New SAT Reading Practice Test 95: A Democratic Duel

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A Democratic Duel

If one were to set out to form a nation
based on democratic principles, there would
be essentially two paths to take: presidential
or parliamentary. Both hold their own
05in terms of advantages and disadvantages,
and both possess the endorsement of great
prosperous nations. Parliamentary is the far
more common order, but many attribute its
prevalence to the legacy of the British Empire
10rather than to its superiority.
The disparity between the two is hardly
subtle. In a presidential system, the executive
and legislative branches of government
are completely independent of one another,
15such as in the United States of America. The
President, elected directly by the people,
is a national figure that is at once the head
of government and state, but is separate
and distinct from Congress, the lawmaking
20body. On the other hand, a parliamentary
system is a fusion of executive and legislative
powers with the executive, most often
called Prime Minister, being a member of
Parliament. In the latter arrangement, members
25of Parliament, the legislative assembly,
are elected by the people, but then choose
amongst themselves the most fit to be executive.
Most often, a monarch, like in Great
Britain, is given the responsibility of heading
30the state and being the icon of national
Other divergence occurs in the term limits
and standards of accountability in which
the executive is held to. For instance, the
35presidential model allows for fixed terms and
scheduled elections. As such, the President
enjoys the assurance of a secure term in
which he or she can work to establish and
meet goals for the nation's advance. Only in
40situations where the President is found guilty
of serious crimes will he or she be removed
from office before the end of the term.
Conversely, the Prime Minister is subject
to much more scrutiny and job insecurity.
45Legislatures within this model of government
are expected to question the Prime Minister
directly on a weekly basis and are able to
remove the executive any time confidence is
lost in his or her ability, character, or judgment.
50Hence, parliamentary systems are
subject to random elections that can more
easily replace an unfit leader.
Advocates of the presidential model posit
that it is more democratic because the people
55themselves choose their executive. They contend
that the fixed terms even allow for some
stability that the parliamentary organization
does not allow. Likewise, a further benefit
lies in the separation of powers subject to
60checks and balances, in which the executive
and legislative bodies are able to monitor one
another and assure that power is not centralized.
Yet, critics of the system allow that the
President's national status affords tendencies
65toward authoritarianism. Furthermore,
as a rule, deadlocks or stalemates are much
more common within a system that often has
executive and legislative bodies under the
control of different parties. Cynics therefore
70suggest that the presidential model is privy
to discord and inefficiency—not to mention,
presidents are difficult to remove when
thought to be unfit.
Those in favor of the parliamentary model
75believe that the fused government allows for
unity and harmony that is all but alien within
the former. Not only is it faster and easier to
pass legislation, but more often than not, the
government operates more cooperatively.
80Since it is very unlikely that the ruling party
will choose a Prime Minister from another
party, the executive and legislative bodies are
almost always working in accord. Moreover,
when a Prime Minister is decided unfit, he or
85she can be removed and replaced right away.
This system, they argue, is much more efficient
and less prone to corruption. Yet, not
everyone agrees. With the legislature holding
supreme power, critics contend that "tyranny
90of the majority" is all too likely. Not only are
the people not directly electing their leader,
but there is also nobody to oppose or veto
legislation passed by Parliament. The minority
parties have virtually no say and the ruling
95party of the assembly can easily manipulate
when the Prime Minister will be replaced and
when elections will be held.
The two systems represent very different
approaches to democracy, and as such, operate
100so. One must consider both democratic
ideals and effectiveness in deciding the best
way to select a leader. While presidential
elections can become feeble popularity contests,
centralized power is a real concern.

1. What statement best summarizes the passage?

  • A. A survey of two governmental forms that focuses primarily on the differences between them
  • B. A survey of two governmental forms that focuses primarily on the similarities between them
  • C. An analysis of whether a parliamentary or presidential system is a better fit for a particular country
  • D. An analysis of whether a parliamentary or presidential system is a better fit for several different countries

2. The approach of the author is best described as

  • A. neutral and pessimistic.
  • B. passionate and strong-willed.
  • C. analytical and objective.
  • D. technical and predisposed.

3. The author states that a possible reason for the greater practice of parliamentary than presidential democracy is

  • A. majority rule.
  • B. historical inheritance.
  • C. legislative-executive unity.
  • D. centralized authority.

4. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 7-10 ("Parliamentary . . . superiority")
  • B. Lines 20-24 ("On the . . . parliament")
  • C. Lines 58-63 ("Likewise . . . centralized")
  • D. Lines 88-93 ("With the . . . Parliament")

5. Suppose a country with a parliamentary system and a country with a presidential system were choosing representatives to a global sports competition like the Olympics. Based on the paragraph in lines 11-31, which respective governmental officials from the parliamentary and the presidential system would be the most desirable and fitting representatives?

  • A. Prime Minister, Congressperson
  • B. Judge, Military General
  • C. King, President
  • D. Queen, Senator

6. As used in line 39, the word "advance" most closely means

  • A. payment.
  • B. progress.
  • C. spread.
  • D. increase.

7. The paragraph in lines 53-73 primarily serves to

  • A. explore the pros and cons of the presidential model.
  • B. compare and contrast the presidential and parliamentary models.
  • C. highlight the superior aspects of the presidential model.
  • D. give specific examples of countries that practice presidential politics.

8. As used in line 70, the word "privy" most closely means

  • A. susceptible.
  • B. privileged.
  • C. concealed.
  • D. open.

9. It is most reasonable to infer that those concerned about a "tyranny of the majority," as described in lines 89-90, are afraid that what would be likely to occur in such a situation?

  • A. A dictator will emerge.
  • B. The rights of most citizens will be respected.
  • C. Government will stop functioning efficiently.
  • D. Minority interests will be ignored.

10. Which option gives the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • A. Lines 45-50 ("Legislatures . . . judgment")
  • B. Lines 80-85 ("Since it . . . away")
  • C. Lines 93-97 ("The minority . . . held")
  • D. Lines 98-104 ("The two . . . concern")