The ACT English Section will always be the first test of the ACT. It is 75 questions and will take 45 minutes. The format is very specific – a passage with multiple paragraphs and a title will have underlined portions that may or not may contain grammatical errors. The passages look something like this:
As the sun was slowly rising (1) over the Atlantic Ocean and
painted New York harbor a spectacular fiery orange, I started
my old Toyota’s engine. At this early hour, there was still
some semblance of the night’s tranquility left on the city side-
walks, but I knew that, as the minutes ticked by, the streets
would flood with humanity. (2)
The numbers here correspond to the question about each underlined portion. The official ACT guide breaks down the tested concepts into 2 categories with 3 sub-skills. You will receive a sub-score for each category and a total score based on all questions.
ACT English Section Categories
Usage/Mechanics (40 questions)
– Punctuation (10 questions)
– Grammar and Usage (12 questions)
– Sentence Structure (18 questions)
Rhetorical Skills (35 questions)
– Strategy (12 questions)
– Organization (11 questions)
– Style (12 questions)
To study for these English section categories, familiarize yourself with English grammar and usage, and with the most-tested errors.
A quick note about “OMIT the underlined portion”: You will often see an answer choice with this phrase. While it is not always correct, it is a good place to start! Ask yourself if the sentence makes sense without the underlined phrase. Is the sentence suddenly clearer or less wordy? If the meaning of the sentence doesn’t change, and the underlined portion is unnecessary, choose “OMIT”!
English Section Practice
Try a quick practice question from the paragraph above!
(A) NO CHANGE
(B) rising slowly
(C) rose slowly
(D) continued to rise
Verbs in a compound should be in the same tense. The compound verb in this clause is “was…rising…and painted.” Since the second verb is in the past tense, the first should be as well. The correct answer is (C).
Above all on the ACT English, trust yourself. We study grammar rules, memorize idioms, and learn to recognize style errors to fine-tune our ears. By the time you take your ACT, you should have a good sense of what is and isn’t correct. If you can’t spot an error, but a sentence doesn’t “sound right” you are probably right that something is wrong with the sentence!