AP Government – U.S. Constitution Reading Guide

The purpose of this assignment is to introduce you to the full text of the U.S. Constitution and help you to understand what the document contains.

Using the websites indicated below, answer the questions as directed. In order to receive full credit for this assignment, you must answer each question accurately, completely, and in your own words. Students who share work will receive zero credit and be punished according to the school’s academic honesty guidelines.

You will use this Constitution Guide to prepare for a test during the second week of the fall semester; you will also refer to this guide throughout the year and when preparing for the AP US Government and Politics exam.

You should also know this stuff because: America!

Websites:

Text of the US Constitution: US Constitution

Annenberg Guide, which explains each section of the Constitution: Constitution: What It Says, What It Means Archives

Explanation of the Constitution by the Congressional Research Service: US Constitution Annotated: Table Of Contents


  1. What is the purpose of the Preamble to the Constitution?

The purpose of the Preamble is to give a summary of what the constitution is about and to assure that the United States is a free country with rights for all people which is why it begins with “We the People”

  • In your own words, according to the Preamble, what are the goals of the Constitution?

The goals of the constitution is to establish laws and rights for the people.

  • What is the purpose of each Article (section) of the Constitution? Summarize each in 1-2 sentences.
    • Article I:
    • Article II:
    • Article III:
    • Article IV:
    • Article V:
    • Article VI:
    • Article VII:
  • Questions about Article I:
    • What are the two branches of Congress?
    • What are the qualifications for serving in each branch of Congress?
    • How long is the term of service for each branch of Congress?
    • When determining how many representatives serve for each state, how are American Indians counted?
    • What does the phrase “three fifths of all other persons” mean for the purpose of counting the population of each state?
    • Web Search:
      • How many members does each branch of Congress have today?
      • How many Representatives does the Commonwealth of Massachusetts send to Congress?
      • Who is the Representative for the Cape and Islands Congressional District?
      • Who are the two current Senators from Massachusetts?
    • Which branch of Congress is in charge of “raising revenue” (taxes)?
    • What happens to a bill after it passes in both houses of Congress?
    • What happens to a bill if the president does not approve it (veto)?
    • What is the role of the vice president in Congress?
    • List four powers of Congress listed in Article I, Section 8:
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    • Are there any powers you are surprised to see? Any that you think are missing?
    • Web Search: Define the following terms from Article I, Section 9 in your own words.
      • Writ of habeas corpus:
      • Bill of attainder:
      • Ex post facto law:
    • According to Article I, Section 10, what are three things that states are prevented from doing?
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  • Questions about Article II:
    • How long is the president’s term in office?
    • Who actually chooses the president, according to Article II, Section 1?
    • How many electors are chosen to represent each state?
    • Web Search: How many electors serve in today’s presidential elections?
    • According to the original text of the Constitution, what happened to the person who received the second-highest number of electoral votes?
    • What are the qualifications to become president?
    • What are five powers of the president, according to Article II?
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    • Are there any powers that you are surprised to see? Are there any powers that you think are missing?
    • For what reasons can a president or vice-president be impeached?
  • Questions about Article III:
    • What is the highest judicial power in the United States?
    • Does the Constitution indicate how many members should be on the Supreme Court? Does it indicate how many “inferior courts” should be created?
    • How long does a justice serve on the federal courts?
    • WebQuest: Define the following:
      • Original jurisdiction:
      • Appellate jurisdiction:
    • According to Article III, Section 3, what is the definition of treason?
  • Questions about Article IV:
    • What can happen to a person who “flees from justice” to another state?
    • Describe the meaning of the following passage: “No person held to service or labor in one state, under the laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in consequence of any law or regulation therein, be discharged from such service or labor, but shall be delivered up on claim of the party to whom such service or labor may be due.”
    • What branch of government is in charge of admitting new states?
    • What kind of government must all of the states form, according to Article IV, Section 4?
  • Questions about Article V:
    • What are the two ways that an amendment to the Constitution can be proposed?
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    • What are the two ways that an amendment can be ratified?
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  • Questions about Article VI:
    • What is the “supremacy clause” and what does it mean?
  • Questions about Article VII:
    • How many states must ratify (approve) the Constitution?
  • Questions about Amendments I – X:
    • What are the first ten amendments to the Constitution called?
    • What five liberties does the First Amendment guarantee?
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    • What are the two parts to the Second Amendment?
    • What does the Third Amendment prohibit?
    • Fourth Amendment:
      • What liberty does the Fourth Amendment guarantee?
      • What are the conditions necessary to grant a warrant for search or seizure?
      • Do you think that the Fourth Amendment applies to e-mail? Voicemail? Text messages? Automobiles? A rented apartment?
    • Define the following concepts used in the Fifth Amendment:
      • Grand jury:
      • Double jeopardy:
      • Due process:
      • Eminent domain:
    • What liberties does the Sixth Amendment give to criminal defendants?
    • What liberty does the Seventh Amendment guarantee?
    • What liberties does the Eighth Amendment guarantee?
      • What do you think is the definition of “cruel and unusual punishment?”
    • What is the purpose of the Ninth and Tenth Amendments?
  • Questions about Amendments XI – XXVII:
    • How did the Twelfth Amendment change the procedure for choosing the president and vice president?
    • During what historical period were the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments passed?
    • What was the effect of the Thirteenth Amendment?
    • According to the Fourteenth Amendment, who is defined as a citizen of the United States? To whom does the “due process of law” apply?
    • What is the purpose of the Fifteenth Amendment?
    • What power does the Sixteenth Amendment give to Congress?
    • Who elected US senators before the Seventeenth Amendment? Who elects senators now?
    • What was the purpose of the Eighteenth Amendment? How was this amendment repealed?
    • What is the purpose of the Nineteenth Amendment?
    • What part of the Constitution does the Twentieth Amendment change?
    • What is the purpose of the Twenty-Second Amendment? Why was it passed?
    • What is the “District” mentioned in the Twenty-Third Amendment? Who is given the right to vote by this amendment?
    • What is the purpose of the Twenty-Fourth Amendment? During what historical movement was this amendment passed?
    • According to the Twenty-Fifth Amendment, if the president dies or resigns, what happens to the vice president? How is a new vice president chosen?
    • What group is given the right to vote by the Twenty-Sixth Amendment?
    • What is the purpose of the Twenty-Seventh Amendment?
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