ACT English Test Approach

The English test on the ACT measures a student’s skill level at evaluating an essay. The English test is 45 minutes long and consists of 75 questions. The student is asked to read 5 essays. These essays are about the same length; questions asked are about style and grammar. Each essay contains 15 questions and the style is in line with current high school students. The language should be familiar and not foreign to most students.

Comparison of the content areas tested:


Rhetorical Skills – 35 questions total

Strategy – 12 questions (appropriateness of sentences)

Organization – 11 questions (order of ideas, conclusions, and introductions)

Style – 12 questions (tone and clarity)

Usage/Mechanics – 40 questions total

Punctuation – 10 questions (commas, colons, dashes, semicolons, apostrophes)

Grammar and Usage – 12 questions (idioms, comparisons, pronouns, subject-verb agreement)

Sentence Structure – 18 questions (run-ons, fragments, misplaced modifiers)

On the official ACT score report, the student will receive an overall English score between 1-36. The student will also receive two subscores, each are between 1-18.

The student should take a full-length practice test in order to establish an appropriate goal on the English section. It is the very first test on the ACT and the student has 36 seconds per question.  To score a 20 on the English test, the student needs to answer 43 of 75 questions correctly. With this score, the student is actually above the national average.

Question Types:

Underlined – These questions want the student to look for a potential mistake. However, it may be possible that the sentence is already correct and that there is no change needed.

Boxed – When students see a question that asks about deleting or adding information, this is a boxed question and they are usually rhetorical questions. These questions normally take the student more time to answer. 

Overall – This type of question will ask the student to reflect upon the entire essay. The question could ask about how the essay was organized or structured. The student may have to question the effectiveness of the essay.

Top Ways to Maximize ACT English Test Scores:

·         Answer the questions as you come to them in the passage

·         Make another pass through in order to work on skipped or starred questions (attempt the ones you think you may have the best chance of answering correctly)

·         Use any last bit of time to guess on remaining questions

·         If the time is getting close to the end, put energy towards answering the short underlined grammar questions

·         Don’t pick the first answer that sounds good

·         Never leave a question blank as there is no penalty for answering incorrectly

·         Eliminate answer choices in your test booklet and guess when you need to