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Thomas Broderick

ACT English Tricks

Well…well…well, look who’s back for more. Hey, I’m glad to see you made it. Have a seat.

So last time we talked about ACT Wastes of Space, a.k.a. saving time on the ACT. Now that we’ve saved you all that precious time, I want to give you some ACT tricks on how to use those precious minutes and seconds more wisely.

Today’s Lesson: Avoiding Traps on the ACT English Test

First, let me get something out of the way:


ACT Tricks -Magoosh


Too Wordy

You ever heard the saying, “keep it short and sweet?” Well, it’s something I routinely told my English students at some point throughout the year. If a student wrote a ten-word sentence where five words would do, I had him rewrite it. ACT knows that students are too wordy in their writing, and exploit it in the ACT English Test’s answer choices.

If you’re reading an underlined phrase on the English test and know that there’s an error, you can cross out A, after that, you might be tempted to plug in the longest answer choice. That’s the trap.

The best advice is to go from shortest to longest when considering your answer choices. Though the shortest answer choice may not be the right choice, you will avoid the temptation to immediately go for the wordy option.

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

A bunch of ACT English questions writers were sitting around the table writing questions one day. One guy said, “hey, let’s use their stress against them.” And then everyone laughed like a super villain.


act tricks -magoosh

Question writers hard at work making your life harder.


It probably didn’t go down that way, but the final trap involves both your stress and the time crunch you’re under. Let’s say you’re rushing through a question, you know the problem, and pick the first possible answer that fixes that problem.

You may have fixed the first problem, but the answer choice messes up the sentence in another way. GOTCHA!

How do you defeat these evil ACT question writers? Besides time management and stress techniques, take a millisecond or two to READ THE ENTIRE ANSWER CHOICE before you make your final decision.

Final Thoughts

These two ACT tricks are just one step on the path to ACT English Test success. They only work if you’re familiar with what’s going to be on the test. For example:

Your best strategy is to apply these two trick I’ve taught you today as you hone your strengths and improve upon your weaknesses.

Happy studying, ACT scholars. I’ll see you soon for your next lesson.

About Thomas Broderick

Thomas spent four years teaching high school English, social studies, and ACT preparation in Middle Tennessee. Now living in Northern California, he is excited to share his knowledge and experience with Magoosh's readers. In his spare time Thomas enjoys writing short fiction and hiking in the Sonoma foothills.

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