ACT reading practice test 45

DIRECTIONS: Each passage is followed by several questions. After reading a passage, choose the best answer to each question and fill in the corresponding oval on your answer document. You may refer to the passages as often as necessary.


This passage is adapted from the essay "Songwriters and Scientists Both Hope to Peer Over God's Shoulder, If Only for a Moment" by John Roderick (©2011 by John Roderick).

It's a popular adage that you should never decide to become a musician for the money. This is absolutely sane advice, as the vast majority of musicians don't make enough money to live on comfortably, and there is no retirement

5 plan. The people who give this advice usually follow it by saying "You should only play music if you love it."

This is also good advice, but what does it mean Everybody loves music. Do they mean that you should only play music if you love it like a psychopath and have

10 no other interests I mean, what good is music It toys with emotions in a manner that, if a friend acted the same way, you would hate their guts. And far from bringing people together, most music is listened to now in solitude on headphones at the gym, or wherever. So why is it still

15 so powerful What does it do

There are plenty of things about the universe that we know to be true. Energy equals mass times the speed of light squared. The speed of light in a vacuum is 186,000 miles per second. The quadratic formula is X equals

20 negative B plus or minus the square root of B squared minus four times A times C, all divided by two times A. This is science, and it makes up the indisputable body of known fact that enables us to build computer networks, suspension bridges, predator drones, and mechanical bulls.

25 But outside this illuminated circle of understanding are vast dark places where other truths about the universe still live in shadow. What is gravity, exactly Is there really such a thing as dark matter or dark energy, and if so, does it speak in a low, menacing voice Do trees communicate

30 telepathically with one another Physicists and mathematicians working at the forefront of human discovery are leaning into these shadows and trying to expand the circle of light. Imagine how their hearts must soar when they develop a theory and see it proved,

35 thrilled to be the first sentient creature to divine this aspect of the mechanics of the universe.

Musicians can feel the same exact thing. Some people might scoff at the comparison between some kid wearing white Ray-Bans and singing about how "love" is

40 like "a flower" and a super-genius physicist peering into the darkness at the beginning of time, but both occupations are capable, in their greatest moments, of getting a brief glimpse over God's shoulder.

When John Lennon wrote "Imagine," he was standing

45 at the center of 10,000 years of science, religion, music, and myth. That song is his Theory of Relativity, describing the universe of emotion and belief as surely as Einstein did time and space. Mathematicians roll their eyes, protesting that the touchy-feely realm of emotion cannot be compared

50 to the certainty of math, but emotion cannot be inconsistent with math. Emotion is just another aspect of the universe about which some small portion of our understanding is illuminated while the vast majority waits in shadow.

Both music and science are keys and codes which

55 describe and unlock connections, patterns, and truths that were formerly felt but never drawn. In the right hands, both science and song allow recipients to experience personally the revelation, the excitement of the moment of discovery, in their own minds.

60 Just as scientists build on the discoveries of those who've come before, so do songwriters. There's no chord change on Nirvana's Nevermind that hadn't been discovered and used hundreds of times before. But Nirvana combined this ribonucleic acid of rock to create music

65 that reverberated with millions across languages and cultures instantaneously. It may still be difficult for us to determine exactly what universal truths are contained in "Smells Like Teen Spirit," but the results of the experiment are unequivocal.

70 It's impossible to consider this prospect without traipsing over into what sounds like hippie balderdash, but the principles of fractal geometry and of melody and rhythm converge somewhere out on the horizon, somewhere much closer to the Grand Unified Theory than

75 we're able to connect at present. After all, music is math at its heart. But music transcends basic math just as string theory does. How can you mathematically account for Aretha Franklin's voice How can you plot on a graph the effect of her voice on various listeners

80 It's no mistake to consider music one of the sciences. Whatever your creed, the idea of glimpsing some small aspect of the universal clockwork is irresistible. Theoretical physics attempts to describe multiple universes and scales of large and small that we may never

85 fully comprehend. Likewise, every day musicians deliver new information about the very real, tangible, formative realm of thinking and feeling. Our appreciation of music is the closest to practical philosophy most of us will experience.

1. The main purpose of the passage is to:

A. suggest that people who only pay attention to trivial things like pop music should try to learn about more important things like science.
B. argue that the mission of artists has more in common with the mission of the hard sciences than most realize.
C. analyze the ways in which both science and art have emerged from and been inspired by various religious traditions.
D. declare a personal belief that science and religion are not as incompatible as many seem to think, and that art reveals this.

2. The passage describes popular music as being all of the following EXCEPT:

F. usually completely original.
G. currently impossible to analyze mathematically.
H. occasionally silly at first glance.
J. a synthesis of emotional traditions.

3. Based on the passage, how should the assertion that artists and scientists are capable of "getting a brief glimpse over God's shoulder" (lines 42-43) be read?

A. Literally; both professions can reveal truths that a deity intended to remain mysterious.
B. Literally; both professions occasionally arrive at sound arguments for the existence of a deity.
C. Metaphorically; both professions are methods of arriving at answers about human existence.
D. Ironically; both scientists and artists tend to be less religious than the average person.

4. The passage most strongly implies that John Lennon viewed Imagine as:

F. more a work of science than a work of art.
G. a mission statement of personal philosophy.
H. the intersection of artistic and religious history.
J. a rebuke to skeptical mathematicians.

5. It can reasonably be inferred that the author believes Nirvana's Smells Like Teen Spirit is:

A. a work that is inarguably important, though it is impossible to say exactly why.
B. secretly a tribute to John Lennon's Imagine.
C. a song that is unique in being accessible to listeners who do not understand English.
D. a piece of derivative songwriting that gets more attention than it probably deserves.

6. Through his comparison of music to a friend, the author reveals his belief that music:

F. is always there for us when we need it most.
G. cannot always be trusted to challenge us.
H. influences our beliefs in gentle ways.
J. is, in a sense, designed to be manipulative.

7. According to the passage, which of the following is part of an "indisputable body of known fact"?

A. The theory of relativity
B. The existence of dark matter
C. The formula used to calculate energy
D. The ribonucleic acid of rock

8. The statement in lines 75-80 most nearly means that:

F. one should be aware that referring to music as a science will sound silly to most people.
G. some other cultures understand the relationship between music and science much better than we.
H. geometry might end up being more accurate if we would allow it to be influenced by music.
J. in some way that we cannot comprehend, music and math are ultimately the same thing.

9. In the passage, the significance of mechanical bulls is that they are:

A. proof that scientific knowledge can be used to create fun and cool things.
B. the result of science, but associated with people who like a certain style of music.
C. far less important than things like computers, bridges, and military aircraft.
D. an example of something that would not work if our ideas about science were inaccurate.

10. As it is used in line 69, the word unequivocal most nearly means:

F. absolutely clear.
G. surprising to most people.
H. not yet possible to see.
J. difficult to express in words.