Ready, Set, Go! Strategies for the ACT English Test

English is the first test on the ACT. Out of the gate, you will need to work quickly – there are 75 questions to answer in only 45 minutes!  There are 5 passages with 15 questions that cover punctuation, grammar, and overall use of language. 

Here are the top 5 Breakaway strategies for the ACT English test:

 Photo by  Braden Collum  on  Unsplash

Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

1. Read entire sentences. That’s right. Read the entire sentence from the first word to the period. The biggest mistake students make on this test is to only read the underlined portion.

2. Always plug your answer back in…to the entire sentence. Be disciplined and check your work! Often the difference between an okay score and a great score comes down to a handful of careless mistakes. You will have a better chance of catching these errors if you read the sentence again with your answer choice plugged in.

3. Never make a punctuation decision based on how a sentence sounds in your head. Identify the specific reason the punctuation is required. To indicate a pause or emphasis is not a good enough reason.  You need to know your punctuation rules – when to use or not use commas, semi-colons, periods, colons, and dashes.   If you need to brush up on the rules, Prep Factory is a great free online resource. Utah students also have free access to Shmoop Test Prep.

4. Choose the most specific answer.  ACT loves details.  For example, which sentence best illustrates the term dress code?

  • clothing
  • clothing that was inappropriate
  • clothing, including sandals, bell-bottom pants, and "dungarees"
  • clothing that is permitted in some schools today

Take note -  the best answer was not the shortest one!

5. Eliminate redundancies.  ACT hates redundancies, and so do I! A redundant expression has groups of words in which at least one word is unnecessary because it just repeats the meaning that's already contained in the other word or words. Getting rid of unnecessary words makes writing clearer and more effective.  Can you spot the redundancies in these examples from recent ACT tests?

  • I know I would balk, refuse and hesitate ...
  • The Revolutionary War veteran, who served in this war, believed that the US …
  • Many regarded Forten as the city’s premier sailmaker in Philadelphia ...

Notice that in the last example, ‘Philadelphia’ is redundant with “city” - which precedes the italicized (underlined on the ACT) portion of the sentence. Remember Tip #1?  Always read the entire sentence!

Think of taking the test as a performance-based activity (sports, theater, or music). It is about muscle memory and training yourself to work through the test in a specific way. The more practice, the more the answers will become second nature for you. 

Breakaway Prep Park City offers free practice tests on Saturdays and by appointment.  Call or text (435) 487-9651 or submit the Contact Us form to reserve your spot today!