Even if you consistently ace your English classes, ACT English topics can stump you. Why? Because while many of us are used to speaking English on a regular basis, we speak informally—and a lot of the time, informal English breaks some grammar rules. What “sounds right” to us may actually be wrong.
The ACT knows this, and the ACT tests this! That’s why, whether you struggle in your English classes or not, reviewing the 5 most frequently tested ACT topics can help you up your test-taking game. We’ll also take a look at some resources you can use to get your score even higher.
Before we go any further, you should know that this list is not the full list of topics tested on the ACT English Test. Take a look at all of our ACT English resources if your goal is to crack the ‘Perfect 36.’
Sentence structure questions comprise roughly 20-25% of the test. The main idea behind each question is, “What is the best way to link the two clauses on either side of the underlined word?” In these questions you will need to combine your knowledge of punctuation, the difference between independent and dependent clauses, and a variety of other techniques.
Grammar and Usage
Grammar and usage questions comprise roughly 15-20% of the test. Here are some of the questions that define grammar and usage:
- Should a noun be singular or plural?
- Which is the correct pronoun?
- Is the pronoun referencing the right thing?
- Does the pronoun agree with the verb it references?
- Do the linking verbs and action verbs agree?
- Is the verb in the right tense?
- Do the subject and verb agree?
- Are adjectives and adverbs used correctly in the sentence?
- Is this idiom used correctly?
[Related: check out these 19 ACT Grammar Rules.]
Strategy questions comprise roughly 15-20% of the test. In short, strategy questions will ask you to think like your English teacher. These questions will often begin with the phrase, “The writer wishes to add…” or something similar.
Quick tip: if the question asks about sentence placement at the beginning of the paragraph, the correct answer choice will always do two things: serve as an introduction to the paragraph while also as a transition sentence between the paragraph and the one that came before it.
Style questions comprise roughly 15-20% of the test. They boil down to one question: “What is the most effective word to use in this sentence?” Again, think like your English teacher. There are two main ideas to keep in mind in order to succeed on style questions.
- The answer should not be redundant (meaning that it provides information already in the passage).
- The answer should have the same tone as the rest of the passage.
Punctuation questions comprise roughly 15-20% of the test. Though that’s only 10 questions at most, punctuation is the most straightforward part of the test. Here are the six topics:
- Parentheses and Dashes
- Periods, Exclamation Points, and Question Marks
That’s a lot to know, and though every type of punctuation may not show up on the ACT English Test, knowing your ACT punctuation can greatly improve your final score.
English is the hardest language in the world to learn and use correctly, even for native speakers. These resources should give your ACT score a boost, but if you really want to learn the ends and outs of English, read books. Lots of books.
See you next time, ACT English Masters!
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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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