ACT English Test Prep: What You Need to Know to Crush It

Studying for the ACT English section

Source: Flickr user jvk.

The ACT English portion will test your reading and writing abilities. Students will be asked to read and make corrections to a number of passages. Sometimes no changes will be needed, other times there will be subtle grammatical or syntax errors that need to be addressed.

When preparing for this portion of the test, it’s important to brush up on grammar rules and mechanics–where does the comma go at the end of a quote again?

To maximize test prep effectiveness for the ACT English section, students will want to focus on the key areas being tested. Check out a few sample passages and questions to get an idea of what to expect.

What You’ll Find On the ACT English Section

The ACT English section is structured similarly to the ACT Science section. Students will be given a passage to read, then asked various multiple choice questions corresponding to specific parts of the passage.

In this case, however, the student will not be asked to read and interpret data, but instead read and analyze the writing within the passage.

Most of the questions will follow one of three formats:

  1. Change suggestions – Students will be asked to select from a series of possible changes to an underlined or selected portion of the passage. This is where you encounter the dreaded “NO CHANGE” option.
  2. Structure/logic questions – Students will be asked about possible changes to the structure or logic of the passage or particular parts of the passage.
  3. Summarization/evaluation – Students will be asked to evaluate the passage based on a set of criteria, and be given options to explain their conclusion.

What You Need to Know for the ACT English Section

The ACT English section is not a test of spelling or vocabulary. Rather, it is a test of reading and writing skills, including rhetoric style and organizational abilities.

Students will be tested not only on basic grammar and punctuation rules, but also on their ability to evaluate and correct issues with organization and writing strategy. These questions will require a strong knowledge and understanding of writing principals–particularly as they apply to persuasive writing–and the ability to apply these concepts to written passages.

Here are the main concepts that will be tested in the ACT English section:

  • Usage and mechanics
    • Punctuation
    • Grammar and Usage
    • Sentence Structure
  • Rhetorical skills
    • Strategy
    • Organization
    • Style

How to Study for the ACT English Section

Students hoping to prepare for the ACT English section are in luck.

The ACT Student website offers some excellent sample passages for free, which offer a look at what the passages and associated questions will look like for this portion of the exam.

This is a great place to start when studying. Familiarize yourself with the kinds of content you’ll see when you take the real test.

Second, students will want to brush up on their knowledge of grammar and punctuation rules. One good way to do this–Read! There are many other ways as well, from reading grammar/style guides to taking online punctuation and grammar quizzes.

For more study materials, see our post on 5 Online ACT Test Prep Tools.

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