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What Are the ACT English Section Rules?


file0001673731860 resized 600By now, you probably know that there are 4 sections on the ACT, and you're starting to put a study schedule together for them. But the more you start looking into the English section, the more daunting it becomes.

Don't worry about this section of the test! You'll be able to complete it just fine after studying and after you know exactly what it entails. Here's a brief rundown of the ACT English section rules so you can ease your worried mind and be fully prepared for the test.

Specifics to Expect

The ACT English test will contain 5 passages of text with questions after each, capping at a total of 75 questions. You'll have 45 minutes to complete them. This gives you about 30 seconds per question.

You'll be tested over usage/mechanics and rhetorical skills. Usage/mechanics will cover punctuation, grammar and usage, and sentence structure. Rhetorical skills will cover strategy, organization, and style.

The questions you'll be asked will not be labeled “usage/mechanics” or “rhetorical skills”; you'll simply be given these types of questions as you work through the 5 passages.

Rules/Instructions to Know

There aren't “real” ACT English rules other than the instructions that the test will provide you. These instructions are very long, and it's best to learn them before you go into the test so you don't lose time reading them and can use every spare minute on finishing the questions.

Here's what the instructions will look like:

There are five passages on this subject test. You should read each passage once before answering the questions on it. In order to answer correctly, you may need to read several sentences beyond the question.

There are two question formats within the passages. In one format, you will find words and phrases that have been underlined and assigned numbers. These numbers will correspond with sets of alternative words/phrases, given in the right-hand column of the test booklet. From the sets of alternatives, choose the answer choice that works best in context, keeping in mind whether it employs standard written English, whether it gets across the idea of the section, and whether it suits the tone and style of the passage. You will usually be offered the option “NO CHANGE,” which you should choose if you think the version found in the passage is best.

In the second format, you will see boxed numbers referring to sections of the passage or to the passage as a whole. In the right-hand column, you will be asked questions about or given alternatives for the sections marked by the boxes. Choose the answer choice that best answers the question or completes the section.

After choosing your answer choice, fill in the corresponding bubble on the answer sheet. 

Now that you know the ACT English section rules, your next step is to start studying and take a practice test so you're fully prepared for the real thing. Good luck!