Tip #28 to Get a Top ACT English Reading Science Score
Sometimes ACT passages are obscenely dense and kids panic, "I can't do it! It'll take too long. It'll kill me." Relax, and remember your Skills. Read the passage, looking for main idea and tone. Don't memorize details. Don't reread a confusing line. Don't reread if you spaced out and missed a sentence or two. There's no single sentence or even paragraph that you need to get the main idea and tone. And for details, you'll reread the lines later anyway.
All this will save you time and energy. Remember my story from Skill 18. When I was 16 years old and preparing for standardized tests, I did well in school, but didn't read much. I was terrified. Then one day I was like, "Wait, this is ridiculous, how long can it take?" So I took out a stopwatch and timed myself. It took 3 minutes! Try it, and you'll see. Even for a slow reader, the passage takes only a few minutes, especially if you use the Skills.
So read the following huge passage. Read quickly, but stay relaxed. Pretend you love the topic. As you read, ask yourself, What are the main idea and tone? Use all the Skills. Time yourself. You'll see that even a ridiculously long passage takes only a few minutes.
Directions: Read the passage below. Look for main idea and tone. Don't memorize details. Circle themes as you notice them. Time yourself. Then look at the Solutions page.
HUMANITIES: This passage is adopted from Richard Wylde's essay "The Case for Vulgarity."
There is a fine difference between vulgarity used as a part of the artistic process and vulgarity for the sheer experience of shock. To be of any worth whatsoever, vulgarity cannot be a work's only drawing aspect. Vulgarity for vulgarity's sake is exploitation, which may equal high entertainment value, but exploitation art has little to no artistic merit.
To say that vulgarity in art is simply a representation of real life, or that it is holding a mirror up to society and showing us our own depravity is an old, tired argument. Despite the possible corruption of our children and ourselves, vulgarity is clearly here to stay and it is clear that the population at large likes it.
But then again, is that really vulgarity? Going back to the definition of vulgarity, which is simply anything that offends traditional values, it seems that the concepts and presentations of swearing, violence, and sex are not all that taboo anymore. To truly be considered vulgar today, one would have to go to some lengths, but that only really produces the sensation of shock. And, if shocking the audience is the artist's main goal, probably their piece is lacking in some other meaningful aspect.
Why vulgarity? Do we enjoy the grotesque and unusual? Carl Jung teaches that each of us has a pleasant self with which we identify, called the ego, and a hidden self which we each tend to reject and deny, which he called our "shadow." "The shadow" points to our guilty pleasures for things like violence, which we know are wrong, but we still take a perverse enjoyment in viewing.
Perhaps there is safeness in being the voyeur, because it appeals to our dark side without making us culpable. For instance, I like zombie movies. But if I were to be given a questionnaire asking "Do you like to see people's heads being blown off with a shotgun?" I would be disgusted and deny it. Yet judging by my viewing habits, I do like it!
While the shadow is part of who we are, we deny or fear its existence. No one would say they like to see someone stabbed with a knife, yet this is a very common incident in horror movies. We can make up all the explanations we want about the thrill of fear, but all signs seem to point to a complex where, on a deep unconscious level, we like to see other people stabbed with knives. Perhaps knowing that the violence is not real and that we are simply observers waiting to have our senses aroused, we feel okay about the pleasure.
Vulgarity makes the abstract idea of "conflict" something concrete and brings it directly to the senses. It makes us sit up and pay attention, because something in our environment is not right, not in harmony with its surroundings. This works much the same way that dissonance functions in music. Tones that don't sound "correct" have a way of grabbing our attention more so than "complete-sounding" chords. When the resolution finally comes, the sense of opposition is "solved," and makes our appreciation for normal musical consonance that much greater. It seems sweeter.
Vulgarity is discord, briefly jarring our concept of what is acceptable. Having a few images or descriptions of real ugliness makes everything else that much more beautiful. Of course there's no formula, and constant vulgarity is an overstimulation, but the point is that vulgarity needn't be just for demented entertainment value. It creates a defiant mood that can either be built on or be left to wallow in its own filth.
If reading the passage took over 3 minutes, review Skill 18 and reread the passage. Anyone can learn to read quickly; remember, you are not reading to memorize details, just to get the gist. When it takes you under 3 minutes, you're ready.
If you absolutely cannot do it in under 3 minutes, no problem, here's your strategy: read for 3 minutes and stop. That'll be enough for you to get some main idea and tone info, without spending too much time. But you have to practice watching the clock and knowing when it's been 3 minutes.
Go to: Tip #29
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