This article provides a quick overview of critical information to know and key strategies to apply to boost your performance on the ACT-English test.
It is organized around three sections: overview, strategies, and concepts.
A. ACT-English Section Overview
75 questions in 45 minutes
15 questions every 9 minutes
Skills tested: Usage/grammar and rhetorical skills
B. Strategies to employ
General strategies for the ACT-English section
Don’t waste too much time on any single question. Every question is worth the same amount, regardless of difficulty.
Go mostly in order. Answer all questions in a section before moving on to the next one.
Strategy for usage/grammar questions
Read each answer in the context of the sentence.
Eliminate answers that are obviously wrong.
Look for patterns in the remaining answers.
If no obvious grammatical issues in the remaining choices, choose the most concise, to-the-point answer.
Strategy for rhetorical skills questions
When a question asks you to put something into context of the paragraph/passage, quickly read over the paragraph (or skim the passage) and be able to sum it up in a single sentence. This will often directly relate to the answer.
C. Concepts to grasp
1. Paralell structure - having the same pattern of words, phrases, or clauses.
Not Parallel: Mary likes hiking, swimming, and to ride a bicycle.
Parallel: Mary likes hiking, swimming, and riding a bicycle.
Not Parallel: The teacher said that he was a poor student because he waited until the last minute to study for the exam, completed his lab problems in a careless manner, and his motivation was low.
Parallel: The teacher said that he was a poor student because he waited until the last minute to study for the exam, completed his lab problems in a careless manner, and lacked motivation.
2. - Misplaced modifier - word or phrase that is improperly separated from the word it describes.
On her way home, Jan found a gold man's watch.
On her way home, Jan found a man's gold watch.
The waiter served a dinner roll to the woman that was well buttered.
The waiter served a dinner roll that was well buttered to the woman.
3. Transitional phrases - the ACT loves transitional words and phrases. Examples include but, and, yet, however, nonetheless, and furthermore.
If you notice that all of the answer choices are transition words/phrases, read the sentence before the transition and the sentence after it and determine how they are related.
4. Comma splice – connecting two full sentences with a comma.
It is nearly half past five, we cannot reach town before dark.
Fixed version 1 (using semi-colon):
It is nearly half past five; we cannot reach town before dark.
Fixed version 2 (using dash):
It is nearly half past five – we cannot reach town before dark.
Fixed version 3 (using colon):
We cannot reach town before dark: it is nearly half past five.
Fixed version 4 (using two sentences):
It is nearly half past five. We cannot reach town before dark.
Fixed version 5 (inserting a conjunction):
It is nearly half past five, so we cannot reach town before dark
Hopefully you are now on your way to preparing for the ACT-English section.