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Constructing Meaning

With these test items, you demonstrate comprehension by identifying the main idea, drawing conclusions, and inferring relationships such as cause and effect.   We have listed a few question types below.

Alaskan History
    The first Europeans to visit what is now called Alaska were sailors on an expedition funded by Russian czar Peter the Great and led by Captain Bering. In 1728, Bering and his crew sailed through the strait that is now named after him, between the easternmost part of Asia and the westernmost part of the Americas. Their journey proved that Asia was not connected to North America; however, due to heavy fog, they never actually saw the nearby land of North America. In a second expedition, in 1741, Bering headed further south, landing on tiny Kayak Island off the shore of what is now the southeastern part of the state.
    In the 1780s and 1790s, Russians began small colonies, first on Kodiak Island and later on the mainland. Their principal interest was fur trapping. In 1799, the Russian-American Company was established to look after Russian interests. For the next 68 years, the company provided the only form of government for the European colonists, who never numbered more than a few hundred. Relations with the Aleutians and Tlingits were not always peaceful, and eventually British, Canadian, and America competition developed in the fur trade. By the 1860s, Russia wanted to sell its North American territory.
    Alaska officially entered United States history when it was purchased from Russia in 1867 for $7.2 million. Most Americans were opposed to the purchase at the time. They ridiculed the Secretary of State under President Abraham Lincoln who negotiated the purchase, William H. Seward, by calling Alaska “Seward’s Folly” and “Seward’s Icebox.” 
    Until 1896, there was little official U.S. presence in Alaska. As a result, large-scale hunting and commercial fishing were allowed to nearly deplete the population of whales, walruses, fur seals, sea otters,  and salmon upon which Native Alaskans depended for food and subsistence. 
    The long period of neglect by the U.S. government ended in 1896 when gold was discovered in the Yukon Territory of Canada, near the Alaska border. This launched a gold rush, bringing thousands of people there. Gold was also discovered near Nome, Alaska, in 1898, and soon thereafter in other parts of the territory, bringing even more people to Alaska. With the arrival of the miners, settlers, and other newcomers, Americans began to take notice of the other abundant resources in the area. Finally the need for some form of official local governing authority became obvious to the leaders of the U.S. government.
    A number of major events and developments took place in the following decades that led to statehood for Alaska in 1959. A non-voting delegate from Alaska was admitted to the U.S. Congress in 1906, and a territorial legislature was established in 1912. A railroad linking the coastal towns of Seward and Anchorage with inland Fairbanks was completed in 1923.
     In early 1942, the United States and Canada agreed to build a highway through western Canada to connect Alaska to the “lower” 48 states. After only eight months of construction by engineering teams of the U.S. Army, the 2,300-kilometer road (over 1,400 miles) was completed. By 1953, the petroleum industry had begun important drilling operations in Alaska. Eventually oil, along with mining of coal, copper, and gold, would become the state’s largest sources of income. 
    Many new residents arrived in the 1970s and 1980s seeking well-paying jobs, and the economy diversified in new ways. Although the state is still dependent on income generated from fishing, petroleum, and the extraction of other natural resources, the tourism industry has grown tremendously in recent years. More than one million tourists visit Alaska annually, mostly during the summer, to see firsthand its unique combination of people, history, and natural wonders.
(source: adapted from English Teaching Forum, July 2002.  Written by William Ancker.  http://americanenglish.state.gov/files/ae/resource_files/02-40-3-b.pdf )   

Identifying Main Idea
1. Which of the following best states the main idea of the passage?
    A. Alaska officially entered the United States in 1867 when it was purchased from Russia for 7.2 million dollars.
    B. Alaska, with its rich resources, has a unique and diverse history.
    C. Alaskan history began with the first expeditions funded by the Russian czar Peter the Great.
    D. The Russians and the Americans helped build the modern Alaskan infrastructure.

Drawing Conclusions
2. Based on the information in the article, we can assume the following:
    A. Americans continue to think that the 1867 purchase was foolish
    B. Large populations of Americans and Russians settled Alaska before the 1970s and 1980s.
    C. The US neglected Alaska because they had no money to build roads.
    D. Americans now feel that Alaska is a place worth visiting and living in.

Inferring Relationships
3. What would have happened to the fish and wildlife if the U.S. Government had a stronger presence prior to 1896?
    A. Several animals would have become extinct.
    B. The sea mammals and fish would have continued to thrive.
    C. The Native Alaskans would have hunted them to extinction.
    D. The Russians would have exported more of them to Europe.

Answers:
    1. B
    2. D
    3. B