AP US Government Unit 2 Practice Test: Branches of Government

Our free AP US Government unit 2 test covers the branches of government. Topics include structures, power, and functions of Congress, the presidency, the federal judiciary, and the bureaucracy. Also addressed is the role of each branch in policy making.

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Question 1

Questions 1–4 refer to the passage below:

Upon the principles of a free government, inconveniences from the source just mentioned must necessarily be submitted to in the formation of the legislature; but it is unnecessary, and therefore unwise, to introduce them into the constitution of the Executive. It is here too that they may be most pernicious. In the legislature, promptitude of decision is oftener an evil than a benefit. The differences of opinion, and the jarrings of parties in that department of the government, though they may sometimes obstruct salutary plans, yet often promote deliberation and circumspection, and serve to check excesses in the majority. When a resolution too is once taken, the opposition must be at an end. That resolution is a law, and resistance to it punishable. But no favorable circumstances palliate or atone for the disadvantages of dissension in the executive department. Here, they are pure and unmixed. There is no point at which they cease to operate. They serve to embarrass and weaken the execution of the plan or measure to which they relate, from the first step to the final conclusion of it. They constantly counteract those qualities in the Executive which are the most necessary ingredients in its composition, vigor and expedition, and this without any counterbalancing good. In the conduct of war, in which the energy of the Executive is the bulwark of the national security, every thing would be to be apprehended from its plurality.

—Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist No. 70
 

Hamilton argued against having a plural executive. What was his main idea?

A
A plural executive would be too powerful.
B
The jarring of political parties in the executive branch would obstruct justice.
C
A plural executive would be embarrassing when compared to other countries.
D
A single executive is more capable of taking decisive action than a plural executive.
Question 1 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). Hamilton’s main argument is stated in the fifth sentence and then rephrased in eighth and the final sentence. He states in several places that a plural executive would be weak, so answer (A) may be eliminated. The “jarring of parties” is in the legislative branch, so answer (B) is wrong. The word “embarrass” means “complicate” in this context, so answer (C) is incorrect.
Question 2
Upon the principles of a free government, inconveniences from the source just mentioned must necessarily be submitted to in the formation of the legislature; but it is unnecessary, and therefore unwise, to introduce them into the constitution of the Executive. It is here too that they may be most pernicious. In the legislature, promptitude of decision is oftener an evil than a benefit. The differences of opinion, and the jarrings of parties in that department of the government, though they may sometimes obstruct salutary plans, yet often promote deliberation and circumspection, and serve to check excesses in the majority. When a resolution too is once taken, the opposition must be at an end. That resolution is a law, and resistance to it punishable. But no favorable circumstances palliate or atone for the disadvantages of dissension in the executive department. Here, they are pure and unmixed. There is no point at which they cease to operate. They serve to embarrass and weaken the execution of the plan or measure to which they relate, from the first step to the final conclusion of it. They constantly counteract those qualities in the Executive which are the most necessary ingredients in its composition, vigor and expedition, and this without any counterbalancing good. In the conduct of war, in which the energy of the Executive is the bulwark of the national security, every thing would be to be apprehended from its plurality.

—Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist No. 70
 

According to Hamilton pluralism in the legislative branch a good idea for all of the following reasons EXCEPT

A
Pluralism encourages deliberation.
B
Pluralism checks excesses of the majority.
C
Pluralism encourages the legislature to act quickly.
D
Pluralism encourages competition between political parties.
Question 2 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). According to the fourth sentence, pluralism or the “jarring of parties” (D) in the legislative branch causes deliberation (A) and checks excesses of the majority (B). If something acts deliberately, then it acts slowly. Therefore, answer (C) is correct.
Question 3
Upon the principles of a free government, inconveniences from the source just mentioned must necessarily be submitted to in the formation of the legislature; but it is unnecessary, and therefore unwise, to introduce them into the constitution of the Executive. It is here too that they may be most pernicious. In the legislature, promptitude of decision is oftener an evil than a benefit. The differences of opinion, and the jarrings of parties in that department of the government, though they may sometimes obstruct salutary plans, yet often promote deliberation and circumspection, and serve to check excesses in the majority. When a resolution too is once taken, the opposition must be at an end. That resolution is a law, and resistance to it punishable. But no favorable circumstances palliate or atone for the disadvantages of dissension in the executive department. Here, they are pure and unmixed. There is no point at which they cease to operate. They serve to embarrass and weaken the execution of the plan or measure to which they relate, from the first step to the final conclusion of it. They constantly counteract those qualities in the Executive which are the most necessary ingredients in its composition, vigor and expedition, and this without any counterbalancing good. In the conduct of war, in which the energy of the Executive is the bulwark of the national security, every thing would be to be apprehended from its plurality.

—Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist No. 70
 

Which article of the Constitution best fits The Federalist No. 70?

A
Article I
B
Article II
C
Article III
D
Article VI
Question 3 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). Article I (A) is the legislative branch. Article II (B) is the executive branch. Article III (C) is the judicial branch. Article VI (D) is the supremacy clause.
Question 4
Upon the principles of a free government, inconveniences from the source just mentioned must necessarily be submitted to in the formation of the legislature; but it is unnecessary, and therefore unwise, to introduce them into the constitution of the Executive. It is here too that they may be most pernicious. In the legislature, promptitude of decision is oftener an evil than a benefit. The differences of opinion, and the jarrings of parties in that department of the government, though they may sometimes obstruct salutary plans, yet often promote deliberation and circumspection, and serve to check excesses in the majority. When a resolution too is once taken, the opposition must be at an end. That resolution is a law, and resistance to it punishable. But no favorable circumstances palliate or atone for the disadvantages of dissension in the executive department. Here, they are pure and unmixed. There is no point at which they cease to operate. They serve to embarrass and weaken the execution of the plan or measure to which they relate, from the first step to the final conclusion of it. They constantly counteract those qualities in the Executive which are the most necessary ingredients in its composition, vigor and expedition, and this without any counterbalancing good. In the conduct of war, in which the energy of the Executive is the bulwark of the national security, every thing would be to be apprehended from its plurality.

—Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist No. 70
 

Which of the following developments did Hamilton not anticipate in The Federalist No. 70?

A
Legislative inaction
B
The rise of political parties
C
Growth of the federal bureaucracy
D
An increase in national security threats
Question 4 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Hamilton did not anticipate the growth of bureaucracy. Pluralism in the bureaucracy has made it difficult for the executive branch to take action, especially in domestic matters. Hamilton mentions the obstructionist nature of a pluralistic legislature (A) and the “jarring of parties” (B) in the first half of the paragraph. He also makes points about security threats (D) at the end of the paragraph.
Question 5

Questions 5–6 refer to the chart below:

What is the next step in this process shown above?

A
Introduced in the Senate
B
Debated by the full Senate
C
Referred to a conference committee
D
Referred to a joint committee
Question 5 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). After a bill is approved by one house it must go through the entire process all over again in the other house. If the two houses pass different versions of the bill then the bill is referred to a conference committee (C), which is a temporary joint committee (D).
Question 6

What is the furthest point that most bills get?

A
Referred to committee
B
Reported out of committee
C
Scheduled for consideration
D
Debated by full house
Question 6 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). More than 90 percent of all bills are referred to committee but are never voted on. They “die” in committee.
Question 7

Questions 7–8 refer to the map below:

What is depicted in the map?

A
Card stacking
B
Franking
C
Gerrymandering
D
Logrolling
Question 7 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Gerrymandering is the selective drawing of electoral boundaries to give one political party an advantage over another political party. Card stacking (A) is a propaganda technique. Franking (B) is the practice of Congressmen sending mail home to their constituents free of charge. Logrolling (D) is the practice of the practice by which two or more legislators exchange votes for each other’s proposed legislation.
Question 8

Which of the following is true of gerrymandering?

A
It usually leads to more competitive elections.
B
It reduces the importance of primaries.
C
It tends to increase partisanship in Congress.
D
It is generally favored by Republicans and opposed by Democrats.
Question 8 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Gerrymandering often leads to less competitive elections (A), since districts are drawn in a such a way to group voters who are in the same party. The primary may end up being more competitive than the election, which increases the importance of the primary (B). Gerrymandering is widely used and supported by both Republicans and Democrats (D). With less competitive elections there is a greater chance for more extreme candidates to win, leading to greater partisanship.
Question 9

Questions 9–10 refer to the map below:

The judicial vacancies shown above must be filled by the president and confirmed by

A
a simple majority of the Senate.
B
a 60% majority of the Senate.
C
a two-thirds majority of the Senate.
D
a simple majority of each house of Congress.
Question 9 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). This is a recall question. A 60% majority (B) is required for a vote of cloture. A two-thirds majority (C) is required for treaty ratification. A simple majority of each house of Congress (D) is required to confirm a vice-presidential nominee should the office of vice president become open.
Question 10

Which of the following statements is true based on the data in the graph?

A
Party polarization has decreased over time.
B
The period 1977 to 1994 was a period of unified government.
C
Appelate judges are retiring at a faster rate than district judges.
D
Both Democrats and Republicans have engaged in obstructionist tactics.
Question 10 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). Party polarization causes obstructionism, so answer (A) can be eliminated. One might think that the low amount of obstructionism before 1994 might have been a period of unified government, but in reality, there were several years of divided government in that period. Therefore, answer (B) can be eliminated. There is no way of knowing if answer (C) is true. Answer (D) must be correct because the Senate engaged in obstructionist tactics under presidents from both major parties.
Question 11
Military leaders believe that heavy-duty tanks are less useful due to the changing nature of warfare. The army has placed almost half of them in storage facilities. However, the plant that produces these tanks employs thousands of Americans.

Union leaders from the plant lobby the members of Congress who represent this district. Several other interest groups and PACs also lobby to keep the plant open. These include groups that want to increase US defense spending and those that support more aggressive actions against foreign dictatorships. These groups also lobby the bureaucrats in the Department of Defense in order to increase support for this tank. Several of their lobbyists recently worked for the Department and they often socialize with the current leaders.

The members of Congress fight to keep the plant open so that it can continue producing the tanks. They receive large election donations from the interest groups. They also work to build support for the tank within the Defense bureaucracy while supporting higher government salaries and additional defense spending.
 

The scenario above illustrates

A
bureaucratic non-compliance.
B
an iron triangle.
C
an issue network.
D
a political action committee at work.
Question 11 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). An iron triangle is a mutually beneficial, three-way relationship between Congress, government bureaucrats, and special interest lobby groups. Each group takes actions that will help the other group, creating a lasting and unbreakable bond between the three.

Interest groups give electoral support to members of Congress and receive friendly legislation and oversight. Congress funds and politically supports the Bureaucracy and in return receive policy choices and execution. The Bureaucracy gives special favors to the interest groups and gets congressional support via lobbying.

The problem with this is that all three of these groups benefit but the interests of the average American are disregarded. These groups simply attempt to benefit themselves.
Question 12

Which of the following models of representation is a member of Congress most likely to follow when voting on a domestic issue that affects her district or state?

A
The delegate model
B
The partisan model
C
The politico model
D
The trustee model
Question 12 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). Members of Congress who view themselves as delegates follow the will of their constituents. Partisans (B) follow the will of their party. Trustees (D) follow their own instincts, especially in fields in which they are experts. Politicos (C) balance all three interests based on whatever policy areas they confront.
Question 13

If the president cannot get an agenda adopted by Congress, then the president may use which of the following techniques to appeal directly to the people of the United States?

A
The bully pulpit
B
An executive order
C
A signing statement
D
A veto threat
Question 13 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). The president is the only elected official (except for the vice president) who is elected by all the American voters. Presidents will often try to influence the people by speaking directly to them from their “bully pulpit.” An executive order (B) is a directive issued by the President of the United States that manages operations of the federal government and has the force of law. A signing statement (C) is written pronouncement issued by the president upon signing a bill into law. Threatening to veto some other legislation (D) could cause congressmen to negotiate, but it does not fit the question as well as answer (A).
Question 14

Which of the following has NOT increased the power of the executive branch over time?

A
Bureaucratic rule-making
B
Modern broadcast media technology
C
National crises
D
The Twenty-Second Amendment
Question 14 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). The Twenty-Second Amendment limits the president to two full terms in office. It was enacted after Franklin Roosevelt was elected to four terms. At the time, proponents of the amendment argued that allowing someone to serve more than two full terms was a threat to American liberty. Bureaucratic rules (A) have the force of law but are not approved by Congress. Thus, they enhance executive branch power. Modern broadcast media (B) draws attention to the president and away from Congress, which also enhances his power. Finally, people look to the president to take swift action during national crises and are willing to invest more power in him (C).
Question 15

Which kind of policy is the president most likely to assert his authority over Congress?

A
Education policy
B
Environmental policy
C
Foreign policy
D
Healthcare policy
Question 15 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). The president in commander-in-chief of the armed forces and is the United States’ chief diplomat. Therefore, he has broad discretion over foreign policy. All three other policies are domestic policy. Domestic policy-making is shared with Congress.
Question 16

Bureaucrats who see themselves as career government officials are likely to be

A
appointed to office.
B
elected to office.
C
hired through the civil service system.
D
hired through the patronage system.
Question 16 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Bureaucrats are not elected to office, so answer (B) may be eliminated. Political appointees (A) can be career-government officials but are more likely to come from outside government. Bureaucrats who get their jobs through the patronage system get their jobs as rewards for political favors. Patronage is usually illegal and was largely replaced by the civil service system in 1883, which requires job candidates to be qualified for their jobs (D).
Question 17

Which of the following is an accurate comparison of the House and the Senate?

A
A
B
B
C
C
D
D
Question 17 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). Article I, Section 7 of the Constitution states that revenue bills are initiated in the House. Article II, Section 2 states that the Senate gives advice and consent on treaties. All of the other descriptions are reversed.
Question 18

If Congress disagrees with a federal court’s decision, then it has all of the following legal options except

A
changing the law.
B
changing the court’s jurisdiction.
C
proposing a constitutional amendment.
D
overruling the judge with a two-thirds majority in each house of Congress.
Question 18 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). There is no way for Congress to overrule a judge. The other three choices are permitted under the Constitution, though answers (B) and (C) rarely occur.
Question 19

Which Supreme Court case established judicial review.

A
Baker v. Carr (1961)
B
Brown v. the Board of Education (1954)
C
Marbury v. Madison (1803)
D
Shaw v. Reno (1993)
Question 19 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Marbury v. Madison established the principle of judicial review, providing courts the power to strike down laws, statutes, and government actions that contravene the U.S. Constitution. This helped to define the boundary between the constitutionally separate executive and judicial branches.
Question 20

Which of the following positions do NOT require Senate confirmation?

A
Ambassadors
B
Cabinet secretaries
C
Federal judges
D
White House Chief of Staff
Question 20 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). As head of the White House Office and one of the president’s closest advisers, the president may choose whomever he wants to be his Chief of Staff. Ambassadors (A) and federal judges (C) are explicitly listed in the Constitution as requiring Senate confirmation. The cabinet (B) is not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. But public ministers, consuls, and Officers of the united States require Senate confirmation, and it was understood at the time the Constitution was written that the cabinet fell into these categories.
Question 21

Comparing the three Constitutionally defined branches of government, Congress is most powerful in which of the following:

A
Military affairs
B
Foreign affairs
C
Domestic affairs
D
Judicial proceedings
Question 21 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). Congress initiates all laws, taxes, and spending measures. The president is more influential in foreign (B) and military (A) affairs due to the role of Commander-in-Chief. Judicial proceedings (D) are within the judicial branch of government.
Question 22

A concurring opinion is

A
The written document that reflects the collective judgment of the justices who are on the majority side of a ruling.
B
A document written by a justice on the minority side of a ruling which outlines additional considerations he or she thinks are important.
C
A document written by a justice on the majority side of a ruling which outlines a separate reasoning on the case and identifies flaws or overlooked points, as perceived by the justice, in the majority opinion.
D
The written document that reflects likely concerns of the legislative branch.
Question 22 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (C). (A) is a majority opinion while (B) is a part of the minority opinion. The intent of the legislative branch (D) is rarely addressed in judicial opinions.
Question 23

A typical challenge in managing ‘street level’ bureaucrats in the federal government is

A
controlling interest group donations to federal employees.
B
managing federal and state relations.
C
a consequence of the spoils system.
D
providing autonomy and discretion versus following standardized rules and procedures.
Question 23 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). While bureaucrats are provided standardized rules and procedures to execute a policy with a goal of equity, allowing for discretion to address specific problems not envisioned by lawmakers is valued within the bureaucracy. ‘Street level’ bureaucrats are hired through the civil service system and not the spoils system (C). Rarely do interest groups legally provide money to federal employees (A). Managing federal and state relations is an issue of federalism (B).
Question 24

Under the Hatch Act federal employees are prohibited from

A
engaging in certain kinds of political activity.
B
voting in presidential elections.
C
working for the executive branch.
D
taking on an additional job.
Question 24 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). The Hatch Act exists to prevent elected officials from requiring civil servants from engaging in campaign activities. Voting (B) is a protected civil right while many federal employees are employed in the executive branch (C). Work outside of federal employment will vary by job and department (D).
Question 25

Bureaucratic capture is

A
the condition under which an agency primarily serves the interests of a nongovernmental group rather than those of elected officials or the public at large.
B
Congress regulating what the bureaucracy is legally required to regulate.
C
the president reassigning regulatory responsibility to an agency.
D
similar to judicial review.
Question 25 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). Bureaucratic capture is when an organization of the federal bureaucracy serves the interests of an interest group that has ‘captured’ the agency more than the citizens the agency is serving. It is a relationship between the agency and interest group. Other answers describe different relationships.
Question 26

Which of the following is a limit on a president’s ability to issue executive orders?

A
Congress can pass a law nullifying the president’s order.
B
Executive orders expire at the end of the calendar year and must be reissued continuously to remain in effect.
C
Executive orders are always subject to review by the Supreme Court before taking effect.
D
A governor can issue a contradictory executive order that negates the president’s executive order within a state.
Question 26 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). Congress can create a law that overrides a president’s executive order. Executive orders can exist longer than a calendar year (B). While the Supreme Court can override an executive order, preclearance is not required (C). A governor cannot override a president’s executive order (D).
Question 27

Which of the following is part of the president’s job as head of the executive branch?

A
Deciding when to declare war.
B
Implementing the law.
C
Using the power to lay and collect taxes.
D
Using legislative powers to provide for the general welfare of the United States.
Question 27 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). Article Two of the Constitution requires the executive branch to implement the law. Declaring war (A) is the responsibility of Congress while (C) and (D) rest primarily within the legislative branch.
Question 28

While the spoils system ________, its principal drawback was that ________.

A
strengthened political parties; it made government responsible to the mass public.
B
strengthened political parties; appointees often lacked necessary knowledge and expertise.
C
helped make government responsible to the public; appointees often lacked necessary knowledge and expertise.
D
helped make government responsible to the public; it strengthened political parties.
Question 28 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (B). The spoils system was vital in creating strong political parties by providing a mechanism to reward party loyalists. However, qualifications of the appointed individuals are often not considered. There is no evidence supporting a greater connection between government responsiveness and the spoils system.
Question 29

A ________ committee includes members of both the House and Senate, while a ________ committee exists exclusively within the House or Senate and is as permanent as Congress allows.

A
joint, standing
B
conference, select
C
select, conference
D
joint, select
Question 29 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (A). A joint committee involves members of the House and Senate but is not created for addressing a bill. Conference committees involve both the House and Senate but focus on a particular bill. Standing committees are created to address perennial policy issues that come before Congress.
Question 30

The president is considered to have a “first mover” advantage when involved in international treaty-making because:

A
the United States is the most powerful nation in the world, giving the president an advantage when negotiating with foreign leaders.
B
leaders in the Senate have a more difficult time agreeing on treaties with foreign leaders than the president does.
C
while congressional leaders can initiate treaties, only the president has the power to ratify treaties.
D
the Senate cannot initiate international treaties and can only consider them once they have been negotiated by the president.
Question 30 Explanation: 
The correct answer is (D). The president speaks for the nation in foreign relations. The Senate must approve of treaties, but the president must present a treaty before the Senate.
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