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The ACT tests English grammar. You are expected to know the fundamentals of usage, diction, and rhetorical skills. For example, you must understand sentence construction -- what makes a run-on and what makes a fragment. You need to know how to distinguish between commonly confused words, like affect and effect or principal and principle. You must be able to use the proper forms of words, distinguishing between an adjective and an adverb.

On the ACT English test, you have 45 minutes to read five passages, or essays, and answer 75 multiple-choice question - an average of 15 questions per passage. The passages on the English test cover a variety of subjects. The English test measures your ability to accomplish the wide variety of decisions involved in revising and editing a given piece of writing. The questions fall into two categories:

  • Usage/Mechanics (punctuation, grammar and usage, sentence structure)
  • Rhetorical Skills (writing strategy, organization, style)
The English directions are a good illustration of why you have a big advantage if you know the directions beforehand. The English directions are long and complicated. Here's what they may look like:
Directions: In the following five passages, certain words and phrases have been underlined and numbered. You will find alternatives for each underlined portion in the right-hand column. Select the one that best expresses the idea, that makes the statement acceptable in standard written English, or that is phrased most consistently with the style and tone of the entire passage. If you feel that the original version is best, select "NO CHANGE." You will also find questions asking about a section of the passage or about the entire passage.

For these questions decide which choice gives the most appropriate response to the given question. For each question in the test, select the best choice and fill in the corresponding space on the answer folder. You may wish to read each passage through before you begin to answer the questions associated with it. Most answers cannot be determined without reading several sentences around the phrases in question. Make sure to read far enough ahead each time you choose an alternative.

You will not be tested on spelling or on how well you can recall specific rules of grammar. Neither will you be tested directly on vocabulary, although the better your vocabulary is, the better equipped you'll be to answer questions that involve choosing the most appropriate word. The test doesn't require you to memorize what you read. The questions and essays are side-by-side for easy reference.

Click here to view an example.

In the example, the best answer for question 5 is B. The other choices all have various problems - grammatical, stylistic or logical.

For the question 6, J is the correct choice. The idea realy does "go without saying." For that reason, it shouldn't be said. On recent ACTs, when OMIT has occurred as an answer choice, it's been correct more than half of the time. This doesn't mean you should always select "OMIT,' however, since it's also been wrong nearly half of the time.

Some English questions (usually about ten per exam) do not follow this format. There is a question followed by fout possible responses. In many cases, the responses are either "yes" or "no," with an explanation. Those types of questions usually occur at the end of a passage. You should pay close attention to the reasoning.

Click here to view an example.

The correct answer for this question is F. Though G correctly indicates that the sentence doesn't belong in the passage, it offers a pretty inappropriate reason. H and J are wrong because they recommend including a sentence that is redundant.

Testing strategies for English Questions are discussed in the later section "ACT Strategies".

If you want to start practicing now, click here to login "ACT Practice" section.