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What's on the ACT English Test?

All The ACT English Goodies You Need to Read

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What's on the ACT English Test?
Copyright Flickr user shizhao

ACT English Intro

Shakespeare, you’re not (even if you do look good in tights). That doesn’t mean you can’t score well on an English test. Read below for the ACT English Basics. And when you’re done, try taking the free practice quiz at the bottom of the page to see how you’ll fare!

ACT English Basics

If you’ve read ACT 101, you know the following goodies about the ACT English section:

  • 5 passages of text
  • 75 multiple-choice questions (fifteen per passage)
  • 45 minutes
  • Approximately 30 seconds per question

ACT English Scoring

Just like the other sections, the ACT English section can earn you between 1 and 36 points. This score will be averaged with the scores from the other multiple-choice sections (Math, Science Reasoning and Reading) to get you your Composite ACT score. You'll also get a subscore for both the Usage/Mechanics and Rhetorical skills subcategories between 1 and 18. These subscores having nothing whatsoever to do with your overall score, and most colleges and universities will not care what your subscores are. Strange, but true. The average ACT English score is about a 21, but you’ll have to do much better than that if you’d like to hit up a top university for admissions acceptance – more like between a 30 and 34.

ACT English Test Content

As I stated previously, you'll have two subcategories of questions scattered throughout the ACT exam. You will not see "Usage/Mechanics" and "Rhetorical Skills" sections; rather, you'll encounter these types of questions as you work through all five passages.

Usage and Mechanics

40 out of the 75 questions relate to Usage and Mechanics. Although the ACT English test isn’t a memorization test at all, you will have to know how to use those English basics. You know – the ones your English teacher always harped on you about.

  1. Punctuation: (10 questions total) Brush up your knowledge of commas, apostrophes, colons, semicolons, and maybe even a quotation mark or two.
  2. Grammar and Usage: (12 questions total) Here, you’ll need to understand subject/verb agreement, pronoun and verb forms, case, and tense. You’ll be given a sentence with an underlined word or phrase, and will have to identify the most appropriate replacement for that underlined word or phrase from the choices listed below it.
  3. Sentence Structure: (18 questions) This one is a little trickier. Watch out for misplaced modifiers (adjectives, adverbs, etc.) clause issues, problems with parallel structure, and more.

Rhetorical Skills

The other 35 out of the 75 total questions in the English section deal with Rhetorical Skills like the following.

  1. Writing Strategy: (12 questions total) You must be able to identify author’s purpose, tone, main point, theme, etc. This requires a full reading of the text. If you just skim the passage, you’ll get these answers incorrect because often the broader questions are explained in the details.
  2. Organization: (11 questions total) You’ll choose correct introductory, transitional and closing sentences. You’ll also have to decide on accurate placement of words within sentences and sentences within the paragraph.
  3. Style: (12 questions) This is the creative part where you get rid of redundancy, wordiness, and ambiguity. Basically, you’ll have to choose words and sentences that keep the tone and overall style of the passage the same throughout the text while maintaining clarity. Easy, right?

ACT English Test Practice

There it is – the ACT English section in brief. Think you can pass it? Take my free interactive ACT English Quiz to gauge your readiness, and read through these ACT English Strategies so you're prepared!

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