10 ACT English Strategies from the Experts
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10 ACT English Strategies from the Experts

10 ACT English Strategies from the Experts

The ACT English test is no slouch of an exam for students all around the world. The exam boasts a staggering 75 questions in only 45 minutes meaning that you really have to pace yourself to answer all the questions. 

This section also requires you to memorize 13 additional grammar rules and how to effectively write and revise essays. This can seem daunting at first, but you can use some ACT english tricks to help you get a great score.

You can easily be on your way to getting a 36 on the ACT English section as long as you’re well prepared with academic knowledge and a few English strategies to help you out. 

Here are 10 of our favorite and most effective ACT English strategies to help you score as high as possible on the ACT english exam.

Know the content of the exam

This tip might appear simple at first, but once you actually think about it, it's probably the most important for your entire ACT math prep. If you study for differential equations because you think they might be on the ACT, you’re severely mismanaging your time, especially if you’re trying to learn a new concept. Furthermore, if you don’t know the format of the exam, you’re doing yourself a great disservice as well. Here’s a basic rundown of what to expect when you take the ACT:

  • It’s scored from 1-36 like the rest of the exam
  • You have 45 minutes to complete 75 questions, broken down into 5 passages
  • Half the exam will cover straightforward grammar rules and conventions, the other half will cover language principles and effective writing
  • Unlike the SAT, questions appear sporadically throughout the passage, rather than just at the end
  • Passages are usually less dense than the Reading test

What’s Actually Being Asked Here?

The ACT English test can be broken down into three main sections which are:

  1. Production of Writing
  2. Knowledge of Language
  3. Conventions of Standard English
  4. These are rather broad categories, so we’ve created this helpful guide to help you figure out what’s what when it comes to ACT English.

Production of Writing

In this category, you may encounter questions that require you to identify and correct errors in sentence structure, usage, or punctuation. Other questions may ask you to improve the clarity and effectiveness of a piece of writing by selecting the most appropriate phrasing or revision.

In addition to the above, Production of Writing questions may also require you to demonstrate your ability to recognize and apply effective writing techniques, such as establishing a clear purpose, maintaining a consistent tone, and organizing information in a logical manner.

Knowledge of Language

These questions assess your understanding of English grammar and usage rules. These questions may require you to identify errors in verb tense, subject-verb agreement, pronoun usage, parallel structure, and other grammatical concepts.

You may also encounter questions that test your knowledge of commonly confused words, idiomatic expressions, and other language usage conventions. For example, you may be asked to select the correct word or phrase to complete a sentence or to determine which phrasing best fits the context of a given passage.

Conventions of Standard English

This is the grammar part of the exam, and as such, it focuses heavily on the aforementioned 13 grammar rules. However, that means this section is the simplest to prepare for and is straightforward rather than abstract. It can include things like apostrophe usage, comma usage, and other aspects of high school grammar.

Read through the whole passage

  1. Unlike the ACT Reading test, you don't need a thorough understanding of the passages in order to be able to score high on the English test. 
  2. As you tackle the Production of Writing and Knowledge of Language questions in the ACT, it will be important for you to consider the context and main ideas presented in the sentences, paragraphs, or the entire passage. These questions will often require you to have a general understanding of the passage's main idea and purpose to answer them correctly.
  3. Skimming, while helpful, can be detrimental if used incorrectly and you focus too much on one element of the passage

It’s also important to keep the big picture in mind as you answer these questions, and save questions about the passage as a whole till the end.

Proof by Counterexample

A time honored stratagem in mathematics is to prove what isn’t true to figure out what is. In other words, figuring out what you can immediately eliminate from the answer choices is an important and effective way to increase your chances of choosing the right answer.

The ACT English test oftentimes has questions that are nearly correct in an attempt to trick you into answering them but they usually have one or more wrong details that makes the question completely incorrect. Thus, knowing how to eliminate these choices is extremely important to improve your score.

Back to Grammar School

Like we were saying, grammar is a big part of the ACT English section and it pays to have a decent foundation of it before the ACT. One of the most important ACT grammar tips is to make sure your knowledge of rules is crystal clear before taking the exam.

It's important to keep in mind that the ACT tests English grammar rules in a predictable manner. As you prepare for the exam, you may begin to notice that certain rules, such as the proper use of apostrophes, are consistently tested in similar ways across different test versions. This applies to all other grammar rules as well, and once you figure out the pattern, you’ll be ready for all ACT grammar questions across all tests.

No Change? No Problem

Almost all questions on the English section of the ACT will have an option that says “No Change”. 

This answer choice usually trips up students, but in reality it's not different from any other choice and you shouldn’t be afraid to choose it. This doesn’t mean that the answer is more likely to be no change, but rather that it’s equally as likely as any other choice. 

Remember to fully read the underlined passage and make sure that your answer choice fits within the context of the passage!

Target Easy Questions First

Like every other exam section, to perform well on the ACT English section, it's important to answer every question, even if you're not sure of the correct response. Remember, there's no penalty for incorrect answers, so it's better to take a strategic guess and move on.

While each question is worth the same number of points, it's wise to prioritize the easier questions first within individual passages to build confidence and momentum. Keep in mind that what constitutes an "easy" question can vary from person to person. However, in general, Conventions of English questions are typically more straightforward, as they often test a specific grammar rule and don't take much time to answer.

If you're someone who's good at memorizing and applying grammar rules, Conventions of English questions may be a breeze for you.

To figure out your strengths and weaknesses, consider taking a practice test. This can help you identify the types of questions that you find easiest and those that require more practice and attention. With a solid strategy and practice, you can boost your ACT English score and achieve your target result.

Contextualize Answer Choices

On the math section of the exam, one helpful tip we recommend is to plug the answer choice back into the equation. This actually has some application in the English exam as well! 

Make sure that once you’ve chosen your answer, read it again in the context of the full sentence to make sure that you’ve chosen the best option and that there are no glaring grammatical or flow errors. 

Eliminate Redundancy and Wordiness

ACT English questions often include answer choices that are redundant or wordy. These options can be tempting because they may seem to provide more information, but they can actually be incorrect or weaken the clarity of the sentence.

To improve your chances of choosing the right answer, practice identifying and eliminating redundant or wordy phrases. Pay attention to the sentence structure and ensure that each word serves a clear purpose in the sentence.

Don’t Fail to See the Forest for the Trees

\While it's important to focus on individual questions, it's also essential to consider the passage as a whole when answering questions on the ACT English section. This means paying attention to the main ideas, themes, and tone of the passage to help you answer questions about specific details or word choices.

Taking a moment to consider the passage as a whole can help you better understand the context and purpose of individual sentences or phrases, which can improve your ability to answer questions correctly. Additionally, keeping the bigger picture in mind can help you identify the most appropriate answer choice and ensure that your response aligns with the overall meaning of the passage.

So there you have it, ten of our best ACT English tips to help you on your journey to getting a great ACT sore and getting into your dream college! If you want more specifics on the ACT English test prep, click here. Or if you want more personalized ACT feedback or study suggestions, feel free to contact Park Tutoring for any questions and sign up for our intensive ACT class today!


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