Introduction to the ACT English Test

Kristin Fracchia
Lesson by Kristin Fracchia
Magoosh Expert
Learn More About Magoosh ACT
Welcome to this introductory overview of the ACT English test. This video is going to give you a basic overview of the test, including information on what you need to know, and the best ways to prepare. If you are new to the ACT, this is a great video for you to watch before you venture into practice questions. If you think you have a really solid handle on the ACT English content, well I wouldn't be too hurt if you just wanna skip ahead onto the other videos on the specifics.

But if you have just a few minutes, well I think this refresher couldn't hurt either. Okay, so here is basically how the English section breaks down, you have 45 minutes to do 75 questions. These questions are divided into five different passages on different topics, with 15 questions on each passage. Now, this might sound like a lot, but don't get intimidated.

These questions actually go pretty fast, and despite the fact that the English test has the most questions out of any of the sections on the test, this is actually the section that most students find easiest to finish in the time period. The passages you see on the English test can be on anything, a heroic figure from history, a transportation system in New York City, a personal narrative of someone's mom's soda shop.

Regardless of what the topic is, none of them are too complex in vocabulary or style. They are straightforward and clearly organized. So you can focus on the grammar and style issues in them. Unless a question is asking you to reorder sentences, in which case they'll be clearly marked.

But that's pretty rare. Something that is important to note I think about the English passages is that they are all written in what's known as academic English, meaning basically the level of style that you would turn into your teacher. So this means that you need be watching out for any answer choices that are too casual or too slangy because it wouldn't fit with the tone of the essay.

A lotta time students neglect to check that. So other than this little tip, what else do you need to know? Well there are two major categories of question types on the ACT English test. What the test, ACT calls usage and mechanic questions and what the ACT calls rhetorical skills questions. Now usage mechanics questions cover punctuation, grammar, sentence structure.

And the rhetorical skills questions cover strategy, organization and style. These are big picture issues. So, the style, the rhetorical skills questions will ask you to put sentences or paragraphs in logical order, for example. Or decide whether the author should add or delete a sentence given the content of an essay, or whether or not the essay achieves a stated purpose, just to give you a few examples.

We have another video breaking down these question types. So I'll just stop with this brief overview right now and talk about how you can prepare for the ACT. Okay, so, first of all an important tip is to focus on learning punctuation rules and fundamental grammar rules, so we have lesson videos on all of those things. If you don't know the rules, you're gonna get frustrated really quickly on the ACT because you'll get the same things wrong and over and over again without really understanding why.

So the ACT is pretty straightforward, there are some basic rules about subject-verb agreement, about when you use semi-colons, that you can learn and that will instantly boost your points quite a bit. The second thing I think you should always do when you're practicing for the ACT English test is to practice reading questions out loud. And this is actually something you do have to practice as a test prep strategy, because most of you have been taught to, not to move your lips, to not read things out loud, to read silently.

But it really helps to hear the error on the test. Now I know you're thinking you can't exactly talk in a test center. It'll probably get you kicked out. But what I want you to do is move your lips, pronounce the words. It does two things. One, it helps you slow down enough so you're not just reading the whole sentence as a blur and losing track of what's going on, not really paying attention to it.

And it also helps your ear hear errors in the sentence. I cannot emphasize enough how much that helps, and how much you do need to actually practice doing it to make it a habit. Okay, another thing that you need to make a habit is answering questions as you read the passage, not after you read the passage. So the, on the English test, you wanna be answering the questions as you get to them, don't read the whole passage first.

There are a few exceptions of people for whom that might work well with. For the most part, 95% of students, you're gonna practice answering questions as you read. However, you need to make sure you read the entire sentence before and after the underlined question portion. This is something that I see trips up a lotta students, because something seems fine in the context of just a small phrase but there is an entire sentence that you need to be fitting that into.

Sometimes you're gonna need to read the sentence before and after, depending on the question. Sometimes, maybe you need to review the whole paragraph, so take the time to make sure you are going through the entire context that you need for a question. Read the entire sentence, and read your answer choice into that to make sure it works before you move on.

This is, once again, the most common way I see students make mistakes on the ACT English test is by not doing this. And, the test makers know this. So, make sure that you do it. Okay, we have lots of other videos so I will leave it at that. You can look at all the specific videos we have teaching you different questions.

And you can also go ahead and go onto the next video on question types. This is gonna break down what these questions test in more detail regarding punctuation and style, et cetera. But this is a basic overview to the ACT English test, and I wish you all the best in your studying.

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Introduction to the English Test