The phrase “reading literacy” might sound vague or intimidating, but reading literacy is actually an important part of reading as a whole, as well as learning how to effectively take tests.
The TASC Test reading literacy sections evaluate the test-taker’s ability to read a passage, synthesize the information offered in the passage, and deliver it back correctly. Although reading is one of the fundamentals taught early in academic life, reading comprehension (also termed reading literacy) is another animal entirely. To accurately measure test-takers’ reading literacy, there are several components that will be targeted for evaluation. These include thesis, evidence, summary, structure, and meaning.
To find the thesis of a piece, you must ask yourself: What is the point and purpose of this piece? Although a thesis statement is typically found in the opening paragraph of a paper or piece, it can be found in many other places throughout a writing composition, and knowing how to answer this question can help you more effectively determine the thesis of a particular work.
The thesis of an informative essay on climate change, for instance, might read, “Identifying alternatives to fossil fuels is essential to limit the damage incurred by climate change.” This tells you the point of the piece (fossil fuels are contributing to climate change) and its purpose (to identify the factors contributing to climate change).
To find evidence or supporting details, evaluate the remainder of the text to find details that support the thesis or main idea. Details for the thesis listed above might include things in this sentence:
“Fossil fuels release additional carbon into the atmosphere that puts an additional burden on the carbon cycle.”
When you are asked to find a supporting detail or a piece of evidence, ask yourself, “Does this support or contribute to the main idea?”
Although it may seem that evidence will always be dry or scientific, fiction can also offer supporting details and evidence. If a person in a passage is identified as easily overwhelmed, a supporting detail could include a sentence such as the following:
“He turned pale as the plan began to change, his voice shaking as he spoke. ‘What do you mean, change of plans?!’”
Being able to accurately write or identify a summary of a passage is another important part of demonstrating reading literacy. To write a summary yourself, or to select a summary composed by someone else, return to the thesis of a piece. Take that thesis or main idea and expound on it to create a small paragraph that describes what has happened within the body of the entire passage.
A summary for Pride and Prejudice, for instance, might read:
“The Bennett sisters learn about love, family, and learning from mistakes in this heartwarming classic from Jane Austen.”
Summaries can be short and simple, or can be longer and include more supporting details.
To identify the structure of a piece, you might be asked to identify whether it is fiction or nonfiction, an essay or a piece of prose, or even what type of essay it might be. Word choice, tone, and point of view are all also components involved in the structure of a piece, and you may be asked to identify each of these with regard to a passage.
Word choice can inform an author’s tone (formal or informal, for instance), and tone can include broad categorizations such as informal or formal, but can also include more specific tones, such as informative, angry, and satirical.
Point of view (POV) typically includes first-person POV, third-person limited POV, and third-person omniscient POV. There is second-person POV, but it is far less common. First-person is identified by the author using I, we, and other words to indicate the author is speaking directly. Third-person omniscient will address and describe everyone equally, while third-person limited will describe things from primarily one person’s point of view, while still using he, she, or other pronouns to discuss that person.
Reading literacy will also evaluate your ability to determine the meaning of words you may not know. Using context, word choice, and the overall point and purpose of a piece, you should be able to discern what a word means. Although context clues may not provide an exact meaning, having a general idea of what a word means is typically enough to understand the whole of a passage and correctly answer a test question.
Ultimately, the best way to prepare for reading literacy evaluations is to read as much as possible. Reading daily and applying the principles and ideas listed above is the simplest and most effective way to prepare yourself for your TASC Test.