ACT English Practice Questions: Your Best Chance at Doing Well on Test Day

Studying for the Exam
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High school students in the U.S. who are looking to attend university after graduation need to take two important tests: the ACT and the SAT. At least one of these exams, typically both, are required as entrance into exams into the majority of U.S. universities. If you are taking the ACT, it is a good idea to find some ACT English practice questions in order to increase your chances of getting a competitive score.

What Is the ACT?

The ACT is an exam offered by the American College Testing Program, hence the name ACT. The ACT does not measure your natural born intelligence or your ability to learn new information. It measures your retention of what you have already learned in school and your ability to perform tasks you have already been taught.

It currently has five sections: Reading, English, Math, Science Reasoning, and an option Writing section. The test takes just under three hours without the writing section but with the writing section, it takes 3 hours and 40 minutes. American students all over the country, whether they attend a private, public, or charter school or even if they are homeschooled, take the ACT as a way to show universities they are ready for college-level courses.

The ACT is graded with a score range of 1-36, with 36 being the best score you can get. Each section is scored and then you also receive a composite score. When you receive your score, you will also receive a percentile that tells you how well you did, compared to the population of students who have also taken the test. For example, the 60th percentile means you did better than 60% of students.

The average score is 21 points. Universities generally have a minimum score requirement in order to be a competitive applicant; less selective schools that accept a large population of students each year might only require a score of at least 20, whereas more selective universities could require scores of 30 or even more.

The average score for the English section of the ACT is 20.1, the lowest of all the sections. While students who generally receive As in their English classes may want to focus their studying efforts on sections where they don’t do as well, students who struggle with English or who feel uncomfortable with the subject will want to spend a little more of their study time on this section.

ACT English Practice Questions: Language School
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ACT  English Practice Questions: Examples

The English section of the ACT contains 75 questions that have to be answered in 45 minutes or less. You will generally read about five different passages of writing. While the Writing section measures how well you can write an essay in a certain style and Reading measures your reading comprehension skills, the English section measures your ability to edit a text. This doesn’t just mean your grammatical or spelling abilities are tested, you are also tested on your ability to edit style, flow, and organization within a text.

Many of the texts will contain underlined portions that you need to focus on editing in order to answer the multiple-choice test questions, though some texts may contain no underlined portions. The questions related to underlined portions of a text won’t actually be in the form of a question. The underlined portions will be numbered and there will be a corresponding answer section with four multiple choice answers to select from when deciding how to edit the underlined section of text. Look through some ACT English practice questions in order to get a good idea of what this is like.

One example of a type of question you may have to answer on the ACT is one where the underlined section of the text is redundant or contains unnecessary words that need to be removed. For example, the sentence may be “I spent all weekend, Saturday and Sunday, with my family”. “All weekend” always means “Saturday and Sunday”. The correct answer would not be to change the wording of “Saturday and Sunday” but to take that portion of the text away entirely.

“There was a chance she may have possibly failed the test” is another sentence you could come across. “There was a chance” implies that the possibility of having failed the test exists and adding “may have possibly” creates a section that is too wordy. Replacing “may have possibly” with “had” will create a sentence that is less wordy.

Another general rule to follow when editing in the ACT is that the answer should provide all the necessary information you need to understand the text but nothing more. “Delilah, the woman who was Trixie’s mother, called her last Monday” is an example of a sentence where the underlined portion contains more than just the necessary information. It can be changed to simply read “Delilah, Trixie’s mother, called her last Monday”.

You will also have to pay attention to grammar, including verb forms (including tense, agreement, and phrasal verbs), word choice, comparisons, and idioms. An example of a question with an idiom is “Sam stumbled in her ex-boyfriend at the mall”. The underlined phrase is an incorrect phrasing of an idiom and the correct answer when correcting it would be “stumbled upon”.

Word choice questions are usually related to commonly confused words and phrases. The best answer to edit “The deer must be nearby, those are it’s tracks” would be “its” and the answer to edit “I saw there sister last night” would be “their”. You would need to select the answer that said “followed by” if the underlined section read “The reception will be followed in dinner.”

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Tips and Tricks for Taking the Exam

There are many different materials available out there to help you study for the English section of the ACT. The best way, of course, is to pay attention in your English and Writing classes and study well as you go through high school so that you aren’t cramming in four years worth of knowledge a few months before the exam. If English isn’t your best subject, though, you still have options. There are many different study guides and practice tests out there, in both print and digital form. Your school library may even have a guide or two.

No matter how well you study, if you don’t normally test well you might still have trouble receiving a good score. There are a few tips and tricks you can use while taking the test to help you understand the text and what you are being asked. These will also help you to be strategic about choosing an answer and can help you in cases where you are stuck between two answers or simply have no idea what the answer should be!

One tip is to read the entire text before you begin answering questions. This will give you an idea of the general tone of the text. You also need to be sure and carefully read the entire sentence that an underlined portion of text is contained within. If you do not read the entire text and pay attention to each sentence, you will not be able to accurately judge the underlined sections and determine the best way to edit them. The rest of the text will provide clues about what may be wrong with the underlined portion, especially if what is underlined is only a word or two that cannot be edited without context.

Another tip is to pay attention to grammar rules in English and not necessarily what sounds right to you. Informal and spoken English operates with different rules than formal or academic English and even if something sounds right to you, it may be breaking one of the formal rules. The only time this wouldn’t necessarily be true is with idioms, as you can usually tell an idiom is wrong because it sounds wrong and not because of a specific grammar rule.

The last tip is to remember that there isn’t always going to be an error. The “no change” option is actually more common than most people think so don’t be worried if you’ve already selected it a few times. If an underlined section is following all grammar rules, isn’t overly wordy or redundant, and sounds perfectly fine, it probably does not need to be changed. Also, avoid selecting answers just because they sound better or “smarter” than the original phrasing; that isn’t a good basis for editing.

Get into Your Top University

The best way to prepare for the ACT is to find sample exams where you can answer ACT English practice questions. You have no way of truly knowing if you understand all the necessary material to do well until you take a test! By finding practice questions to answer, either online or in book form, you are helping to ensure you’ll get the score you want (and need).

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