Tip #29 to Get a Top ACT English Reading Science Score (page 5)
You've now learned the 12 Reading Skills that you need for the ACT. The Mantras remind you what to do for each type of question. Let's make sure you've memorized them. Drill them until you are ready to teach them. Then do that; find a willing friend and give a little ACT course.
Learning the Mantras is like learning martial arts. Practice until they become part of you— until you follow them naturally: when you see a passage, you read for main idea and tone, and when you answer questions, you recognize most question types and know what to do. This will definitely raise your score. It might even fundamentally change you as a student. After ACT prep many students have better study habits. They read the intros in their history books, they read faster and with better comprehension, they are able to anticipate quiz questions. Homework becomes less intimidating, easier, and more fun. So, good work; your ACT score and probably even your school grades will go up!
Here are the 12 ACT Reading Mantras. Check the box next to each Skill when you have mastered it. Reread the Skill sections if you need to.
- Skill 17. Always begin a reading passage by reading the bold intro.
- Skill 18. Read the passage, looking for main idea and tone. That helps you stay focused; keep asking yourself, What are the main idea and tone? When you notice the theme of a paragraph, circle a word or words that capture it. Don't try to memorize details and don't reread hard lines. If you need them, you'll reread later when you know the question and what to look for.
- Skill 19. To answer a "most nearly means" question, reread a few lines before and a few lines after.
- Skill 20. For a "direct info" question, always read before and after a line or key word and find proof.
- Skill 21. For "suggest" questions look for the answer that is hinted at in the passage; though it might have different language, it should be pretty close to what is actually said.
- Skill 22. Answer "attitude" questions based on evidence in the passage; an author's attitude is expressed through choice of words and punctuation. For help, reread the bold intro and the first and last sentences of each paragraph.
- Skill 23. If you need help with a "main idea" question, reread the bold intro and the first and last lines of each paragraph.
- Skill 24. For questions that ask about the writer's choices or the flow of the passage, review the progression of paragraphs and use the process of elimination.
- Skills 25 and 26. If you don't know the meaning of a word, ask yourself if you can break it apart, or if you've ever heard or seen it in a book, in a movie, on a sign, as the name of a business, in a commercial, in a class, etc.
- Skill 27. For a "Say what?" question, don't get thrown if the choices are not from the passage. Stay relaxed and focused, and look for the choice that answers the specific goal of the question.
- Skill 28. 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.
Identify each question type, and then choose the best answer.
HUMANITIES: This passage is adapted from Manpriya Kaur Samra's essay "Mysticism and the Validity of Religious Experience: Cognitive Value and a Multiplicity of Verification."
Mysticism consists of provocative experiential claims, and though they may be considered outside the norm, these claims are accepted religious practice amongst and across faiths. A revered poet across religions, cultures and traditions in South Asia, Kabir stood out as a radical in the philosophic climate of his time.
Fifteenth century northern India's political and philosophic atmosphere was shaped both by beliefs of the ancient traditions of Brahminism and by the recent addition of Islam brought and practiced by the Mughal rulers. It was also determined by the woes of ethnic and religious conflict between the two.
Kabir did not identify himself as a Hindu or Muslim, nor as saint or guru. He simply assigned himself the status of a disciple, a man who lived simply in the material world to meditate upon the human spirit and its relation to the divine.
Kabir's medium of song and oral poetry spread his name throughout society in the subcontinent. His poems eventually became scripture for a number of religious traditions: the Bakhti mystic tradition, the Sufi Islamic tradition and the Sikh tradition. His ability and the ability of others in the mystic tradition to cut across ethnic, religious, philosophic and mundane socio-economic and lingual barriers demonstrate their power to inspire.
- The passage indicates that Kabir's poetry was used by
- the Bakti tradition only
- the Bakti, Sufi, and Sikh traditions
- the Mughal rulers
- people around the world
- By "philosophical climate" (line 7), the author most nearly means
- intellectual environment
- stormy arguments
- university gatherings
- religious plans
- According to the third paragraph, which of the following statements would the author most likely make with regard to Kabir?
- Kabir sought to isolate himself.
- Kabir sought clear understanding.
- Kabir sought to overthrow the king.
- Kabir is difficult to appreciate.
- In terms of mood, which of the following best describes the passage?
- The author's main point about mysticism is that it is
- widely accepted
- B This is a "direct info" question (Skill 20). The final paragraph states that Kabir's "poems eventually became scripture for a number of religious traditions: the Bakhti mystic tradition, the Sufi Islamic tradition and the Sikh tradition." The passage does not state that they were used around the world.
- F This is a "most nearly means" question (Skill 19). The next sentence explains the term. It states that the "philosophic atmosphere was shaped both by beliefs of the … " So "philosophical climate" means the "beliefs" or "intellectual environment." Also, remember from Skill 25 that "philosophy" means "the study of knowledge." The passage does not mention stormy arguments or university gatherings, and while religions are mentioned, there are no religious plans.
- B This is a "Say what?" question (Skill 27). The third paragraph states that Kabir "assigned himself the status of a disciple, a man who lived simply in the material world to meditate upon the human spirit and its relation to the divine." He sought to understand. There is no mention of isolation, overthrowing a king, or being difficult to understand.
- J This is an "attitude" question (Skill 22). Kabir may have been mysterious and his poetry provocative (stimulating) and stirring, but the mood of the passage is instructive. It teaches us about Kabir.
- D This is a "main idea" question (Skill 23). Scan the passage and your circled key words for "mysticism." The author did state that mysticism is philosophical and inspiring, but these are single details. The main idea throughout the passage is that mysticism was widely accepted. The first paragraph tells that mysticism is "accepted religious practice amongst and across faiths." And the last sentence of the final paragraph states "the ability of others in the mystic tradition to …cut across ethnic, religious, philosophic and the mundane socio-economic and lingual barriers ."
Clear the Mechanism: Meditation, Baseball, and the ACT
Ben finished the ACT math section and realized that he had made careless errors on at least two questions. He was hoping to break 32 and got upset. As he began the Reading section, he was flustered and had trouble focusing.
Realizing that he had made careless errors was very disappointing. But lamenting the careless errors did not help Ben; it only hurt his focus on the rest of the test. What could he have done? The answer lies in the wisdom of sage Kevin Costner, or at least in his character Billy Chapel from the baseball movie For Love of the Game.
In the movie Costner plays a veteran pitcher for the Tigers. He's a massive superstar with only 134 career losses during 18 seasons. On the mound Chapel is a samurai, impervious to distraction and pressure. How does he achieve this state? When he needs to focus, he stares at the catcher's glove and says, "Clear the mechanism." The noise of the crowd, the flashing lights, and the taunts of Yankee fans disappear, and Chapel enters the zone.
"Clear the mechanism" is Chapel's mantra to get focused. He tunes out distraction and focuses on only his movement, the pitch, the ball, and the catcher. He is present. He does not hear the jeers or cheers of the fans, and he rebounds instantly from a terrible pitch or botched play. Lamenting a bad pitch would in no way make the next one better. Each pitch comes from a fresh and clear head.
You can do this too. You don't have to say, "Clear the mechanism," although you can if you like. Instead, you can say, "I am focused," "I feel my feet," or "Asparagus." The phrase does not matter, except that after you have practiced saying it and then getting present enough times, the phrase will be a trigger, like it is for Chapel, to get present and tune out distractions.
How do you get good at it? The same way that you get good at most things: practice. Practice as often as you can remember. Do it in school, on the field, during band practice, at parties, and at the ACT. Anytime you think of it, say your phrase, and then feel your feet, notice sensations in your body, feel your breathing, notice your thoughts, and feel the pencil, ball, French fry, or tuba in your hand. Get present, focusing entirely on what you are doing, fully awake to sensations and thoughts of the moment.
Getting present is a high. And the more you practice, the better you'll be at it. Then if you're taking a test or you're on the field and something goes wrong, you can kick the dirt or bang your fist to let it out and then "Clear the mechanism," and completely move on, unburdened, unflustered, and ready to give the next moment 100% of your attention.
Five Tips for a Great College Application
I asked Heather Johnson, a private educational consultant in western Massachusetts, to give us her five most important college application tips. She said, "The single most important piece of advice is to start early and get organized. Then you can do your best and stress less, a pretty good tradeoff." Here's the rest of what she said:
- Take the most challenging high school courses that are available and appropriate for you.
- Meet your guidance counselors or college counselors as early as you can. Get to know them and establish a relationship so that they can provide more personalized guidance and write a more powerful letter of recommendation.
- If your colleges require the ACT or SAT, plan ahead. To maximize your score and dramatically reduce senior-year stress, begin preparing for and taking the test in the spring of 11th grade.
- Visit college campuses. Take advantage of long weekends and vacations during junior year to visit colleges while they are in session. You'll get the real feel for a school and its students; plus the earlier you visit schools, the earlier you'll be able to narrow down your list.
- Make a chart of the schools that you are applying to that includes requirements (standardized tests, teacher recommendations, essays, supplements, etc.) and due dates. Use the chart to plan ahead and complete applications before deadlines.
Go to: Tip #30
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