ACT English Tips

Tips to Improve Your ACT English Score

1. Know the ACT English test structure

The ACT English Test is always the first one you’ll encounter on test day. You have 45 minutes to complete 75 multiple-choice questions. The questions are spread among five essays that include 15 questions each. You do not want to skip over any of the sentences, even if they do not contain underlined words or phrases since many of the organization and writing strategy questions require you to understand the essay as a whole.

2. Use an active reading technique

Read the entire passage; do not skip around to just the sentences that have underlines. Read until you have enough info to identify the issue. Eliminate answer choices that do NOT address the issue. Plug in the remaining answer choices and choose the answer that is the most correct, concise, and relevant.

3. Know your Commas!

One way to instantly increase your ACT English score is to watch out for incorrect comma usage. In order for a comma to be correct, it MUST have a specific job. Separate an independent clause and a dependent clause (keep in mind a comma always comes before the word “which”): “I like biking, which is a highly recommended form of exercise.” In front of a FANBOYS: “The passage can seem intimidating, but knowing how to use commas can relieve quite a bit of stress.” Set off non-essential information: “My sister, who is twenty-six, attended New York University and then Bowling Green State University.” Items in a series: “My foster dogs enjoy running, jumping, and playing when I take them to the dog park.”

4. Learn the idiosyncrasies of the test

The ACT loves to create answer choices that are redundant. These choices will always be wrong, so you should learn to recognize and eliminate these choices.

5. Look out for keywords like NOT, LEAST, OMIT

Circle the words: “NOT” / “LEAST acceptable” in question stems. Your thought process will be different for these! “OMIT the underlined portion” is correct the majority of the time. You do not want to “OMIT the underlined portion” when the information presented in the underlined portion is not available anywhere else in the passage and it is relevant to the passage.

6. Keep track of timing in thirds

You should complete 25 questions in 15 minute intervals.

7. Do at least five ACT English practice tests

Full-length practice tests are available in ACT practice books at local bookstores or at your local library. Find a quiet place where you can take the practice ACT, and clear off the table or desk. Try and eliminate any distractions and do the best you can to mimic your test-day environment. Keep a clock or timer in front of you so you can periodically check and see how you are doing. You may want to set the timer to go off every 9 minutes. Don’t rush, but make sure you can move confidently from one passage to the next and answer ALL questions in the time allotted.