Tip #18 to Get a Top ACT English Reading Science Score
After you have digested the bold intro, read the passage in a relaxed, yet very focused way. This is like meditating. When you notice your mind wandering, come back to the moment; bring your mind back to the reading. Anytime your mind wanders, bring it back. That will save time and energy and bring you closer to being a Zen master. For years, Zen monks in the mountains of Japan have been training with ACT reading passages.
Don't read to memorize details. Read to figure out the main idea and tone—what the passage is about and how the author feels about it. When you notice the theme of a paragraph, circle a few key words that capture that theme. Then when a question asks for details about that theme, you'll know where to look.
Also, and this is huge, I give you permission not to reread hard lines or lines that you spaced out for. This is especially important for perfectionists. Either we won't need the lines and the time rereading would have been wasted, or we will need them and we'll reread later, knowing the question and knowing what to look for. You never need any one particular sentence to get the main idea and tone. Main idea and tone are expressed throughout the passage.
One more thing. Many students worry, "Can I read this whole passage? It'll take 10 minutes." I felt the same way. Then one day I was like, "Wait, this is ridiculous, how long can it take?" So I timed myself. It took like 3 minutes! Try it, and you'll see. Even for a slow reader, the passage takes only a few minutes, especially if you use my "Don't Reread" strategy.
Read the following passage for main idea and tone, and when you notice the theme of a paragraph, circle a few words that capture it.
PROSE FICTION: This passage is adapted from "The Goodbye Kiss" by Matthew Thompson.
The "President Hoover" shoots a cloud of steam into the sky and sounds its horn as a final call. I lean against the railing on the upper deck, staring off into the cool San Francisco Bay. She waves to me, tears in her eyes, her light blue bonnet blowing in the wind, as she says her final goodbye to her new husband. I blow a kiss, filled with guilt, and the propellers begin to turn. The ship heads under the bridge, leaving behind the world I used to know.
Seven days of high seas, waves crashing against the hull and soaking the teak floors of the ship. A skyline emerges through the fog. Chinese junks and beggar sampans float past my porthole. Beggars and women selling chickens flood the streets of Shanghai, the modern skyscrapers soaring high above them. Han men and women dressed in their colorful costumes walk the cobblestone streets. As I pass restaurants and street vendors, an aroma of Hoisin sauce pervades the crisp air. I find myself mystified by such a strange new world, walking the streets aimlessly to capture its essence.
I am suddenly awakened from my dreams by a blast below me. The floor trembles and my two bedside lamps shatter over the carpet. Screams of terror fill Nanking Street. The rustic beauty that I saw the day before has vanished and out the window lie thousands, the streets stained red. Nowhere to run, I love you Margaret.
My heart continues to pound, but I am safe. Our ship sets sail as the flames encompass the city in the backdrop. Through the porthole, the world turns from horrifying red and orange to luscious green. Terraced rice fields cut through the thick tropical forest. I become immersed in a culture so vastly different than that of the Midwest, with only the crosses and steeples to bring me home. Meat cooked over an open fire. Dancing the Tinikling. Shell necklaces, leather bags, and hand- woven hats.
Women dress with only thick beaded necklaces and intricate henna tattoos covering their chests. The men, dressed in tribal gansas, return home from war and dance around an enemy's decapitated head. A canoa commemorates such a "special event," Igorots making beats with the brass rings dangling around their calves and feasting on spit-roasted pork. They accept me as their own, asking me to join in their festivities and abandon my Western dress. I laugh. I feel free.
Those eyes keep glaring. I stare back, accepting them as a normalcy but soon, memories of home creep back into my mind. Margaret. I picture her sitting in the orange corduroy armchair, playing Chinese checkers. How she must miss me, young and alone. Crying on Christmas, imagining me in a place beyond her isolated realm.
What's it generally about?
What's the tone/attitude/feeling?
- Main idea: The narrator left home and his new wife to travel.
Attitude/tone: Narrator becomes engrossed in travel, but begins to regret his absence from his wife.
Go to: Tip #19
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