20th Century US History Practice Test

By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Oct 15, 2011

20th Century US History Practice Test

1. Which nation did not fight on the side of the Allied/Entente Powers during World War I?

A. Austria

B. Britain

C. France

D. Italy


2. All of these except ________________ contributed greatly to the new freedom in women’s behavior during the 1920s.

A. women’s winning the right to vote in 1920

B. women’s experience as ambulance drivers, nurses, and so on, during World War I

C. women’s support for Prohibition

D. women’s having succeeded on the job while the men they replaced were serving in World War I


3. During the imperialist era at the turn of the nineteenth century, the United States did not attempt to acquire African colonies because ________________

A. it already had a sizable African population.

B. European nations had already colonized most of Africa.

C. Africa was not a good source of natural resources.

D. it already had favorable trade relationships with African nations.


4. The primary purpose of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society programs was ________________

A. to bring economic and educational opportunity to the poorest Americans.

B. to ensure gender and racial equality in all aspects of the economy and society.

C. to register all American adults age 18 and over to vote.

D. to reduce pollution and chemical waste and protect the natural environment for the future.


5. In the twentieth century, ________________ did more than any other U.S. president to achieve full civil rights for black Americans.

A. Eisenhower

B. Kennedy

C. Johnson

D. Nixon


6. ___________________ was established after World War II as an international peacekeeping organization.

A. The Quadruple Alliance

B. The League of Nations

C. The United Nations

D. The Warsaw Pact


7. Under the Nixon administration, the United States made important progress in relations with _______________

A. China and India.

B. India and the Soviet Union.

C. the Soviet Union and China.

D. South Africa and India.


8. The Black Power movement was organized around the principle(s) of _________________

A. nonviolent resistance.

B. separatism and violent resistance.

C. integration and equal treatment.

D. overthrowing the U.S. government.


9. Which New Deal program was intended to protect the people against any repetition of the Great Depression?

A. the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)

B. the Tennessee Valley Authority

C. the Civilian Conservation Corps

D. the Works Progress Administration (WPA)


10. The United Nations is best described as ___________________

A. an international peacekeeping organization.

B. an agreement for the mutual defense of allied nations.

C. a peace treaty signed at the end of World War II.

D. an economic union among the nations of Europe.


11. The administration of Woodrow Wilson is notable for all the following except ____________________

A. tariff reduction.

B. reform of the banking system.

C. overturning of antitrust legislation.

D. extension of voting rights to women.


12. The Great Migration that occurred between about 1915 and 1930 involved ___________________

A. forced relocation of southeastern American Indians to the Midwest.

B. young men from China, Mexico, and the eastern United States seeking gold in California.

C. midwestern tenant farmers heading to California to pick fruit.

D. African Americans traveling north in search of well-paid factory jobs.


13. All of these contributed to the election of President Richard Nixon in 1968 except __________________

A. deep divisions in the Democratic Party.

B. Nixon’s promise that he had a plan to end the Vietnam War.

C. Nixon’s promise that he would restore American society to stability.

D. strong support for Nixon among voters under age 25.


14. Eleanor Roosevelt is historically noted for her championship of _________________

A. states’ rights.

B. judicial review.

C. equality for African Americans.

D. executive privilege.


15. The Jones Acts of 1916 and 1917 gave greater self-governing rights to _____________________

A. Puerto Rico and the Philippines.

B. Hawaii and Alaska.

C. African Americans.

D. American women.


16. The terms bread line, Okie, and Hooverville are all associated with ______________________

A. the Jazz Age.

B. the Great Depression.

C. the Cold War.

D. the Great Society.


17. The USSR installed nuclear missiles in Cuba in order to ___________________

A. expand its power base.

B. make an ally of Cuba.

C. intimidate the United States.

D. fulfi ll a U.N. requirement.


18. The term apartheid refers to __________________ in South Africa.

A. political corruption

B. racial segregation

C. an artistic and literary movement

D. European colonization


19. At Yalta in 1945, the Soviet Union promised the United States that it would _________________ after victory was declared in Europe.

A. be the first to march into Berlin

B. join U.S. troops in the war with Japan

C. hold free elections in Moscow

D. establish communism throughout Eastern Europe


20. The Nixon-era scandals collectively known as “Watergate” are historically important because they prove that ________________ is essential to a democratic society.

A. a federal police force

B. an integrated school system

C. a military draft

D. a free press


21. Most Progressive Era legislation was designed to benefit ____________________

A. farmers.

B. the urban working class.

C. the middle class.

D. big business and industry.


22.  _______________functioned as a peaceful and positive reflection of Cold War hostility between the United States and the Soviet Union.

A. The founding of the United Nations

B. The funding of the Marshall Plan

C. The signing of the Warsaw Pact

D. The race to land the first astronaut on the moon


23. What was the outcome of the Vietnam War?

A. North and South Vietnam united under Communist rule.

B. North and South Vietnam united under democratic rule.

C. North Vietnam remained Communist; South Vietnam became a republic.

D. Vietnam was absorbed into the USSR as a socialist republic.


24. The Roe v. Wade decision states that the government cannot interfere with a woman’s right to abort her pregnancy ________________

A. during the first three months of pregnancy.

B. at any time.

C. if the abortion is necessary to save the mother’s life.

D. if the woman was the victim of incest or rape.


25. The publication of the Pentagon Papers revealed that the White House _____________________

A. had a secret tape-recording system in the Oval Office.

B. had not been open with the public about the war in Vietnam.

C. had a secret plan to end the Cold War by increasing military spending.

D. hoped to contain the spread of Communism throughout the world.


26. The final push for direct U.S. involvement in World War I happened because ______________________

A. Germany declared war on American allies Britain and France.

B. German U-boats sank the Lusitania when more than 100 Americans were on board.

C. Woodrow Wilson, who supported U.S. involvement, had just been reelected.

D. Germany issued a direct written threat against the United States.


27. Key players on the Chicago White Sox agreed to throw the 1919 World Series because __________________

A. the White Sox owners and management treated them like indentured servants.

B. they knew that they would probably lose the series anyway.

C. the gangsters threatened to kill them if they did not accept the bribe.

D. they hoped to be traded to better teams after the season.


28. In 1945, ___________________ became the only nation that has ever fired a nuclear weapon at an enemy.

A. the Soviet Union

B. Japan

C. Germany

D. the United States


29. What was the purpose of the Berlin Airlift?

A. to unite the three Allied zones of Berlin into one free city called West Berlin

B. to provide food and supplies to West Berlin in defiance of a Soviet blockade

C. to bomb strategic locations in Berlin during the last year of World War II

D. to help East Germans defect to West Berlin


30. Which two forms of government amount to exactly the same thing?

A. communism and fascism

B. communism and anarchism

C. fascism and republicanism

D. democracy and fascism


31. The Panama Canal was built with the purpose of _________________

A. improving trade relations between nations.

B. making shipping faster and more efficient.

C. achieving self-rule in Panama.

D. gaining a U.S. victory in the Spanish-American War.


32. Sandra Day O’Connor is historically significant because she was _____________________

A. a founder of the National Organization for Women (NOW).

B. a labor union activist during the Progressive Era.

C. the fi rst female Supreme Court justice.

D. the first female admiral in the U.S. Navy.


33. During the Spanish-American War, the United States gained influence over all these places except ______________

A. Cuba.

B. Mexico.

C. Puerto Rico.

D. the Philippines.


34. The term muckraker refers to

A. an investigative journalist.

B. a temperance advocate.

C. a suffragist.

D. a World War I infantry soldier.


35. Which best describes the purpose of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?

A. to eliminate nuclear missiles from the world

B. to make communism illegal throughout the West

C. to provide for the defense of any member nation that was attacked

D. to maintain international peace


36. ____________________ marks the moment in history when the United States and the USSR were closest to fighting a nuclear war.

A. The Bay of Pigs invasion

B. The Cuban Missile Crisis

C. The building of the Berlin Wall

D. The fall of Saigon in 1975


37. Which war ended with political conditions the same as they had been at the start?

A. World War I

B. World War II

C. the Korean War

D. the Vietnam War


38. The United States influenced the outcome of the Cold War by ____________________

A. increasing nuclear defense spending.

B. providing financial aid to Iron Curtain nations.

C. helping to form the European Union.

D. achieving friendly relations with China.


39. Clarence Darrow is famous in history for his key role in __________________

A. Prohibition.

B. the Scopes trial.

C. the Harlem Renaissance.

D. the New Deal.


40. Months of _____________ was the primary cause of the Dust Bowl.

A. unusually high temperatures

B. heavy snows

C. almost no rainfall

D. tornadoes


41. The War Powers Act of 1973 states that the president ________________

A. may take any necessary steps to defend U.S. troops against the enemy.

B. must seek congressional approval to commit troops to a war for more than 60 days.

C. has full power to oversee and manage troops once Congress has formally declared war.

D. cannot take any foreign policy action involving the use of troops without Congress’s consent.


42. ________________ provided the impetus for the constitutional amendment that lowered the voting age from 21 to 18.

A. The military draft

B. The women’s movement

C. The Great Society programs

D. The unionization of industrial workers


43. Which best describes President Truman’s foreign policy in regard to the Soviet Union?

A. to convert Iron Curtain nations from communism to democracy

B. to bring about regime change in the Soviet Union

C. to prevent communism from spreading any farther than it already had

D. to stage an all-out nuclear war


44. All of the following characterize American society in the period 1945–1960 except ________________

A. a largely white migration from the cities to the new suburbs.

B. a rise in the number of college students from middle- and working-class backgrounds.

C. massive antiwar demonstrations and the development of the counterculture.

D. the purchase of a television set and a car.


45. On the home front, Americans showed support for World War I by doing all these things except ________________

A. growing their own vegetables and fruit in “victory gardens.”

B. doing without meat or bread on certain days of the week.

C. purchasing government-issued war bonds.

D. digging trenches for the soldiers’ shelter and protection.


46. The term speakeasy refers to ___________________

A. a “yellow journalist” during the Progressive Era.

B. an antiwar demonstrator during the Vietnam era.

C. a nightclub or bar that sold alcoholic drinks during Prohibition.

D. the Oval Offi ce tapes that were a bone of contention during the Watergate era.


47. Which best explains why West Berlin became the symbolic heart of the Cold War struggle?

A. It was the largest city in Europe.

B. It was the only free city behind the Iron Curtain.

C. It demonstrated the failure of capitalism.

D. It refused to accept Marshall Plan aid.


48. The Tet Offensive refers to __________________

A. the U.S. bombing of Cambodia.

B. a massive North Vietnamese attack on U.S. troops.

C. an attack on U.S. warships in the Gulf of Tonkin.

D. a cease-fire agreement signed by North Vietnam and the United States.


49. Under the ________________ administration, the United States brokered a major peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.

A. Johnson

B. Nixon

C. Ford

D. Carter


50. Which best describes the illegal actions taken in the 1980s scandal known as “Iran Contra”?

A. The United States sold guns to Iran and used the money to aid the Nicaraguan Contras.

B. The United States sold guns to the Nicaraguan Contras and used the money to aid Iran.

C. The United States created and trained a Nicaraguan rebel force called the Contras.

D. The United States created and trained a Nicaraguan rebel force called the Sandinistas.



1. A  2. C  3. B  4. A  5. C 6. C 7. C 8. B 9. A 10. A 11. C 12. D 13. D 14. C 15. A 16. B 17. C 18. B 19. B 20. D 21. B 22. D 23. A 24. A 25. B 26. D 27. A 28. D 29. B 30. A 31. B 32. C 33. B 34. A 35. C 36. B 37. C 38. A 39. B 40. C 41. B 42. A 43. C 44. C 45. D 46. C 47. B 48. B 49. D 50. A

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