Monday, November 21, 2011

CUNY ACT Reading Protocol

The CUNY ACT Reading/CATR Exam is administered on a computer and it is not time-limited. The questions are all multiple choice questions. I have created a protocol in taking the ACT Reading Exam which many students have found useful. They have found that following this protocol improved their performance in reading comprehension and resulted in having more of the answers correct. Also, you may adjust or revise this protocol according to your individual needs. You should definitely use this protocol for ACT Reading practice exams provided by your professor or instructor.

ACT Reading Protocol
1. Ask for scrap paper.
2. Read passage CAREFULLY at least twice. Sum up each paragraph in one phrase/sentence on scrap paper (and label it with the paragraph number.)
3. Write in one sentence the overall message, or main idea, of the author.
4. Write in one sentence also the attitude or tone of the author (toward an issue, a character, or toward whatever the passage is addressing).  For example, does he have an objective tone or an opinionated tone? Is he strongly for or against an issue covered by his writing? Write down the tone or attitude (or at least do it in your head) before you move on to answer the questions for the passage.
5. Begin answering the questions. For each question, re-read from the beginning of the passage up to the point where you believe the answer is located. (If you do this and you have the author’s main idea/overall message in mind and have his attitude or tone in mind, you will do well.)
6. BE SURE YOU ANSWER ALL THE QUESTIONS IN EACH PASSAGE CAREFULLY AND CHECK THEM OVER BEFORE YOU MOVE ON TO THE NEXT PASSAGE.  Once you move on to the next passage, you won't be able to go back to the previous passage and the questions to that passage.

•By the time you are done, you should’ve read the entire passage AT LEAST THREE TIMES, but probably more times.

• Keep in mind that the creator of the questions in most cases is not the author of the passage. Think in the perspective of the creator of the questions who is probably an English instructor or professor. You have to try to get into the minds of two people, the author of the passage and creator of the questions.

• Use POE (the process of elimination) when answering the questions.  First, eliminate the answer choices that are certainly wrong.  Do this in your head or on scrap paper (such as writing the question #, and the certainly wrong letter choices crossed out.)

• Be careful not to just focus on one detail or one small area of the passage while ignoring the rest.  (This is a common mistake from students who have trouble passing the ACT Reading Exam.)  Use the entire passage to get to the main idea (or the main message) as well as the attitude and tone of the author (as mentioned in steps 2 and 3.)

An Unconventional Tip
Before reading, get your mind into the alpha state which will help you increase reading comprehension. You can put yourself into the alpha state within 20 seconds by doing a breathing exercise, a mind-calming technique, or saying a prayer. This is backed up by scientific studies. The alpha state is also known as the “relaxation response” or the relaxed alert state. The more practice you have in reaching the relaxed-alert state, the more success you will have in improving reading comprehension.

What NOT to Do
• Do NOT be late to the test.  (They will close the door promptly and won’t let you in, if you are late.  Get there at least 30 minutes early.)
• Do NOT schedule important appointments, meetings, or dates for the day of the exam.  (You don’t want to be rushing from an important meeting to the test.  Also, you don’t know how long the test will take, and you don’t want to subconsciously rush through the exam to get to a later appointment on time.  Don’t make any important appointments for that day.)
• During the exam, do NOT be hasty and do NOT rush.  (Be meticulous.)

Additional Note
This lesson applies to the CUNY ACT Reading. The ACT Reading exams outside of CUNY may be somewhat different. 

Copyright: © 2006, 2010, 2011. This document is the sole property of Amadeo Constanzo. You may use this article for your web site, blog, or e-zine if and only if you include this copyright notice with the following statement and web links. More teachings from Amadeo Constanzo can be found at:

Seriously I'm Kidding by Ellen Degeneres - Books

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Police Pepper-sprayed Student and Faculty Protestors

Chilling videos show police officers at UC Davis (University of California, Davis) pepper spraying a line of seated helpless protesters.  The students and faculty members were participating in a peaceful movement against rising tuition costs, cuts in state funding for education, and previous police brutality at UC Berkeley against peaceful protesters there.  At UC Davis as the police spray the students and protesters, bystanders are screaming for the police to stop followed by their yelling, “Shame on you!”  (as you may see in the videos.)
Since I was a student at UC Davis where I’ve also worked and I had also worked closely with faculty and students at UC Berkeley, I cannot be passive.  So, I am writing about this that has occurred.  

This behavior by the police is unacceptable and someone must take responsibility, starting with identifying and firing the officers who sprayed the students and work up the line of command firing those who authorized such unnecessary force.

It makes no sense.  Chancellor Linda Katehi (who ordered police onto campus) and the police justified their actions stating that they took action because the protestors camping out on campus pose a potential health risk.  Yet, the police in pepper-spraying the protestors immediately caused health problems – protestors were hospitalized, some coughing up blood after being sprayed down the throat.  So, the chancellor and the police are saying that the reason they moved in on the protestors and inflict immediate and certain health problems on these students and professors was because they were trying to prevent potential health problems.  That makes no sense.  What makes more sense is that they are trying to come up with some excuse or justification to save their ass, now that the videos and the pictures are out, and they are experiencing a PR nightmare.

I also like to point out that it’s ironic that the UC Davis protestors were met with police brutality when one of the cause of that protest was against police brutality in the UC Berkeley protest.

A UC Davis English professor wrote an open letter to Linda Katehi, the UCD Chancellor who ordered the police onto campus, demanding her resignation at:

The news story about the incident at UCD can be found at:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

English Departmental Exams: Annotating and Summarizing

For Departmental Reading and Writing Exams and Practice
If you want to do well in these departmental exams from the English Department, you should do the following:

1. Annotate (each parapraph), but you shouldn't spend too much time doing this, especially when you are taking a timed Departmental Reading test .  They don't have to be in complete sentences as long as you can understand what you've written.  (You'll convert them into complete sentences when you summarize in step #4.)
2. Write down Main Idea in one sentence.  Attitude, and Tone in another sentence.  (MAT)  You may do this on top of the article.
3. Answer the questions.  (This step applies only to the Departmental READING.)
4. Write the summary.  (Most likely, one of the questions in the Departmental Reading Exam asks you to do this.  For the Departmental Writing Exam, you should do this summary along with #1 and #2 when you receive the reading ahead of time .)
How To Write A Good Summary
To write a good summary, simply turn your annotations into complete sentences.  Then add the first sentence to include the Main Idea, Author, and Title (MAT).  Go over and revise the summary if you have time.  (In doing this, you will automatically have a good summary that is as brief as possible while including all the important points.)

Here are examples of how I annotated and summarized an article