The ACT test’s English section is designed to assess your preparedness for college and overall comprehension abilities, and that’s why it’s essential to prepare for this challenging ACT section. This blog will provide clarity on the structure, questions to expect, how to study for the ACT and what you can do to prepare to ace it! 

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Should You Take the ACT? Understanding the ACT English Section How To Prepare For The ACT English Section Common Challenges With ACT English Preparation ACT English Sample Passages and Practice Questions FAQs

Should You Take the ACT?

The ACT (American College Testing) isn't just a hurdle to jump over on the way to college, but a platform to showcase your grasp of the English language. The ACT English section, in particular, challenges your understanding of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and rhetorical skills in a way that reflects your readiness for college-level discourse.

Depending on where you’re at in your college applications, you may or may not have looked deeply into the type of admissions tests you can take. You may find yourself wondering, “Should I take the SAT?”, “Should I take the ACT?” or, “Should I take an admissions test at all?”. While there are indeed colleges that don’t require the SAT and ACT, the choice is an entirely personal one based on where you wish to attend post-secondary. In any case, the information provided may help you make an educated decision that works best for you and your goals, and, help you understand how to prepare for the ACT English as well.

As you navigate through this blog, you'll gather insights on the composition of the ACT English section, prep strategies, and common pitfalls to avoid. Whether you're a grammar enthusiast or someone looking to improve, this blog is your roadmap to acing the ACT English section. At the end, we will provide practice ACT English questions you can use to test your readiness for the real thing!

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Understanding the ACT English Section

The ACT, established in 1959, was envisioned as a tool to assess a student's readiness for college, differentiating itself from the SAT by focusing more on curriculum-based skills – so if you’re trying to differentiate SAT vs. ACT, keep that in mind! Unlike the SAT, the ACT also includes the ACT science section, too.

The English section, a vital component of the ACT, is meticulously crafted to evaluate your understanding of written English, especially in terms of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and rhetorical skills.

The ACT English section comprises 75 questions to be answered in 45 minutes, making time management a crucial skill. It presents five prose passages, each followed by a set of questions. These passages can range from being narratives to brief essays; whatever the passage is, you must strive to read it in its entirety and with a critical lens. Each of the questions following the passages will delve into:

Usage and Mechanics: This encompasses punctuation, grammar and usage, and sentence structure. You'll need to identify and correct syntactical errors, ensuring sentences are grammatically sound and punctuated correctly.

Rhetorical Skills: This segment assesses your understanding of strategy, organization, and style. You'll analyze the author's intent, the organization of ideas, and the effectiveness of the language used.

Word Choice: Evaluating the appropriateness of word choice in context and understanding the nuances of synonyms and antonyms.

Tone and Style: Discerning the author's tone and style and understanding how they contribute to the effectiveness of the passage.

Organization and Cohesion: Assessing the structural coherence of the passage and the logic of its organization.

It’s crucial to note that practice reading is one of the best ways to prepare for the ACT English section. The more you read – whether essays, novels, non-fiction, blogs, articles, textbooks, or anything in between – the more of a keen eye you’ll develop for understanding nuances, tone, grammar, and spotting passages that may be poorly (or well) written. Being a confident reader can help you succeed in any English endeavour, but especially the ACT.

You might be wondering why any of this is important, and why college admissions directors want to assess your English abilities (even if your program of choice isn’t English).

The reality is, the ACT English section is evaluation is rooted in your ability to swiftly and accurately answer English related questions, which may depict whether or not you’ll be able to meet the rigorous linguistic demands of college education. Language skills are always imperative in the professional world, so, a basic mastery of the English language is a good indicator that a student is ready to flourish in college and in their future career.

How To Prepare For The ACT English Section

Embarking on the ACT journey requires a solid preparation plan, especially for the English section which tests your grasp on grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and rhetoric. Here's how to pave your path towards mastering it:

Early Preparation

In an ideal world, each student would give themselves ample time – preferably 3 months minimum—to prepare for the ACT test. Diving into the basics of grammar, punctuation, and understanding the test format early on can set a solid foundation. Additionally, laying out a study schedule, knowing ACT test dates (and marking yours in the calendar) and settings goals for scores and practice rounds of the test can also help you best utilize your preparation time.

Right Study Materials

Equip yourself with official ACT prep books, reputable online resources, and practice tests. They are invaluable in familiarizing yourself with the question types and format of the ACT English section. We often suggest Elements of Style by Strunk and White, as this is a popular resource for improving grammar. Additionally, as mentioned earlier, reading in general can prove beneficial for ACT prep when it comes to English (and even the ACT reading section). Brushing up on basic grammar rules, in addition to paying special attention to the use of commas, colons, dashes and more, is an great place to start when preparing for the English section of the ACT. And, although the English section doesn’t test vocabulary directly, a strong vocabulary helps with understanding nuances in questions and answer choices.

Reading a variety of materials, especially well-edited publications like major newspapers, literary journals, or classic literature, to see examples of proper English usage, is highly recommended. In addition to this, actively working on cutting out unnecessary words in your own writing to improve clarity and conciseness, a skill often tested in the English section.

Regular Practice

Consistent practice is key. Work on a mix of practice questions, timed practice tests, and review of the concepts. This not only helps in retaining the information but also in understanding how to apply these concepts in a timed-test scenario. When you read materials outside of your study schedule, do so through the lens of an ACT prepper! Take mental note of grammatical errors, poor sentence structure and tone.

Review, Learn, and Get Feedback

Post-practice review is crucial. Analyze your mistakes, understand why a particular answer choice is correct, and learn from them to avoid similar errors in the future. For instance, many students wonder, “how many times can I retake the SAT” and ask similar questions about the ACT – the answer is ‘unlimited times’ – but doing it correctly the first or second time is generally preferred by most! Asking your own teachers and mentors for feedback in your own work (even though the ACT is multiple choice) will help you accurately assess and gauge your level of comprehension, which will only work in your favour when you take the test.

Seeking Guidance

If needed, consider engaging an ACT tutor who can provide personalized guidance and strategies to tackle the English section effectively. As noted above

Join Study Groups

Engage with peers in study groups to discuss challenging concepts, share strategies, and keep each other motivated. While some may consider studying solo to be optimal, there is no harm in trying to bounce questions and study tactics off of other students if you haven’t tried yet.

Utilize Online Forums

Platforms like ACT subreddit or other online forums can be a treasure trove of tips, strategies, and experiences shared by others who have taken the test. But, be mindful, there are nuances with Reddit; in residency reddit and MCAT reddit, and any other subreddit you stumble upon, you should exercise caution. This includes forums geared toward high school students and others looking to enter the post-secondary realm. Answers may be subjective; it’s always best to take everything you read with a grain of salt.

Simulate Real Test Conditions

How long does the ACT take? About 4 hours. With that said, you should practice under conditions that simulate the real test environment to alleviate anxiety and improve your time management skills; you’ll have to split your time between 4 sections. A timer is recommended, so you’ll know if you’re spending too much time on a section! Answering questions quickly but carefully can be tough – test your concise writing skills under pressure from time to time during your prep!

Common Challenges With ACT English Preparation

Navigating Time Constraints

A frequent pitfall is the mishandling of time. The clock is ticking in the ACT Reading section, making every second valuable. Overcoming this demands a disciplined practice schedule under timed scenarios, mastering the art of transitioning between questions swiftly, and evading the hold of tricky questions. Employing timers during practice and sticking to the time allotment for each passage can notably enhance time management skills. Stay calm, pace yourself, and approach each question with focused speed.

Decoding Questions Accurately

The ACT Reading section calls for precision over overthinking. Often, the apparent answer is the right one. A rigorous practice routine, alongside post-practice answer reviews, can unveil the ACT's question pattern and diminish over-analysis tendencies. Trust your instincts if an answer resonates clearly, and continually revisit your study materials.

Resisting the Skim-Scan Trap

Though time-pressed, skimming hastily may cause you to overlook key details, impacting your accuracy. A harmonized method of comprehensive reading and timely movement is essential. Employing active reading strategies, such as annotating key points, can bolster detail retention.

Addressing these challenges may require a tailored approach. An ACT tutor can rectify erroneous study habits and guide you on optimal preparation strategies. Beyond this, acclimating to the ACT's structure, engaging in solo or group practice sessions, and broadening your reading horizons outside of prep time can foster a more nuanced understanding, enhancing your overall reading prowess.

ACT English Sample Passages and Practice Questions

The following passages and questions are designed to test comprehension, vocabulary, inferential reasoning, and the ability to interpret literary elements within a given passage. The answer choices include the best answer along with distractors that might seem plausible but do not accurately reflect the passage's content or the literary devices used – each correct answer is listed below the multiple choice options.

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Telecommuting, also known as remote work, has revolutionized the way professionals engage with their jobs. A concept that once seemed impractical, it has proven to be a beneficial arrangement for both employers and employees. The advantages of telecommuting are numerous, including increased productivity, reduced overhead costs, and enhanced work-life balance. However, skeptics argue that it may hinder team cohesion and could potentially compromise the integrity of work.

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1. What is the main focus of the ACT English section?

Assessing your understanding and command over English language conventions and effective language use. This will be table stakes in your college journey!

2. How early should I begin preparing for the ACT English section?

Starting at least 3 months in advance is advisable to allow enough time to master the skills needed. Everyone is different, but you can never be too prepared!

3. Does the type of college I wish to apply to affect which admissions test I must take?

Sometimes, but each case is unique. Many often wonder how to get into ivy league colleges, others may be inclined to apply for one of the easiest colleges to get into, including top non-ivy league schools.

Everyone’s path is different, and some colleges require admissions testing; while others leave it as an open option. It’s best to check the college’s website directly, or speak with an advisor.

4. What should I do if I need help with my ACT preparation?

Aside from working with a tutor, you may find that you benefit from obtaining college admissions help, or college interview prep help. The process of college admissions can be daunting and overwhelming, but luckily, there are a lot of resources to help you.

5. What types of questions are common in the ACT English section?

Questions on grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, strategy, organization, and style are common.

6. How can I improve my time management during the ACT English section?

Practice under timed conditions and adhere to the time limit for each section during practice sessions.

7. How much time is allotted for the ACT English section?

You have 45 minutes to complete the ACT English section.

8. Where do students usually fall short in the ACT English section?

Common pitfalls include mismanagement of time, overthinking questions, and skimming too quickly.

9. How can I practice identifying errors in sentence structure and punctuation?

Regular practice with varied materials, analyzing sentences, and using practice tests are effective ways.

10. What strategies can help in understanding the organization and style of passages?

Analyzing the structure, identifying transitions, and understanding the author's style in different passages can help.

11. How can an ACT tutor aid in preparing for the ACT English section?

Tutors can provide personalized guidance, explain difficult concepts, and help correct study habits.

To your success,

Your friends at

BeMo Academic Consulting

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