ACT English Format

How long is the English test? What will I be tested on?

The English exam is the first exam of the test. It consists of 75 questions, and you have 45 minutes in which to complete the test. The test consists of passages with various sections underlined on one side of the page and options to correct the underlined portions on the other side of the page. Questions focus on usage and mechanics — issues such as commas, apostrophes, (misplaced/dangling) modifiers, the colons, and fragments and run-ons, as well as on rhetorical skills — style (clarity and brevity), strategy, transitions, and organization (sentences in a paragraph and paragraphs in a passage.)

What will the passages be about?

The topics of the passages will vary, but unlike the Reading portion, the emphasis is more on language usage and mechanics as opposed to the actual content of the passage. However, you may be asked questions in which an understanding of the passage is important (proper introductions and conclusions, relevance of selected sentences, etc.), so be sure to carefully read the passages and the questions.

What does this test look like?

This portion of the ACT is ‘cut’ down the middle. On the left side, you will see the passage. Certain words and sentences will be underlined in the passage, and a number will be under them. On the right are your questions. Each underlined portion correlates with one of the questions. However, you will likely need to read the words and sentences around an underlined portion to gain a full understanding of what the best answer will be.

What general academic skills will help me?

You should have a good understanding of the mechanics of the English language. You will not be asked to identify parts of speech, but you will have to apply this knowledge to choosing the best answer for proper English grammar and usage. There will also be questions about punctuation, sentence structure, clarity, continuity, organization, and vocabulary. Other skills which may not be directly tested but which will be helpful include the ability to read quickly and thoroughly, using context clues, and organizing a logical paragraph.

45 minutes doesn’t seem long enough!

Since you only have around 30 seconds for each question, do not waste time dwelling over questions that have you stumped. Skip over them and continue to the end of the test. If you have time, go back and make an educated guess (remember, no guessing penalty on the ACT!). Remember, the test is geared towards people at your age and level of education, so if they didn’t think that most people could finish the exam in this amount of time, they wouldn’t have it formatted this way!