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Test PrepACTEnglish

ACT English

Ah, the ACT English TestT. Love it or hate it, this is a great area for making big score improvements. Indeed, you can be successful despite not being a grammar ace or the next Ernest Hemingway. You don’t need to master every obscure grammar rule, nor do you need to be on track for a Pulitzer Prize. The English Test really only covers limited rules of grammar and some writing basics.

The Breakdown

The ACT English Test is a 75-question, 45-minute multiple-choice exam focused on the conventions of standard written English and rhetorical skills. By this, the test-writers mean punctuation, grammar and usage, sentence structure and writing strategy, organization and style. In addition to an overall English score, you’ll also receive subscores for Usage/Mechanics and Rhetorical Skills. The English Test does not test spelling or vocabulary.

The test itself consists of 5 passages, each followed by a series of multiple-choice questions. These questions typically refer to an underlined portion of a passage and provide alternatives to it or ask about an underlined portion of a passage, a section of a passage or the passage as a whole. There is no essay unless you opt to take the ACT Plus Writing exam. In that case, you will complete a 30-minute essay separately from the English test.

Strategy Talk

Your strategy will be dependent on your current score, the score you hope to achieve and the gap between the two. If you have yet to take the ACT, you can use your PLAN score to predict your ACT performance. While this section is a great place to pick up extra points, you still want to be realistic, especially if you have limited time to devote to prep work. Improving your score requires dedication to practicing and honing your test-taking skills

To do well on this test, you’ll want to focus your efforts on reviewing the grammar rules most frequently tested. Next, you’ll want to practice and gain familiarity with the ways in which the ACT applies those rules. The more time you devote to practice, the better you’ll be at effectively managing your time. Here are a few strategy tips for you:

  • Invest some time upfront on each passage before going to the questions. This will give you some meaningful context.
  • If possible, leave some time to review your work, giving attention to questions about which you were unsure.
  • Focus on differences amongst the answer choices. If you are having trouble deciding, refer back to the passage for clues. Remember – you are looking for the best answer.

Preparation Tips

Whether you have a limited amount of time (say, just a few weeks) or a pretty large chunk of time (say, 3 or more months), the key to mastering the grammar portion is to focus on one rule at a time. Once you have a firm grasp on a particular rule, move on to the next. If your time is limited, you’ll require a more expedited schedule, such as a grammar rule per day. Regardless, don’t try to race through all the rules in one sitting! This will only result in getting them all muddled in your brain.


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