ACT English: Idioms
Idiom questions are a category of ACT English questions that many students absolutely despise. They are the test-taker’s nemesis because they can’t be solved with any one grammar rule. You just have to know them.
Since idioms are so scary sounding, let’s think about them in a slightly different way. On the ACT, what you want to be looking for are prepositions. Nearly all of the idioms on the test are prepositional idioms, so if you see a preposition underlined, and your answer choices give you some other prepositions as alternatives, chances are you are dealing with an idiom question. Focusing on prepositions (as well as two-part idioms: see below) gives you something more concrete to be looking for rather than just a “common English expression,” which is not very helpful.
This episode of our TuesdACT series shares with you my top tips for tackling idiom questions on the ACT, including:
1. Reviewing the most common idioms.
Here are a few good sources:
You will drive yourself crazy if you try to study exhaustive lists of prepositional idioms, but learning the most common ones will absolutely improve your comfort level.
2. Learn the two-part idioms.
Most importantly: “not only…but also”, “either…or”, “neither…nor”, and “both…and”
3. Read the sentence out loud.
While you obviously can’t really read the questions out loud in the test room, move your mouth and pronounce the words under your breath. Don’t worry about how you look; this helps your ear out so much, you won’t even care :). When in doubt, go with what sounds familiar.
Idioms are tricky, but recognizing them on the ACT doesn’t have to be. Follow the tips above and in the video, and you’ll be much better off!