ACT English Question Types

Kristin Fracchia
Lesson by Kristin Fracchia
Magoosh Expert
Learn More About Magoosh ACT
This video is an introduction to everything you should study for the English test. Again, it's gonna be a brief overview. We have separate videos on every single thing that this video introduces you to, that cover these topics more in depth. But, this is a fantastic place to start if you are new to the ACT English test.

So, let's take a look. There are two major categories of questions on the test. There are Usage/Mechanics questions and Rhetorical Skills questions. And, within these two major categories, there are several subcategories of question types. So, the big things covered under the general usage and mechanics category are punctuation, grammar and usage, and sentence structure.

And the Rhetorical Skill is a test to test your ability to recognize the strategy, or the intention of an essay. Proper organization of thoughts and good writing style. Now, I put the approximate number of questions of each of these categories that you will see on each test on the side here. You don't need to memorize that, but this is just to give you a chance to see at a glance what is emphasized on the test.

So, let's go ahead and break it down a little bit more. Okay, punctuation, here are the big things to study. Commas, apostrophes, colons, semicolons, and dashes, and maybe question marks, parentheses, and exclamation points. Now, I always highly recommend students study punctuation really well for the ACT. Why? Well, because it's a relatively small category of things to study, but it makes up around 15% of the test.

More if you include some of the sentence structure questions that include punctuation issues. So, you can make big gains just by nabbing these questions on dashes and apostrophes and semicolons. And, there is a huge focus on commas on the test. Particularly in terms of how they can be used to properly set off phrases or compound sentences.

You'll also see apostrophes tested quite a bit for proper possession, mainly in contractions and making sure you're not confusing the two. The big one there is I-T-S versus I-T apostrophe S. Quick lesson, I-T apostrophe S means it is, it's not a possessive. You'll also see that colons, semicolons, and dashes are on the test. Not quite as much as commas, not quite as much as apostrophes, but they are there.

And then, occasionally, you might see some other things like question marks, and parentheses, and exclamation points tested. Although, that's pretty rare, rare. Maybe once every four ACT's or so. So, here are the big grammar points to study. Verb tense and verb agreement, pronoun case, meaning whether it's a subject pronoun or an object pronoun.

And agreement adjectives and adverbs, comparatives and superlatives. So, these are the words that end in E-R or E-S-T or have more or most in front of them. Like, I am better at softball than my sister. I am the best of all my siblings at softball. And idioms, which you should really be thinking of prepositions here because most of the idiom issues on the test have to do with prepositions, whether it should be, I am king of the country, or I am king with the country, that would mean two separate things.

So, making sure you're using the right preposition to express an idea. And now, we have sentence structure. So, sentence structure covers a bunch of things. We can probably put these three things into a category together about making sure that we have complete sentences. Run-on sentences, when you combine, mash two sentences into one sentence.

Comma splices, when you mash those two sentences together with just a comma, which you can't do. And, sentence fragments, things that are not a complete sentence. So, those are all types of sentence structure issues that you need to fix on the test. Misplaced modifiers, I included a quick example of this one just so you'd know what I was talking about.

This is something like, while driving my car, my dog leapt out the window. Because our modifier is in front of the dog, it makes it sound like the dog is driving a car. Which he's probably not doing. So, this is a example of a misplaced modifier. You also want to make sure you're not changing tense unnecessarily within a sentence, or changing pronouns unnecessarily within a sentence.

You want to make sure that they all match up and you're not changing between, this is a big one, between one and you, for example. Some people do that all the time or they. So, one should not to do their homework. Bad. Mixing pronouns.

Parallel structure. When we want all the verbs and a list of verbs to begin the same way. I ride my bike five miles, run two miles, and swim twenty laps every morning. It shouldn't be have swum, we don't want to change how we're putting verbs. That is a super quick refresher. Once again, there's videos on all of these.

This is just the super quick and dirty vision. Let's talk about the Rhetorical Skills questions. So, the strategy questions are gonna ask you to do things and consider things like, does a sentence or paragraph or essay achieve its purpose? Should a sentence or phrase be added or deleted in a paragraph or in a passage? Organization.

What's the most logical order for sentences within a paragraph or paragraphs within an essay? So, sometimes you'll see questions where it asks you to move a sentence or think about whether it's in the reset, the right place already. What is the most logical transition word, phrase, or statement? You're gonna see a lot of those on the test, testing that you can pick the proper transition word, should it say however?

Should it say in addition? Should it say furthermore? Should it say in the end? As a result. Picking the proper transition word comes up a lot, as does picking transition sentences that link two different ideas in sentences that come before and after the given point.

And finally, we have questions on style. Style questions are about good writing. So, if you see a poorly written phrase, the ACT might ask you to figure out how to change it. It might ask you if a word or phrase doesn't really fit in with the tone of the essay.

And remember, a tone, the tone of the essay should always be academic English, not slang or any type of colloquial writing. Are any pronouns ambiguous? Is anything else unclear in the passage? And, this is a big one, extra wordiness or redundancy. So repetitive ideas, you always wanna cut those out, there will definitely always be questions on that.

Okay, so, once again that is a super quick overview of the most important things to study. There will be a few oddball questions on the ACT, but this is the bulk of stuff. And now, you can go ahead and check out their other videos, all the specifics, learn all the details, so that you can be ready to go to just absolutely crush the ACT English test.

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Introduction to the English Test