ACT Reading Practice Test 2

Directions: The passage below is accompanied by several questions. After reading the passage, choose the best answer to each of the ACT Reading test questions. You may refer to the passage as often as necessary.

Passage 2

It was generally agreed in New York that the Countess Olenska had “lost her looks.”

She had appeared there first, in Newland Archer’s boyhood, as a brilliantly pretty little girl of nine or ten, of whom people said that she “ought to be painted.” Her parents had been continental wanderers, and after a roaming babyhood she had lost them both, and been taken in charge by her aunt, Medora Manson, also a wanderer, who was herself returning to New York to “settle down.”

Poor Medora, repeatedly widowed, was always coming home to settle down (each time in a less expensive house), and bringing with her a new husband or an adopted child; but after a few months she invariably parted from her husband or quarrelled with her ward, and, having got rid of her house at a loss, set out again on her wanderings. As her mother had been a Rushworth, and her last unhappy marriage had linked her to one of the crazy Chiverses, New York looked indulgently on her eccentricities; but when she returned with her little orphaned niece, whose parents had been popular in spite of their regrettable taste for travel, people thought it a pity that the pretty child should be in such hands.

Everyone was disposed to be kind to little Ellen Mingott, though her dusky red cheeks and tight curls gave her an air of gaiety that seemed unsuitable in a child who should still have been in black for her parents. It was one of the misguided Medora’s many peculiarities to flout the unalterable rules that regulated American mourning, and when she stepped from the steamer her family were scandalised to see that the crape veil she wore for her own brother was seven inches shorter than those of her sisters-in-law, while little Ellen was in crimson merino and amber beads.

But New York had so long resigned itself to Medora that only a few old ladies shook their heads over Ellen’s gaudy clothes, while her other relations fell under the charm of her high colour and high spirits. She was a fearless and familiar little thing, who asked disconcerting questions, made precocious comments, and possessed outlandish arts, such as dancing a Spanish shawl dance and singing Neapolitan love-songs to a guitar. Under the direction of her aunt, the little girl received an expensive but incoherent education, which included “drawing from the model,” a thing never dreamed of before, and playing the piano in quintets with professional musicians.

Of course no good could come of this; and when, a few years later, poor Chivers finally died in a mad-house, his widow (draped in strange weeds) again pulled up stakes and departed with Ellen, who had grown into a tall bony girl with conspicuous eyes. For some time no more was heard of them; then news came of Ellen’s marriage to an immensely rich Polish nobleman of legendary fame. She disappeared, and when a few years later Medora again came back to New York, subdued, impoverished, mourning a third husband, and in quest of a still smaller house, people wondered that her rich niece had not been able to do something for her. Then came the news that Ellen’s own marriage had ended in disaster, and that she was herself returning home to seek rest and oblivion among her kinsfolk.

These things passed through Newland Archer’s mind a week later as he watched the Countess Olenska enter the van der Luyden drawing-room on the evening of the momentous dinner. In the middle of the room she paused, looking about her with a grave mouth and smiling eyes; and in that instant Newland Archer rejected the general verdict on her looks. It was true that her early radiance was gone. The red cheeks had paled; she was thin, worn, a little older-looking than her age, which must have been nearly thirty. But there was about her the mysterious authority of beauty, a sureness in the carriage of the head, the movement of the eyes, which, without being in the least theatrical, struck his as highly trained and full of a conscious power. At the same time she was simpler in manner than most of the ladies present, and many people (as he heard afterward) were disappointed that her appearance was not more “stylish” –for stylishness was what New York most valued. It was, perhaps, Archer reflected, because her early vivacity had disappeared; because she was so quiet–quiet in her movements, her voice, and the tones of her low-pitched voice. New York had expected something a good deal more reasonant in a young woman with such a history.

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Question 1
The author describes which of the following practices as undesirable to New York society?

Playing the piano
Performing Spanish shawl dances
Adopting children
Question 1 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Remember that the correct answer to Detail questions will be directly stated in the passage. The passage mentions Ellen’s parents’ “regrettable taste for travel,” and makes it clear that New York society agrees with this characterization. A good prediction would be something like “travel.”
Question 2
As a result of her “peculiarities,” Medora offends her family by:

allowing Ellen to marry a Polish nobleman.
wearing a veil that is too short for mourning.
returning to New York with no money.
refusing to dress stylishly when meeting Newland Archer.
Question 2 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). Each of the answer choices may be a detail from the passage, but only one will be the correct response to the question. Predicting an answer will help keep you from being distracted by irrelevant details. The only time in the passage in which Medora’s family is upset is when they are “scandalized” that she wears a veil that is shorter than those of her sisters-in-law; this makes an excellent prediction.
Question 3
It is most reasonable to infer that, after the death of Medora’s third husband, Ellen did not help her aunt primarily because:

Ellen was no longer wealthy, since her own marriage had failed.
Medora had become embittered because she hadn’t heard from Ellen for so long.
Ellen resented the incoherent education she received from her aunt.
receiving help from her niece would interfere with Medora’s desire to be eccentric.
Question 3 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). This is an Inference question. To answer, you will have to make an inference based on implications from the passage. Remember that even an inference is supported by details. Based on the passage, we can predict that Ellen was unable to help her aunt because her own marriage to the immensely rich Polish nobleman “had ended in disaster.”
Question 4
Based on the characterization of Newland Archer in the last paragraph, he can best be described as:

reflective and non-judgmental.
likable but withdrawn.
disinterested but fair.
stylish and gregarious.
Question 4 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). This “Main Idea” question asks you to draw a “big picture” generalization synthesizing information from the entire passage. Newland is not disappointed that Ellen is not as “stylish” as others expected, and we get a lot of information from his observations of her. However, unlike, the other characters, he is not judgmental of her. If anything, he is thoughtful and introspective.
Question 5
The third paragraph suggests that Medora’s lifestyle was primarily viewed by others as:

acceptably different from societal norms.
a terrible example to set for her niece.
unfortunate and pitiful.
disturbingly inconsistent.
Question 5 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). The answer to this Inference question lies in the part of the passage which states that “New York looked indulgently on her eccentricities.” If people acted “indulgently” towards her, it means they treated Medora with some leeway and did not look on her too negatively.
Question 6
Which of the following conclusions about the relationship between Medora and Ellen is best supported by the passage?

Ellen is grateful that her aunt unselfishly adopted her.
Medora is jealous of her niece’s marriage to a wealthy husband.
Both women share a distaste for New York society.
Ellen has adopted some of her aunt’s unconventional traits.
Question 6 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). Answering “Main Idea” questions like this require you to pull together information from throughout the entire passage. It is clear from the fifth and seventh paragraphs that Ellen, like Medora, is unconventional and eccentric. The correct answer will likely draw a comparison between their behavior. (A) could be true, but is not supported directly by anything in the passage.
Question 7
What does the narrator suggest is a central characteristic of Medora Manson?

Question 7 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). The passage mentions Medora’s “eccentricities” and “peculiarities,” and that Medora taught Ellen “outlandish arts.” From this information, we can predict that Medora is unusual or unique from other people. The best fit here is “non-conformity.” (D) would be the direct opposite.
Question 8
Which of the following characters learns to do something otherwise unheard of by New York society?

Ellen Mingott
Newland Archer
Medora Manson
Count Olenska
Question 8 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). Detail questions like this one are fairly straightforward. Make sure you are answering the specific question being asked, so that other details don’t distract you. Medora teaches Ellen “drawing from a model,” which is described as “a thing never dreamed of before,” so predict Ellen or Countess Olenska as the correct response.
Question 9
Newland Archer would most likely agree with which of the following characterizations of Ellen?

She is confident and poised.
She is lonely and unhappy.
She is intelligent and outspoken.
She is highly-educated and intimidating.
Question 9 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). You won’t be able to predict an answer to Inference questions like this. Instead, examine each individual choice and find the one that is best supported with factual information from the passage. Although some details might seem to support several answer choices, only one will have strong support in the text. Most of the passage describes Ellen in her childhood, so focus on the last paragraph, which describes Ellen as Newland encounters her. The passage describes her sureness and “conscious power,” and in the final paragraph she appears quiet.
Question 10
One can reasonably infer from the passage that on the occasion of the dinner, Newland and Ellen:

had just met, but were immediately attracted to each other.
were interested in becoming romantically involved.
were both disappointed with New York society.
had not seen each other for some time.
Question 10 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). Remember that Inference questions will have details in the wrong answer choices that are meant to throw you off. Making a good prediction before reading the answer choices will guard against this. The beginning of the passage makes it clear that Newland knew Ellen when he was young. The passage also states that she had left New York and no one had heard from her for some years until she came back. It’s reasonable to infer that Newland and Ellen hadn’t seen each other in a while.
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