schools but were permissible in college
e. impermissible in Southern states but not in Northern states
The correct answer is “c. impermissible” because the court declared segregation completely violated the 14th Amendments Equal Protection Clause, which makes the other answers all obviously wrong, because the Supreme Court did not say there were any exceptions.
4. The English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes explains that when a government abuses its power, its citizens have a right to:
a. negotiate with the government and ask that it stop its abuses
b. ask other nations or groups such as the United Nations for help
c. replace that government with a new one
d. publicly protest and demand better treatment
e. have to learn to accept a dictatorship
The correct answer is “e. have to learn to accept a dictatorship.” Hobbes says the people must accept a brutally monstrous “Leviathan” government, and that once the
people have surrendered power to that government, the people have no “rights” whatsoever. Thus, all the answers other than “e” are completely incorrect.
5. An example of “politics” is:
a. two people who completely agree over how to divide up $100 between them.
b. two supervisors who completely agree over which employee should get a promotion.
c. two landowners who co-own a piece of property and who completely agree over whether the trees on the property should be cut down
d. none of the above
The correct answer is “d. none of the above” because by definition, politics occurs when people disagree over how to allocate scarce resources, whether it be money, jobs, natural resources, etc.
6. The convention which drafted our current U.S. Constitution occurred in:
a. Boston in 1776
b. New York in 1776
c. Philadelphia in 1787
d. New York in 1787
e. Boston in 1787
The correct answer is “c. Philadelphia in 1787.” The other answers are thus factually incorrect.
7. In John Adams’ letter to John Sullivan, he argues that poor white men should not be allowed to vote because they are like:
a. Native Americans
c. women and children
d. imprisoned criminals
The correct answer is “c. women and children” which makes the other answers obviously incorrect.
8. Which of the following arguments is NOT an argument for a unitary system of government:
a. it maximizes the protection of liberty
b. it would be more fair and equitable for the nation’s population
c. it would be more efficient
d. it would save money
The correct answer is “a. it mazimizes the protection of liberty” because that is NOT an argument for a unitary system of government, it is instead an argument for a federal or confederal system.
Answers b, c, and d are all arguments for a unitary system.
9. The primary purpose of the 4th through 8th Amendments is:
a. to prevent arbitrary use of government power
b. to protect the sovereignty of states governments
c. to protect rights that are not listed in the Constitution
d. to list the powers given to Congress
The correct answer is “a. to prevent arbitrary use of government power.” Amendments 4 through 8 list the rights of criminal suspects or criminally accused person. These amendments were enacted to prevent government from arbitrarily arresting, prosecuting, convicting, and sentencing someone without minimal procedural safeguards, which prevents government from using the criminal process to punish individuals or groups disfavored by government or society. Thus, the other answers are all clearly incorrect.
10. Since 1937, the U.S. Supreme Court has basically said the 10th Amendment:
a. prohibits Congress from regulating commerce in the states
b. prohibits Congress from regulating commerce in the states, unless the states agree to the regulation
c. prohibits Congress from regulating commerce in the states, unless another enumerated power of Congress specifically allows it
d. does not prohibit Congress from regulating commerce in the states
The correct answers is “d. does not prohibit Congress from regulating commerce in the states.” The Supreme Court has said the 10th Amendment offers no dividing line between the powers of the national government and the powers of the state government, so thus the 10th Amendment offers no protection to the states against Congress regulating human activity within the states. Thus, the other answers are clearly wrong.