You could be a model student throughout your high school and still be stumped by the English section of the ACT exam — Yes, it can be tricky!
Here's why: although a great majority of us do speak English, we talk informally — and mostly, conversational English doesn't abide by grammar rules.
In fact, breaking grammar rules is what has birthed slang or modern conversational English. What may sound correct to us can be wrong. This is precisely what is tested on the ACT English test!
So, if you're planning to attempt this year's ACTs and you want to know about the ACT English test section, this article is for you!
Always remember that the ACT English exam is more than simply recognizing correct punctuation and grammar.
Read our guide to the ACT English test and edge closer towards a high score:
What Does The English ACT Test Section Look Like?
In the ACT exam, the English section includes a total of 75 questions that you have to attempt in 45 minutes.
This means you just have a 36-second window for each question, and to finish on time, you'll need to ensure that you're not spending more time than allowed.
Remember, the English ACT test is the first segment of your ACT exam, so make sure you tackle it early. To get things going smoothly, do some ACT English practice tests at home.
The actual ACT English section will include five passages or essays, all of which are accompanied by multiple choices questions.
Some questions will ask you particular sentences or phrases from the given passage or essay, while others will ask you about the entire paragraph.
Read on as we dig deeper into what sort of questions you'll face in your English ACT test:
What Does The ACT English Test Cover?
If you have experience attempting the SATs, you may recognize some of the sections of the ACT English test.
Broadly speaking, the English ACT test has two content areas: Usage & Mechanics and Rhetorical Skills.
Usage & Mechanics include sentence structure, usage, grammar, and punctuation. On the other hand, Rhetorical Skills include style, organization, and strategy.
To put it simply, Usage & Mechanics will test your grammar and fine-tuned punctuation knowledge. In contrast, Rhetorical Skills will focus on comprehension and your skill to optimize the style and organization of given passages.
Although you'll get a subscore for these two categories, you should remember your overall English ACT test score matters.
So, instead of worrying about subscores in each category, you should use them both as a guide to your ACT English test.
Also, vocabulary and spelling are not tested on the English section of the ACT exam. You will also not be tested to know obscure and tricky rules of grammar in isolation!
Though grammar will be tested, you'll mainly be working with essays or passages. This means you can also use the context of the passage to find the right answers.
Therefore, let's take a closer look at each subsection to show you what you'll be facing on your ACT exam:
Usage & Mechanics
Think of this as the detailed section of your English ACT test. If you want to perform well in this portion, make sure you know grammar rules, punctuation rules, and proper sentence structuring very well.
One useful trick to ace questions of this section is to assume you're editing the class's paper. Choose answers that make a passage sound more precise and clear.
Let's further dissect the usage and mechanics portion to understand better:
Questions in this subsection make up 10 to 15% of the total usage and mechanics section. You'll be tested to know the convention of "end-of" and "internal" sentence punctuation.
To put it simply, you need to understand appropriate apostrophe, comma, semicolon, and period use. Therefore, candidates are pressed to study hard and brush up on their grammar skills before attempting.
Punctuation questions will focus primarily on punctuation usage with the meaning. In short, how to use punctuation properly to ensure the passage or essay is clear and easily understandable.
The key here is to consider the entire sentence's context even though the question revolves around a brief phrase.
Here's an example to show you what we actually mean:
"Many people despise to ride Washington metro, but I adore them as I love to get to places fast. A musician balance out the cello case, three monks in Orange clad robes and shaved heads, and a band of stockbrokers in brisk, charcoal gray suits ride from Capitol Heights. A passenger calmly sews as the metro jolts."
F: No change
G: charcoal, gray suits
H: charcoal gray suits,
The question enquires about the proper punctuation usage for the "charcoal gray suits" phrase; however, to get the answer correct, you must consider the whole sentence.
The phrase appears in the last of the list of different metro passengers with "a band of stockbrokers in brisk, charcoal gray suits."
Since a comma is employed to separate things in lists, you don't have to add the comma, so you can choose "F" that says "no change."
Note: Never restrict your focus to short phrases; instead, pay attention to complete sentences when doing English ACT tests.
Grammar & Usage (15-20%)
This portion constitutes 15 to 20% of the Usage and Mechanics section. Grammar & usage questions will test your knowledge regarding various grammar rules.
Examples: An agreement between verb and subject, an agreement between antecedent and pronoun, and an agreement between the modified and the modifiers.
In addition to that, pronoun case, the formation of superlative and comparative adverbs and adjectives, verb formation, and idiomatic usage will also be tested in your English ACT exam.
Note: Since most questions in this section ask you to choose an option that wouldn't be acceptable, so make sure to read these questions thoroughly to avoid making unnecessary mistakes of opting for an answer, which is acceptable!
Sentence Structure (25%)
The questions in this part will test your knowledge of clauses, modifier placements, and construction shifts.
The principal idea behind these questions is to get candidates to come up with the perfect way to connect two clauses on each side of an underlined word.
In short, you'll have to combine knowledge of differences between dependent and independent clauses, punctuation, and several other techniques.
Think of Rhetorical skills as your English ACT exam's "big picture" section. Instead of simply correcting sentences, you'll have to consider the entire argument and passage as-a-whole, unlike the usage and mechanics portion.
Some candidates find this section challenging to take on, which is why you can consider hiring a private tutor.
You'll need to find answers, which make the organization, style, and idea of the essay or passage clearer. Let's dive into knowing each subsection in detail:
Strategy questions make up 15 to 20% of your Rhetorical Skills section. They test your ability to select phrases or words that meet the passage's purpose and audience.
In addition to that, you'll need to assess the effects of revising, deleting, or adding additional material.
When confused, ask yourself whether the supporting material adds to the argument or makes it further unclear.
You'll have to evaluate the relevancy of potential supporting statements and select whether to discard or include them.
In short, these questions will ask students to think like their English teachers. Often, the question will start with a phrase such as "The writer wants to add."
Tip: If the strategy question is about sentence placement in the paragraph's beginning, the right answer will have two things: it will introduce a paragraph and work as the transition sentence.
These questions make up 10 to 15% of the total Rhetorical Skills section questions. They will test your ability to organize ideas and select effective closing, opening, and transitional sentences.
The primary focus is on the ends and the beginnings of paragraphs. Therefore, to excel, you must understand the passage as a whole.
Here's an example of questions asked in the 'organization' subsection of the Rhetorical Skills section:
"Bicyclists streak past in the dusty cloud and the blurry color; I do not understand the haste. Luigi can ride fast, but I enjoy riding slow, to see as the hovering dragonfly. In fact, I wish to see all the things that changed, bloomed, died, or grown since yesterday. I noticed one spider this morning weaving the web between honeysuckle bushes. There, I spend two hours; listening, learning, and looking."
Question: which option leads to a new subject?
A: Nature always gets the best of me
B: Days can pass quickly
C: The sun starts to set
D: No change
After reading the content, you have to seek the option that naturally leads to the paragraph's introductory sentence. It begins with the description of "biking," which may refer to a definition of nature.
Though you may consider option "A" as it's tempting with the description, you have to think carefully and choose an option that makes natural sense.
Hence, in this scenario, the introductory sentence "bicyclists streak past" is the best choice. So the answer is D, "no change."
Tip: For these questions, you must consider two things: a paragraph's point and logical, smooth transitions.
Style questions comprise 15 to 20% of Rhetorical Skills overall questions. They will test your ability to choose appropriate and precise images and words, maintain a consistent tone and style in the passage, organize sentence elements to provide rhetorical effectiveness, avoid redundancy, wordiness, and ambiguous and vague pronoun references.
In short, the style questions require candidates to choose the most appropriate word to put in the sentence.
Tip: Whenever you attempt style questions, consider two key ideas to succeed: remove redundancy and maintain a similar tone.
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