The ACT English Test

Length Question Types
45 Minutes 40 Usage/Mechanics Questions
35 Rhetorical Skills Questions

On the ACT English Test, you'll have 45 minutes to answer 75 questions—that's about 30 seconds per question! The test is divided into 5 passages, each with about 15 questions.

You're not being tested on spelling or vocabulary. Rather, the ACT English Test is designed to assess your understanding of the conventions of English—punctuation, grammar, sentence structure—and of rhetorical skills. Rhetorical skills are more strategic including things like organizing the text and making sure it's styled clearly.

ACT English Question Format

Almost all of the English questions follow a standard format. A word, phrase, or sentence in a passage is underlined. You're given 4 options: to leave the underlined portion alone ("NO CHANGE," which is always the first choice), or to replace it with one of the three alternatives.

Some English questions don't follow the standard format—usually about 10 per exam. These items pose a question and offer four possible responses. In many cases, the responses are either "yes" or "no," with an explanation.

Many of the nonstandard questions occur at the end of a passage. Some ask about the meaning, purpose, or tone of individual paragraphs or of the passage as a whole. Others ask you to evaluate the passage. And still others ask you to determine the proper order of words, sentences, or paragraphs that have been scrambled in the passage.

Top 10 Strategies for the ACT English Test

  1. Skim an English passage before starting work on the questions
  2. On questions that ask you to judge a passage, lean toward selecting a choice that favors it
  3. Choose answers that match the level of formality of the entire passage
  4. The best way to write something is the shortest correct way of writing it
  5. If you speak a "nonstandard" dialect, be extra careful with questions that focus on idioms
  6. Watch for subject-verb and noun-pronoun agreement
  7. Make sure parenthetical phrases begin and end with the same punctuation mark
  8. Look out for sentence fragments and run-on sentences
  9. Make sure that nouns and pronouns are modified by adjectives, and that verbs and adjectives are modified by adverbs
  10. Learn the difference between it's and its

Take an ACT English Quiz

How will you do? Take our ACT English Quiz and find out.

Kaplan Strategy Session: ACT English

Kaplan Strategy Session: ACT English

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