What You Need to Know for the ACT English Test

By Lisa Zimmer Hatch, Scott A. Hatch

When you open your ACT booklet, the first thing you see is the English Test. Your still-half-asleep brain and bleary eyes encounter 5 passages and 75 questions.

Somehow, you’re to read all the passages and answer all the questions within 45 minutes. That may seem like a lot of questions in a little bit of time, but the English questions really aren’t super time‐consuming. You’ll be fine. Just take a deep breath, and read on to discover exactly what’s on the English Test.

The questions on the English Test fall into the following two categories:

  • Usage and mechanics. A little more than half of the questions cover the ever‐popular English topics of usage and mechanics. These questions include sentence structure (whether a sentence is a fragment or a run‐on), grammar and usage (just about everything most people think of as English, such as adverbs, adjectives, and so on), and punctuation (don’t worry — this isn’t super hard; it’s mostly just commas and semicolons).

  • Rhetorical skills. Just less than half of the questions test rhetorical skills, such as organization (reordering the sentences in the passage), style (which expression, slang or formal, is appropriate within the passage), and strategy (whether a particular detail should be added or removed from the passage).

Some questions are much more doable than others. For example, most students would agree that a simple grammar question asking about a pronoun reference or subject/verb agreement is easier to answer than an organization question expecting you to reposition a paragraph within the entire passage.