How do you answer ACT English Questions that ask whether you should add or delete a sentence?
If you’ve looked at even one official ACT test, I guarantee you’ve seen a question that looks like this:
At this point, the author is considering adding the sentence: xxxxxxxxxx. Should the writer make this addition?
A. Yes, because…
B. Yes, because…
C. No, because…
D. No, because…
At this point the author is considering deleting the underlined portion. Should the underlined portion be kept or deleted?
A. Kept, because…
B. Kept, because…
C. Deleted, because…
D. Deleted, because…
Here’s my trick for answering these kinds of ACT English questions if they give you trouble, or to help keep you from falling into a trap and making a silly mistake if you happen to think these questions are easy.
First, ignore the yes’s and no’s, or “kept” or “deleted”. Don’t rush to judgment based on your own intution about whether or not it is a good sentence. The reason to do this is because there is some subjectivity involved in these decisions. You may not always like the writing in the passage, you may have your own opinions about whether or not the given sentence a good sentence, but, unfortunately, the ACT doesn’t care so much about your opinion; it cares that you can figure out the test’s reasoning. So forget about making the decision at first and look at the rationale.
In the video, I walk you through a sample question and discuss how to evaluate the rationales to quickly eliminate answer choices, so check it out!
Here’s the question and passage we are working with. If you’re a Magoosh student, you can find it here.
At the highlighted point in Paragraph 3, the writer wishes to add the following sentence:
The Liberator was founded in 1831 and was published in Massachusetts.
Should the writer make this addition here?
A. Yes, because it gives the reader specific information regarding The Liberator.
B. Yes, because it helps the reader understand why Garrison could not speak about slavery from personal knowledge.
C. No, because the reader can infer the date The Liberator was founded from the paragraph.
D. No, because it distracts the reader from the focus of the paragraph.
Note: The other errors in the passage are intentional, as the represent errors other ACT questions on this passage might ask students to correct. For this question, concentrate on the highlighted part:
The Grimke Sisters
Angelina Grimke and her sister Sarah Grimke were legends in their own lifetimes. Together these South Carolina sisters made history, they dared to speak before “promiscuous” or mixed crowds of men and women, published some of the most powerful anti-slavery tracts of the antebellum era, and were stretching the boundaries of the public roles of women.
Their crusade, which was not only to free the enslaved but to end racial discrimination throughout the United States, made them more radical than many of the reformers who advocated an end to slavery but who could not envision true social and political equality for the freedmen and women. The Grimke sisters were among the first abolitionists to recognize the importance of women’s rights and to speak and write about the cause of female equality.
What made Angelina and Sarah unique and defined within abolitionist circles were neither their oratorical and literary talents nor their energetic commitment to the causes of racial and gender equality. Rather, it was their firsthand experience with the institution of slavery and its negative effect on slaves. [HIGHLIGHTED POINT IN QUESTION HERE] Abolitionists such as William Lloyd Garrison, editor of The Liberator, and Theodore Weld, who Angelina married in 1838, could give stirring speeches about the need to abolish slavery. However, they could not testify to either its impact on African Americans or on their masters from personal knowledge.
Angelina Grimke was born in 1805, the youngest of fourteen children born to John Grimke and Mary Smith Grimke. As the daughter of one of Charleston’s leading judges, she could have looked forward to a life of luxury and ease, and her comfort assured by the presence of slaves trained to respond to her wishes.  As an eligible young woman, she could have enjoyed the lively social life of Charleston’s planter society with its balls and dinner parties that would have lead eventually to a good marriage and an elegant home of her own. But Angelina Grimke chose a challenging path: like her older sister, Sarah, she left the South and devoted her life to racial and gender equality. In the early nineteenth century, the causes that the Grimke sisters fought about placed them among the most radical Americans of their day.
This essay was adapted from Berkin, Carol. “Angelina and Sarah Grimke: Abolitionist Sisters.” History Now 5 (Fall 2005).