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Reading Sample Questions

Click on the letter choices to determine if you have the correct answer and for question explanations.
(An actual ACT Reading Test contains 40 questions to be answered in 35 minutes.

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

PROSE FICTION: This passage is adapted from Elizabeth Bishop's
short story "The Housekeeper" (©1984 by Alice Methfessel).

  Outside, the rain continued to run down the
screened windows of Mrs. Sennett's little Cape Cod
cottage. The long weeds and grass that composed the
front yard dripped against the blurred background of


the bay, where the water was almost the color of the
grass. Mrs. Sennett's five charges were vigorously
playing house in the dining room. (In the wintertime,
Mrs. Sennett was housekeeper for a Mr. Curley, in
Boston, and during the summers the Curley children


boarded with her on the Cape.)

My expression must have changed. "Are those
children making too much noise?" Mrs. Sennett
demanded, a sort of wave going over her that might
mark the beginning of her getting up out of her chair. I


shook my head no, and gave her a little push on the
shoulder to keep her seated. Mrs. Sennett was almost
stone-deaf and had been for a long time, but she could
read lips. You could talk to her without making any
sound yourself, if you wanted to, and she more than


kept up her side of the conversation in a loud, rusty
voice that dropped weirdly every now and then into a
whisper. She adored talking.

To look at Mrs. Sennett made me think of eigh-
teenth-century England and its literary figures. Her hair


must have been sadly thin, because she always wore,
indoors and out, either a hat or a sort of turban, and
sometimes she wore both. The rims of her eyes were
dark; she looked very ill.

Mrs. Sennett and I continued talking. She said she


really didn't think she'd stay with the children another
winter. Their father wanted her to, but it was too much
for her. She wanted to stay right here in the cottage.

The afternoon was getting along, and I finally left
because I knew that at four o'clock Mrs. Sennett's "sit


down" was over and she started to get supper. At six
o'clock, from my nearby cottage, I saw Theresa coming
through the rain with a shawl over her head. She was
bringing me a six-inch-square piece of spicecake, still
hot from the oven and kept warm between two soup



A few days later I learned from the twins, who
brought over gifts of firewood and blackberries, that
their father was coming the next morning, bringing
their aunt and her husband and their cousin. Mrs.


Sennett had promised to take them all on a picnic at the
pond some pleasant day.

On the fourth day of their visit, Xavier arrived
with a note. It was from Mrs. Sennett, written in blue
ink, in a large, serene, ornamented hand, on linen-finish



. . . Tomorrow is the last day Mr. Curley has and
the Children all wanted the Picnic so much. The Men
can walk to the Pond but it is too far for the Children. I
see your Friend has a car and I hate to ask this but


could you possibly drive us to the Pond tomorrow
morning? . . .

Very sincerely yours,

Carmen Sennett

After the picnic, Mrs. Sennett's presents to me


were numberless. It was almost time for the children to
go back to school in South Boston. Mrs. Sennett
insisted that she was not going; their father was coming
down again to get them and she was just going to stay.
He would have to get another housekeeper. She said


this over and over to me, loudly, and her turbans and
kerchiefs grew more and more distrait.

One evening, Mary came to call on me and we sat
on an old table in the back yard to watch the sunset.

"Papa came today," she said, "and we've got to go


back day after tomorrow."

"Is Mrs. Sennett going to stay here?"

"She said at supper she was. She said this time she
really was, because she'd said that last year and came
back, but now she means it."


I said, "Oh dear," scarcely knowing which side I
was on.

"It was awful at supper. I cried and cried."

"Did Theresa cry?"

"Oh, we all cried. Papa cried, too. We always do."


"But don't you think Mrs. Sennett needs a rest?"

"Yes, but I think she'll come, though. Papa told
her he'd cry every single night at supper if she didn't,
and then we all did."

The next day I heard that Mrs. Sennett was going


back with them just to "help settle." She came over the
following morning to say goodbye, supported by all
five children. She was wearing her traveling hat of
black satin and black straw, with sequins. High and
somber, above her ravaged face, it had quite a Spanish-


grandee air.

"This isn't really goodbye," she said. "I'll be back
as soon as I get these bad, noisy children off my

But the children hung on to her skirt and tugged at


her sleeves, shaking their heads frantically, silently
saying, "No! No! No!" to her with their puckered-up

1.   According to the narrator, Mrs. Sennett wears a hat because she:
  A.   is often outside.
  B.   wants to look like a literary figure.
  C.   has thin hair.
  D.   has unique taste in clothing.
2.   Considering the events of the entire passage, it is most reasonable to infer that Mrs. Sennett calls the children bad (line 92) because she:
  F.   is bothered by the noise they are making.
  G.   doesn't like them hanging on her skirt.
  H.   doesn't want to reveal her affection for them.
  J.   is angry that they never do what she tells them.
3.   Considering how Mrs. Sennett is portrayed in the passage, it is most reasonable to infer that the word ravaged, as it is used in line 89, most nearly means that her face reveals:
  A.   irritation and annoyance.
  B.   resentfulness and anger.
  C.   age and fatigue.
  D.   enthusiasm and excitement.
4.   What is the main insight suggested by the conversation in lines 69-83?
  F.   The Curley family cries to manipulate Mrs. Sennett into doing what they want.
  G.   The narrator regrets that she is not going to Boston and is a little jealous of Mrs. Sennett.
  H.   Mrs. Sennett is happy to leave the Curley family because they are always whining and crying.
  J.   Mrs. Sennett intends to return to the Cape soon because she has discovered that they have been manipulating and taking advantage of her.
5.   Which of the following does the passage suggest is the result of Mrs. Sennett's loss of hearing?
  A.   She is often frustrated and short-tempered.
  B.   She can lip-read.
  C.   She dislikes conversation.
  D.   She is a shy and lonely woman.
6.   Given the evidence provided throughout the passage, the children probably silently mouth the word "no" (lines 94-97) because:
  F.   Mrs. Sennett has just called them bad, noisy children, and they are defending themselves.
  G.   they do not want to leave the Cape before the summer is over and are protesting.
  H.   they are letting the narrator know that Mrs. Sennett is thinking about returning to the Cape.
  J.   they are continuing their battle against Mrs. Sennett's intention to return to the Cape.
The best answer is J.
The last 30+ lines of the passage focus on this issue. H is simply not true: the children are speaking to Mrs. Sennett, not the narrator. There is no indication that they are reluctant to leave, which rules out G. F can be eliminated because the children do not seem offended by Mrs. Sennett's words; it is more likely that they are merely continuing their manipulative behavior (see lines 79, 81-83).
7.   It is reasonable to infer from the passage that Mrs. Sennett asked "Are those children making too much noise?" (lines 11-12) because Mrs. Sennett:
  A.   concerns herself about the well-being of others.
  B.   wishes to change the subject to literary figures.
  C.   cannot supervise the children without the narrator.
  D.   is bothered by the noise the children make.
8.   The details and events in the passage suggest that the friendship between the narrator and Mrs. Sennett would most accurately be described as:
  F.   stimulating, marked by a shared love of eccentric adventures.
  G.   indifferent, marked by occasional insensitivity to the needs of the other.
  H.   considerate, notable for the friends' exchange of favors.
  J.   emotional, based on the friends' long commitment to share their burdens with one another.
9.   As it is used in line 3, the word composed most nearly means:
  A.   contented.
  B.   unexcited.
  C.   satisfied.
  D.   constituted.
10.   At what point does Mr. Curley cry at the supper table?
  F.   Before Mary and the narrator sit and watch the sunset
  G.   Before Mrs. Sennett tells the narrator she doubts she will stay another winter with the children
  H.   Before the children spend a rainy afternoon playing house in the dining room
  J.   After the narrator learns that Mrs. Sennett will return to Boston