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Molly Kiefer

ACT English: 5 MUST KNOW Tips and Strategies | Video Post

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If you’re planning on taking the ACT, you may be feeling little nervous about the English section. Don’t stress! Many students struggle with ACT English…but our experts are here to help!

The big questions is: What basic tips will help you crush the ACT English Section?

We’ve got you covered! To get you started down the path to ACT English stardom, we’re proud to present our brand new ACT resource: the “ACT English: 5 MUST KNOW Tips and Strategies” video.

Watch the embedded video below, or scroll down for a full video transcript. 🙂

Liam got a 35 on the ACT. Get a higher ACT score with Magoosh.

What Will I See in the “ACT English: 5 MUST KNOW Tips and Strategies” Video?

In this free video, our ACT expert Kat will give you a brief introduction, followed by five must-have tips for killing it on the ACT English section.

In this video you will learn about:

    1. Comma placement!
    2. Maintaining optimal alterness!
    3. Skimming paragraphs before reading questions!
    4. Bending the corners of your test book!
    5. Knowing grammar rules!

Plus, stick around to the end for a short english quiz…and don’t forget to check your answers! 🙂

“ACT English: 5 MUST KNOW Tips and Strategies” Full Transcript

Hi I’m Kat at Magoosh and today I’ve put together a list of tips for you to help you succeed on the English section of the ACT.

So let’s start with the first one.

[SOUND] Very important, learn comma placement, okay?

So on the English section you’re gonna see 75 questions, you’re gonna have 45 minutes to answer them.

And what you might not know is that almost 50% of those questions are testing you on two general areas.

The first is sentence structure, and the second is punctuation, all right?

Well, guess what?

Commas appear in both of those, sentence structure and punctuation.

So what do I mean when I say learn comma placement?

Well, where are some of the places that we see commas?

Where do they appear?

Before conjunctions that separate two independent clauses, all right?

So that’s a big one, and that’s one that a lot of people forget by the time they’re freshmen in college.

I’ve seen many of them forget on their term papers all the time.

So if you know that you’re gonna have a huge advantage.

Next, separating items on a list.

And a lot of us know this, but one of the big questions that comes up, and it’s something for you not to be too concerned about is whether or not to put a comma before the last and the second to last items on a list.

So we should have the last item and right before that we have the and.

I bought milk, eggs and butter.

So is there a comma right before the and?

It doesn’t matter.

It really varies based on who you ask and so what does ACT do?

The ACT does not test you on that particular item.

Okay, so you want to have commas between items on the list, but the very last comma that comes before the and might be there, might not be there, you’re not gonna be tested on it, so don’t worry about that one.

Just know that there are commas between other items on the list.

Before quotations.

So this is if the quotation begins partway through a sentence.

You might say father turned around and said to me comma quotation.

And sometimes you’ll have commas at the other end of the quotation marks as well.

So you’re gonna wanna study the rules for those.

We have commas separating cities from state.

We’re here in Berkley, California comma between the two.

And then between the date and the year, okay?

So those are just a few places that you wanna brush up on.

And this one on top in particular, make sure you know that one.

[SOUND] Next tip is maintain optimal alertness.

Okay, so what do I mean by this one?

Well, what I found with students is that a lot of students error, is not really an error, but there are tendencies in one of two general directions.

One is to be really nervous, really tense, really freaked out, okay?

So that’s being overly alert [LAUGH] we all it hyperarousal sometimes, right?

If you’re in that situation and that’s your tendency you want to practice some stress reduction techniques.

So that can be deep breathing, it can just be self talk it can be humor.

I tell people to look at the test and look at how ridiculous some of the examples are.

Find some humor in the situation.

Other people, just as many, quite honestly, have the opposite problem, which is that they tune out.

They space out, they don’t care, it’s kinda boring, they want it to be over.

So if that’s you, you want to employ a different technique.

You want to try and get yourself jazzed up.

You might want to tap your foot a little bit.

I like to tell people to imagine that there’s a cash reward tied to the question you’re about to answer, okay?

So that’s managing your alertness to make sure that you do the best you can on test day in that middle zone.

[SOUND] Third skim paragraphs before reading questions.

A lot of people don’t realize that on the English section in the ACT, there actually are kind of like passages.

People expect there to be passages in the reading section, but there are passages on the English section as well.

What you’ll find is that those passages are testing you, not on content of the passages but on potential grammatical errors, on punctuation errors.

And a lot of students just want to jump right into the first question and start answering.

But its been found now, and I can say this, it has been scientifically studied by people and they found that students do better if they skim first.

Used to say to students back before this research was confirmed, that either way works.

You can either start with the questions, start with a passage.

We now know that it’s better to skim the passage first, and only after that begin reading and answering the questions.

[SOUND] Okay, this is a very simple, kind of silly one, but still a great tip to know.

Bend the corners of your test book.

Okay, so on the English section we have the most questions of any section on the exam.

You have 75 questions to answer in 45 minutes.

So that means if you’re skipping around, skipping a question, going ahead making your way back to answer those question you skipped you’re gonna be flipping through the book a lot.

And it might seem like a very minor thing but you don’t want the pages to stick together so just bending them a little bit as you turn, don’t put a lot of time into this.

But when you’re turning the pages give them an extra little bend so they’re easier to separate later.

[SOUND] And then last tip, and I’m gonna give you some concrete examples of this.

The tip is to use grammar rules whenever possible.

Okay, so what do I mean by that?

You might have heard this advise and it’s a good advise, that you should follow your intuition, okay.

Or that on the English section, you should think about what sounds right to your ear, and answer that way.

Well that’s really good advice if you don’t know the grammar rules that apply.

If you know the grammar rules that apply, you want to go with the rules not with your intuition.

Unfortunately because many times the right answer does not sound correct.

And so I’m gonna show you some examples of this.

We have these verbs to lie and to lay.

And when we’re talking about the first, to lie, I’m not talking about lying like deceit or falsehood, but to lie down, to assume a horizontal position.

We have the present tense of that is just lie.

I lie in bed late on Saturdays.

Present tense.

Past tense is lay and that doesn’t always sound quite as right.

So last Saturday I lay in bed all day.

Could be right but some people might not go that direction if they don’t realize that that’s the past form of to lie.

And that’s often confused the verb to lie gets confused with this other verb which is somewhat related to lay.

And so when we’re talking about this we’re talking about moving something so that it is in a horizontal position.

So the first one though is to assume a horizontal position.

I lie down, the bottle is lying down.

So anything, it doesn’t have to be a person.

When we’re talking about to lay we are actually placing something maybe on a side.

So we lay down a baby or we lay down bricks when we’re building a brick building.

The present tense is lay.

So some people have jobs that involve laying bricks or that requires a knowledge of how to lay bricks.

The past form would be, when I was a babysitter, I laid down many babies.

That sounds really weird, doesn’t it?

But it’s actually the past tense of to lay.

And so make sure that and I think this is just a really good one to memorize, the difference between to lie and to lay present and past.

So let’s try these out, all right?

I’m gonna give you some questions and I’m gonna ask you to fill in the blank with one of four words.

So the four choices, there are gonna be three questions here.

The four choices are lie, lay, laid, and lain.

Question number one, the professor blank our graded essays on the table.

Number two, the boat has blank on its side ever since it capsized.

Number three, I’d be happier if I had blank down to rest earlier.

Okay so try to come up with your answer to these questions.

They do go a little bit beyond what we covered on the slides that I have I held just a second ago.

And to get an answer, [SOUND] all you have to do is click in the link in the description and you’re gonna see the answer.

You’re also gonna see an explanation as to why each answer is correct.

Want More ACT English Tips?

Ready for more? Take a look at some of our other free ACT English tips and resources:

Happy studying! 🙂

About Molly Kiefer

Molly is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. She designs Magoosh’s graphic assets, manages our YouTube channels and podcasts, and contributes to the Magoosh High School Blog.

Since 2014, Molly has tutored high school and college students preparing for the SAT, GRE, and LSAT. She began her tutoring journey while in undergrad, helping her fellow students master math, computer programming, Spanish, English, and Philosophy.

Molly graduated from Lewis & Clark College with a B.A. in Philosophy, and she continues to study ethics to this day. An artist at heart, Molly loves blogging, making art, taking long walks and serving as personal agent to her cat, who is more popular on Instagram than she is.


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