READING SECTION DIRECTIONS


The Reading section measures your ability to understand academic passages in English. You will read passages and answer questions about them. Answer all questions based on what is stated or implied in the passages.

You will read three passages. You have 60 minutes to read the passages and answer the questions.

Most questions are worth one point, but the last question in each set is worth more than one point. The directions indicate how many points you may receive.

Some passages include a word or phrase in bold type. For these words and phrases, you will see a definition in a glossary at the end of the passage.

Reading 1

MUSICAL TALENT

1. Among all the abilities with which an individual may be endowed, musical talent appears earliest in life. Very young children can exhibit musical precocity for different reasons. Some develop exceptional skill as a result of a well–designed instructional regime, such as the Suzuki method for the violin. Some have the good fortune to be born into a musical family in a household filled with music. In a number of interesting cases, musical talent is part of an otherwise disabling condition such as autism or mental retardation. A musically gifted child has an inborn talent; however, the extent to which the talent is expressed publicly will depend upon the environment in which the child lives.

2. Musically gifted children master at an early age the principal elements of music, including pitch and rhythm. Pitch—or melody—is more central in certain cultures, for example, in Eastern societies that make use of tiny quarter–tone intervals. Rhythm, sounds produced at certain auditory frequencies and grouped according to a prescribed system, is emphasized in sub–Saharan Africa, where the rhythmic ratios can be very complex.

3. All children have some aptitude for making music. During infancy, normal children sing as well as babble, and they can produce individual sounds and sound patterns. Infants as young as two months can match their mother’s songs in pitch, loudness, and melodic shape, and infants at four months can match rhythmic structure as well. Infants are especially predisposed to acquire these core aspects of music, and they can also engage in sound play that clearly exhibits creativity.

4. Individual differences begin to emerge in young children as they learn to sing. Some children can match large segments of a song by the age of two or three. Many others can only approximate pitch at this age and may still have difficulty in producing accurate melodies by the age of five or six. However, by the time they reach school age, most children in any culture have a schema of what a song should be like and can produce a reasonably accurate imitation of the songs commonly heard in their environment.

5. The early appearance of superior musical ability in some children provides evidence that musical talent may be a separate and unique form of intelligence. There are numerous tales of young artists who have a remarkable “ear” or extraordinary memory for music and a natural understanding of musical structure. In many of these cases, the child is average in every other way but displays an exceptional ability in music. Even the most gifted child, however, takes about ten years to achieve the levels of performance or composition that would constitute mastery of the musical sphere.

6. Every generation in music history has had its famous prodigies—individuals with exceptional musical powers that emerge at a young age. In the eighteenth century, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart began composing and performing at the age of six. As a child, Mozart could play the piano like an adult. He had perfect pitch, and at age nine he was also a master of the art of modulation—transitions from one key to another—which became one of the hallmarks of his style. By the age of eleven, he had composed three symphonies and 30 other major works. Mozart’s well–developed talent was preserved into adulthood.

7. Unusual musical ability is a regular characteristic of certain anomalies such as autism. In one case, an autistic girl was able to play “Happy Birthday” in the style of various composers, including Mozart, Beethoven, Verdi, and Schubert. When the girl was three, her mother communicated with her by playing incomplete melodies, which the child would complete with the appropriate tone in the proper octave. For the autistic child, music may be the primary mode of communication, and the child may cling to music because it represents a haven in a world that is largely confusing and frightening.

Glossary:

schema: a mental outline or model anomaly: departure from what is normal; abnormal condition autism: a developmental disorder involving impaired communication and emotional separation

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