By Lisa Zimmer Hatch, Scott A. Hatch

Students often fall for every trap the ACT test makers have thought of — and some they probably never considered! Watch out for these most commonly tumbled‐into traps:

  • Forgetting the NO CHANGE option. Because the first answer choice — Choice (A) for odd‐numbered questions, Choice (F) for even‐numbered questions — may be NO CHANGE, students tend to gloss over it. Don’t forget that you usually have the option to keep things exactly the way they are.

  • Automatically choosing OMIT each time it shows up. When you see the OMIT answer — usually either Choice (D) or Choice (J) — realize that it has the same one‐in‐four chance of being right as the other answers have. Consider it, but don’t make it a no‐brainer choice.

  • Automatically selecting the “other” word or grammar choice. When you see who in a sentence, you’re often tempted to change it immediately to whom. Yet if that same sentence said whom to begin with, you’d immediately change it to who. The temptation to do something, anything, is very strong. Don’t change just for the sake of change.

  • Wasting time on the time-consuming questions. Some of the rhetorical questions, like the relevance ones, can be quite simple. But others, such as the ones that ask you to reposition sentences or complete paragraphs, can be incredibly time‐wasting and frustrating. You may have to read and reread a paragraph, changing and rearranging the sentences again and again. You may be able to get the question right, but at what price? How much time would you chew up? How many more of the easy questions could you have gotten right in that time?

  • Ignoring the big picture. Some questions are style questions. A style question expects you to sense the overall picture, to know whether the tone of the passage is friendly so that you can appropriately use a slang expression (for example, totally lame) or whether you need to be a bit more formal (useless rather than totally lame). If you focus on only the underlined portions and don’t skim the passage as a whole, you can easily miss this type of question.