How Well Do You Know the U.S. Constitution?

By: Torrance Grey

How Well Do You Know the U.S. Constitution?
Image: Shutterstock

About This Quiz

Nothing less than the blueprint for the American government, the Constitution is an important part of history classes and citizenship tests (and the occasional quiz show!) How well do you know this vital document? Show off your savvy now with our quiz!
The primary purpose of the Constitution is ...
to prevent civil-rights violations
to delineate the structure and functions of the government
While federal taxation was an important issue of the day, and rights are always vital, the Constitution is more broad than those two things. It describes the powers of the three branches of government, and the limits of those powers.
to allow the U.S. to go to war with enemies
to create a tax code

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In what year was the Constitution was written?
1772
1776
1780
1787
The Declaration of Independence which was written in 1776. The Constitution was created 11 years later, in September 1787.

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Prior to the Constitution, the new nation was governed under what document?
the Articles of Confederation
The Articles of Confederation was a blueprint for a rather weak form of government -- understandable given the the United States had just emerged from under the yoke of a powerful nation. But the Articles of Confederation was too simple and loose a blueprint to last.
the Declaration of Independence
the Federalist Papers
the Overton Code

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What was a key weakness of America's existing form of federal government?
it didn't have a residence for the President
it couldn't declare war
it couldn't levy taxes
Only the states could tax citizens. So if the federal government needed money, like for the national defense, it had to ask the states, which was time-consuming and might not result in adequate funding.
it didn't allow for a postal service

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Where was the Constitutional Convention held?
Atlanta
Philadelphia
The convention is also known as the "Philadelphia Convention" or "Federal Convention." Previously, delegates from five states had attended a convention in Annapolis, where they agreed to reconvene in one year to discuss a significant overhaul of the government.
Providence
Roanoke

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How many states were there at the time of the Convention?
six
nine
thirteen
The fledging United States stretched down the eastern coast as far as Georgia. Florida, which had been passed back and forth between England and Spain, was a Spanish holding at the time.
fifteen

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Who presided over the Constitutional Convention?
John Hancock
James Madison
Dolly Madison
George Washington
George Washington was respected because of his military leadership during the Revolutionary War. An oil painting in the Capitol Building shows him standing on a raised podium in the middle of the Convention.

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Which of these men was NOT at the Constitutional Convention?
James Madison
Rutherford Hayes
Rutherford Hayes was the 19th president of the United States. He wasn't born until long after the Constitution had been signed.
Thomas Pinckney
Alexander Hamilton

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On what was the original document written?
silk
stone tablets
parchment
Evernote would have been convenient for the Founding Fathers. However, it would have made creating amendments much too easy.
Evernote

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The Constitution gives more space to ______ than to any other subject.
the executive branch
the judiciary
the legislative branch
The legislative branch and its powers were obviously important to the Framers. More ink was spilled on this part of government than any other.
the amendment process

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The Constitution is divided into segments called ________.
articles
The Constitution is divided into seven articles. These discuss different parts and aspects of the government.
subsections
clauses
schisms

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People who opposed the Constitution were generally called _______.
federalists
anti-federalists
Anti-federalists usually had connections with, or sympathies toward, the common people. They feared oppression by a big government, especially in the form of taxation.
lost causers
tea partiers

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The Federalist Papers were a series of essays written in support of the Constitution. Which of these was NOT one of the authors?
John Jay
George Washington
Alexander Hamilton might have been the biggest proponent of a very strong central government. Today, of course, he's known as being the subject of America's hottest musical.
James Madison
Alexander Hamilton

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Which was the first state to ratify the Constitution?
Delaware
Though Pennsylvania opened debate on ratification a bit earlier, Delaware beat them to actual approval of the Constitution. The vote among delegates was 30-0.
New York
North Carolina
Virginia

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Which state was the last to ratify the Constitution?
Delaware
Georgia
New Jersey
Rhode Island
Rhode Island held a popular vote on the Constitution, and its citizens rejected it. But the tide was clearly going the other way, so by 1790, Rhode Island did ratify the document.

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Why didn't West Virginia send delegates to the convention?
it was strongly opposed to a powerful central government
there was fear of a duel with Virginian delegates
its small population suggested that its concerns would be overruled by larger states
it wasn't a state yet
West Virginia didn't break off from Virginia until the Civil War. It was admitted to the Union in 1863.

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Which part of the government does the Constitution discuss first?
the presidency
the House of Representatives
Perhaps because the House is in closest touch with the people, the Constitution first addresses its responsibilities. Then it moves on to the Senate.
the Senate
the judiciary

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Which of these is NOT a power of the legislative branch?
to mint money
to impeach the President
to appoint ambassadors
Appointing ambassadors is a power of the executive branch. However, the Senate must approve such appointments.
create a postal service

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When state law and federal law conflict, which takes precedence?
the state
the U.S. government
This is known as the "supremacy clause" of the Constitution. While it's tempting to guess that the Supreme Court decides, this only happens when an appeal is brought by a state -- which doesn't always happen.
it's for the Supreme Court to decide
it's for the president to decide

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Where would you find the phrase "We the People, in order to form a more perfect Union ..."?
the preamble
The preamble to the Constitution lays out the six "intents and purposes" of the Constitution. While poetic and broad in range, they're important when judges talk about the intentions of the founding fathers and interpret current law in light of the Constitution.
Article 1
Article 7
this is actually in the Declaration of Independence

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Does the Constitution consider the possibility of its own future amendment?
yes!
Article 5 of the Constitution sets out a procedure whereby the Constitution can be altered. Two-thirds of both houses must adopt a proposed amendment or the states must, at a special convention. Then three-quarters of both houses must ratify it, or, in case of the convention option, three-quarters of the states. (It's not as confusing as it sounds, really!)
nope!

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Under the Constitution, in which branch of the federal government are members appointed for life?
the executive
the legislative
the judiciary
Federal judges, such as those on the Supreme Court, serve until they wish to retire. However, Congress can impeach federal judges for misconduct, as can the president.
none of them

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Under the Constitution, which branch of government gives pardons?
the executive
The president can issue pardons to criminals, though this is rare. Presidents often do this just before leaving office, to minimize political backlash.
the legislative
the judicial
both #1 and #3

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What issue did the "three-fifths compromise" deal with?
the tax code
slavery
The "three-fifths" compromise said that slaves count as three-fifths of a person for census purposes. This affected a state's representation in both the House of Representatives and the electoral college.
ratification of the Constitution itself
westward expansion

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The "elastic clause" of the Constitution allows what?
America to expand westward as needed
Congress to make all laws appropriate to the governing of the nation
This clause is "elastic" because it covers a lot of ground. However, Congress must legislate in accordance with the six ideals laid out in the preamble of the Constitution -- the "more perfect union," the "common defense," the "general welfare" and so on.
district lines for the House of Representatives to be redrawn
the tax code to be edited and rewritten as needed

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Article 2 of the Constitution deals with the _______.
executive branch
The executive branch comprises more than just one man (or one day, woman). The president's cabinet and other federal agencies are included in this branch.
Senate
Supreme Court
possibility of secession

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According to the Constitution, the president must be at least what age?
25
30
35
The Constitution creates a minimum age for the presidency, but no maximum. Given what neuroscience is increasingly learning about age's effects on cognition, especially undiagnosed early-stage dementia, it might seem unbalanced that we deny a 32-year-old the office, but not a 72-year-old.
30, but no older than 70

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The president is also subject to the "emolument clause." What is an "emolument"?
money or other benefits
The emoluments clause was a hot topic during President Trump's transition. The president is supposed to earn no money while in office except his $400,000 salary, but people wondered if he could really withdraw all involvement from his worldwide real-estate empire.
a private or unwritten contract
a rider on a bill
something you can get a cream for these days

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How many times has the Constitution been amended?
ten
12
18
27
There are 27 amendments to the Constitution. Six more proposed amendments were adopted by Congress but failed to be ratified, the most famous of which is probably the ERA, or Equal Rights Amendment.

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The first ten amendments to the Constitution are called what?
the Bill of Rights
The Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights all work together. The Bill of Rights ensures freedoms that we think of as quintessentially American.
the Coda
the Federalist Papers
the Constitutional Annex

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The Second Amendment gives Americans the right to ________.
attend church
bear arms
The other three freedoms are guaranteed under the First Amendment, which is about free speech, assembly and religion. The Second Amendment was meant to guarantee that citizens could be armed well enough to oppose a government turned tyrannical.
run a free press
hold political protest rallies

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What did the 18th Amendment do?
banned slavery
banned alcohol
Don't confuse this with the Volstead Act. That was a Congressional act which created enforcement methods for the 18th Amendment.
gave women the vote
prohibited billeting of soldiers in private homes

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What did the 21st Amendment to the Constitution do?
gave women the vote
repealed Prohibition
Prohibition was a failed national experiment; there's no doubt about that. But it gave us the Jazz Age, legends like Elliott Ness and his "Untouchables," and (in a roundabout way), NASCAR. Funny how things work out!
established the election of senators by popular vote
prohibited unreasonable search and seizure

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A key debate among present-day Constitutional scholars is whether the Constitution is a "_______" document.
"democratic"
"living"
Is other words, it's whether the Constitution was meant to be changed over time. Liberal judges say yes; conservatives tend to treat the Constitution like the Bible: no longer open to editing, but to be lived by as is.
"redacted"
"valid"

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Where is the Constitution kept today?
the National Archives
The National Archives are on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. It has a rotunda you could just about play hockey in.
the White House
the Smithsonian
it was burned in the French and Indian War

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You Got:
/35

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