ACT or American College Testing is a test that’s used to assess one’s readiness for attending college. Of the 4 sections in the ACT test, ACT English is what is considered to be one of the trickiest sections. Why?
English is a fairly nuanced language and the delicate balance between grammatical rules and rhetorical skills is often confounding. On the other hand, scoring well in the ACT English section is easy with correct guidance and can help you compensate to some extent for other sections like ACT Math.
The ACT English Section Format
The ACT English section consists of 5 passages with 15 questions each. This means you will have 45 minutes to crack 75 multiple choice questions on your ACT English exam. There is no negative marking for wrong answers.
ACT English section tests two basic skills:
- Grammar skills i.e. usage and mechanics including but not only limited to:
- Punctuation: Commas, Apostrophes, Semicolons, Dashes
- Grammar rules like tenses, subject-verb agreement, active & passive voice, reported speech, modifiers, conjunctions, idioms, etc.
- Sentence structure (concision is the key!)
- Faulty modifier
- Rhetorical Skills includes strategy, organization, and understanding writing style and author intent
The ACT Grammar tests on a lot of rules, each differing from the other in how commonly they appear on the test and how hard they are to study. Therefore, it’s important to spend more time mastering the highest impact grammar rules
What’s the big deal with the ACT English section?
While this format might sound very easy and your intuition may trick you into ticking answer choices promptly, there is more to it! Even those who speak English as their first language sometimes fail to crack the ACT English section. On the other hand, there are students who don’t speak English as their first language but get a 36 on their ACT English section! How is it possible? There clearly seems to be a preparation strategy playing a big role, isn’t it?
Excited already to know more? Read on to know our top 5 tested, most effective tips for getting a 36 on the ACT English test:
1. First things first – ace the grammar
Anyone who gives you shortcuts or quick fix tips for ACT English grammar is simply lying to you! English grammar is similar to math in many ways. There is a defined logic to them and you get better only with practice! The official ACT English Guide is a good starting point. You can add more grammar workbooks (ones by Christian Heath and Barron’s are other popular options) to your study plan as you progress in the preparation for ACT English.
These are the top 5 grammar traps that ACT English section questions typically throw out to test your knowledge:
- Dangling modifiers
- Incorrect or inappropriate use of idioms
- Subject-verb agreement errors
- Missing or misplaced punctuation marks
- Incorrect use of tenses and parallelism errors
2. Get the rhetorical strategy right
The rhetorics section doesn’t test grammar knowledge. It rather tests how the writer in you chooses words, structure, and the flow of thought to communicate ideas clearly to the readers. The most common type of questions in this section in ACT English asks test-takers to determine the effect of adding, revising, or deleting a phrase or sentence.
Here are the 3 key tips for cracking the rhetoric section like a pro:
- Don’t rush with reading the passage: the most important thing of all – read at a good pace but without skipping chunks. Instead of saving time, you’ll end up spending more by going back to it and searching frantically for keywords for every question
- Expand your reading: a new book, The NY Times, or good magazines, read whatever you like, and switch things up. As you read, notice the rhetorical devices and their usage – from hyperbole to metaphors to parallelism
- Eliminate answers smartly – do this by plugging back the answers into the passage to see if they make sense. Rule out answer choices that introduce an entirely new term that was never mentioned in the passage
Note: It’s a BAD idea to skip reading the passage and to come back to it while answering questions. The answers are in the whole context and not in the ‘matching lines’ you can spot in the passage and the questions!
3. Keeping an error log of your ACT practice tests
A lot of students make the cardinal mistake of not analyzing mistakes on ACT English practice tests. Next time when you take a practice test, analyze your mistakes on these 3 parameters to see a remarkable improvement in your scores the next time:
- Frequency: how many times have you repeated the same nature of mistake previously? For example, if you always miss a question on adjectives & adverbs, hit it right next time after targeted revision.
- Type: is it a silly mistake simply because of hurry and oversight? Or is it a mistake that you made after spending significant time on the question?
- Area of general strength or weakness: for example, did you make this mistake in an area of strength?
Do you find keeping an error log and devising a corrective study strategy difficult? Read on our next point about hiring an ACT English tutor to make the most out of your preparation for ACT Exam 2021.
Also Read: 5 Best ACT Prep Books to ace the ACT exam
4. Avoid dismissing the ‘NO CHANGE’ option in the answer choice
In the ACT English section, the answer option ‘NO CHANGE’ is the right choice in 20% of the questions. Dismissing it as a possible answer is one big mistake that can ruin your overall score. In fact, a lot of students overthink questions without even considering ‘NO CHANGE’ as one of the answers.
Lastly, the importance of private tutoring for ACT English is undeniable. It’s not the only way to achieve your target score in the ACT English section, but certainly, the most effective, proven way to bring structure and discipline to your preparation.
5. Remove mental blocks and change your inner talk
The most overlooked step is to first convince yourself that YOU CAN DO IT! Steer clear of all limiting beliefs before attempting ACT English and believe that a perfect score is achievable. Ask yourself if you’ve been holding onto any of these beliefs:
- “Scoring on ACT English is for the students naturally gifted with English language skills.”
- “I will not be able to comprehend a passage on a certain theme. (e.g. scientific jargon puts me off)”
- “ACT English is just about endless English grammar rules.”
- “There is no end to practicing questions on grammar, something new comes up every time and I make a mistake anyways!”
- “I can crack grammar questions based on my intuition. What sounds correct is the correct answer, mostly!”
- “Rhetoric questions are tougher than grammar-based questions.”
Getting rid of all such limiting, unverified beliefs is critical to achieving success on the ACT Exam. Believing that you can get a 36 on the ACT is the first step towards achieving it!
6. Do guided preparation and practice sessions with a private ACT English tutor
Hiring a private ACT English tutor can do wonders for your preparation. Not only does a private ACT tutor bring in routine, discipline, and structure to the preparation but can also:
- Share feedback on your study style and approach towards problem-solving
- Monitor your progress and devise an improvement strategy
- Review scores of practice test methodically and develop a test-taking strategy customized for your learning needs and target score
- Act as a role model, teacher, friend, and motivator all at once
ACT Private tutoring is your best bet to achieve your target score, especially in the English section. With personal guidance, professional expertise, and a structured approach, a private ACT English tutor can help you get your dream score. All you have to do is ask for help!