ACT English Tips

Before test day

  • Practice reading quickly and thoroughly as much as possible! Read practice ACT English tests to get a feel for the type of passages that you will have to work with during the exam. Many of us have strengths in particular areas, so focus on working on your weaknesses. If you have trouble reading and retaining information from nonfiction essays, for example, focus your time on practicing with those types of prompts.
  • Review concepts of English usage and grammar. Many intelligent people make mistakes in terms of usage, punctuation, and sentence structure. However, on test day, you can’t afford to do that! Ask older students or teachers for tutoring, look over old grammar work that you have done in school, proofread the writing of your peers, and do research online by reading articles about how to use the English language.
  • Review and practice how to maintain style and organization in writing. A lot of what is addressed in this portion of the ACT exam has to do with style, organization, and continuity. You should also learn how to avoid being repetitive and too wordy. This can be difficult because there are many more gray areas to these questions. You must learn to pick the best answer which will fit into a particular passage, not just the correct answer!
  • The best way to address all of these is to take practice ACT tests! This way, you will be able to see how the test is organized and the sorts of questions which will be asked of you. You can also read ACT test prep books or consider taking an ACT prep course. You can also ask your English teacher for some extra grammar or writing practice to do in the months and weeks before your test.

On Test Day

  • You only have 30 seconds to answer each question. Read each passage in its entirety, since many questions require you to have an understanding of the passage as a whole. Then address each individual question. If you are stuck, skip the question and complete the rest of the test. If you have time, return to the question and make an educated guess. Take advantage of the fact that you are permitted to bring your own watch with which to monitor your time!
  • Although just a few words may be underlined for each question, you will often have to take the underlined passage in context, which means you must take the surrounding sentences and the passage as a whole into account when answering the question.
  • Pay close attention to the style and voice used in each passage. This will have an impact on the stylistic choices you may be asked to make. The ACT emphasizes style and continuity on this exam.
  • Consider how each choice affects the rest of the passage. Many of the questions will address more than one skill or aspect of writing. Do not spend too much time dwelling on a single aspect of usage or grammar.