Setting and Organization
The basic elements of a story include:
The TASC Test Assessing Secondary Completion™ asks test takers to discuss a variety of these elements on the Reading subtest. If you’re a fan of the TASC blog, then you’ve been developing your text analysis skills and reading skills using our past posts. You can continue honing those skills by familiarizing yourself with all the basic elements of a story.
Setting and organization are medium emphasis topics on the Reading subtest, and these two elements can greatly inform your reading – and can help you better understand high emphasis topics like plot and theme. According to Yujun Liu, author of “The Significance of Structure in Analyzing Short Stories,” the text structure can “reflect its writer’s characteristics of narration and thought with its narrative structure.” In other words, the way an author organizes the text can provide readers with specific information about the characters, action, and theme. The underlying issues of the text can by emphasized by the organization itself. Consequently, the organization is an important choice for the author.
The reading passages you’ll work with on the TASC Reading subtest will be more similar to short stories than any other genre. Though some passages may be pulled from longer texts, the passage will probably present a complete fiction scene or nonfiction argument.
Because of this length, it may be more difficult to figure out how the organization impacts the text – or what the setting is. Liu recommends looking for repetition: “pay attention to repeated elements and recurrent details of action and gesture, of dialogue and description, and to shifts in direction and changes of focus. Repetition signals are important connections to the relationship between characters, and connections between ideas.” In short passages, anything an author decides to repeat must be important, simply because the author is working with a limited amount of space. In this way, repetition works to emphasize, or draw the reader’s attention to, important details.
Details about the setting may be important, if they are repeatedly mentioned. Setting refers to the time and place where a scene or story occurs. According to writers at The Writing Place, the setting “can help set the mood, influence the way characters behave, affect the dialog, foreshadow events, invoke an emotional response, reflect the society in which the characters live, and sometimes even plays a part in the story. It can also be a critical element in nonfiction as the setting provides the framework for what is being discussed.”
In this way, the setting may play a part in how you understand the organization of the text structure – or it may be a separate device to take into consideration. It may or may not be repeated. And it may or may not be directly disclosed.
Look for details in how the characters interact. For example, if the character’s dialogue is written with a southern dialect, then the story is probably set in a southern state in the United States – even if the author doesn’t mention a particular state within the passage. This context can provide you with insight into the characters and the context. For example, if you know the story is written during the Civil War – in a southern state – then the political implications can change how you read the characters.
Whenever you are reading a passage for the TASC test, be mindful of the details. Whether they reflect the organization, the setting, or a different story element like characterization, the details are essential for answering the questions on the Reading subtest. Even the most insignificant detail can prove to be important, depending on the questions.