Study Guide

Test of Academic Proficiency
Sample Multiple-Choice Questions

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Field 401: Reading Comprehension

Each multiple-choice question has four answer choices. Read each question and its answer choices carefully and choose the ONE best answer.

During the test you should try to answer all questions. Even if you are unsure of an answer, it is better to guess than not to answer a question at all. You will NOT be penalized for choosing an incorrect response.

Read the passage below; then answer the six questions that follow.

Durkheim and the Development of Sociology

1 Sociology is defined as the study of human groups. In the broadest sense, sociology is concerned with understanding patterns of human relationships, their causes, and their effects. Unlike psychology, sociology does not attempt to explain the behavior of a particular individual under certain circumstances. Rather, sociology focuses on social trends or other influences that affect whole groups or categories of people. Thus, while a psychologist might counsel an individual who feels worthless after retiring from a long and successful career, a sociologist would be more likely to examine societal attitudes that may contribute to the loss of self-esteem experienced by many retired persons in our society.

2 The emphasis that sociology places on human groups rather than on individuals stems directly from the work of Emile Durkheim, a pioneering sociologist of the nineteenth century. Durkheim likened the nature of a social group to bronze, a unique metal that is formed when the metals tin, copper, and lead are melted and mixed together. Durkheim noted that bronze is much harder than any of its component metals. In the same way, he reasoned, the characteristics of a social group viewed as a whole cannot be determined simply by examining the characteristics of its individual members. Nor can individuals be understood strictly in terms of the individuals themselves; when people come together as members of a particular group, the group exerts considerable pressure on the individual to conform to what it considers acceptable ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.

3 Besides developing a theoretical foundation for the study of social groups, Durkheim also conducted research designed to corroborate his theoretical work. Using landmark research methods, Durkheim collected and analyzed data from a number of countries that kept records on suicides. He wanted to show that social environment may have a profound effect even on those behaviors we consider most personal. The results of his study showed that suicide rates do indeed vary according to specific social characteristics. For example, Durkheim found that members of religions with strong prohibitions against suicide are less likely to commit suicide than are members of religious groups with weaker prohibitions. He also found a lower incidence of suicide among married persons than among persons who were single or divorced. Taken together, the findings of Durkheim's study provided convincing evidence that social groups do indeed exert pressures that control or regulate the behavior of individuals, including deeply personal behaviors.

4 Durkheim's rigorous research methods captured the attention of sociologists around the world and were perhaps even more important to the future development of sociology than any specific research results could be. Within a short time, his specific approach to formulating and testing social theory became a model that guided the work of nearly all sociologists. This assured Emile Durkheim a lasting place as one of the key figures in the history of sociology.
Standard 0001
Determine the meaning of words and phrases in context.

1. Which of the following best defines the word model as it is used in the last paragraph of the selection?

  1. one of two or more alternative styles
  2. an artist's subject
  3. a small copy of an object
  4. a plan to be imitated
Correct Response: D.

Standard 0002
Understand the main idea and supporting details in written material.

2. Which of the following best expresses the main idea of the selection?

  1. The research study conducted by Durkheim provided strong evidence that suicide rates vary among members of different social groups.
  2. Durkheim believed that individual members of a group strongly influence the group's ways of thinking, feeling, and behaving.
  3. Both the social group theory and the scientific research methods developed by Durkheim have contributed much to the field of sociology.
  4. Through his research, Durkheim made great strides in distinguishing sociology from psychology.
Correct Response: C.

Standard 0003
Apply skills of inference and interpretation to a variety of written materials.

3. The writer's main purpose in writing this selection is to:

  1. outline the steps Durkheim followed in conducting his research study.
  2. describe the ways in which Durkheim's work has influenced sociology.
  3. persuade the reader that social groups control most of the behaviors of their individual members.
  4. explain the differences between sociology and psychology.
Correct Response: B.

Standard 0004
Analyze relationships among ideas in written material.

4. According to the selection, how do sociologists and psychologists differ?

  1. Sociologists are more concerned with explaining behavior than are psychologists.
  2. Psychologists focus more on individuals than do sociologists.
  3. Sociologists spend more time helping people solve their problems than do psychologists.
  4. Psychologists are more interested in understanding patterns of human relationships than are sociologists.
Correct Response: B.

Standard 0005
Use critical reasoning skills to evaluate written material.

5. In paragraph two, the author notes that Durkheim compared social groups to bronze. Why did Durkheim consider this a meaningful analogy?

  1. The component parts of social groups can be analyzed independently of each other.
  2. Each social group is a unique entity that is unlike any other social group.
  3. Social groups are extremely difficult to break apart once they have been formed.
  4. The elements that comprise a social group are in turn altered by the group.
Correct Response: D.

Standard 0006
Apply skills for outlining and summarizing written materials and interpreting information presented in graphs or tables.

6. Which of the following lists of topics best organizes the information in the selection?

  1. —Psychology vs. sociology
    —Sociology likened to bronze
    —Durkheim's suicide research
    —Durkheim's influence in distinguishing sociology from psychology
  2. —Sociology before Durkheim
    —Durkheim's early work
    —Durkheim's later work
    —Durkheim's influence on sociology
  3. —The focus of contemporary sociology
    —Durkheim's contributions to sociological theory
    —Durkheim's contributions to sociological research methods
  4. —Sociology as the study of human groups
    —Sociology in Durkheim's time
    —Sociology since Durkheim
Correct Response: C.