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10 ACT English Practice Tips

Here are ten ACT English practice tips that will help you drill down into grammar rules that you need to know well.

More details below. For even more expert advice on the ACT English test, consider taking an ACT prep course with Prep Expert.


10 ACT English Practice Tips That Will Help On Test Day

Think Simple And Concise

Try to avoid overly wordy answer choices.

Not only on the ACT but in general writing, brevity is the best choice. Try using the fewest amount of necessary words. This doesn’t mean that the answer itself is short; sometimes more words are needed for grammatical correctness. When looking over answer choices, look for ones that are clear, concise, and communicate the necessary information.

Look Over The Entire Sentence First

Don’t focus on the underlined section alone.

When examining a passage sentence for a question, don’t ignore everything else besides the underlined words. The reason is the remaining words often present additional information or context needed for the correct answer.

For example, if a sentence has an independent clause in the second half, make sure that the underlined section doesn’t cause a run-on. Read the entire sentence to scan for potential grammatical errors in answer choices.

Read The Entire Passage

Read over the whole thing for context clues.

Even though you’re dealing with grammar questions, context plays a role in information sharing. Some question types that rely on context include:

  • Transition words
  • Choosing the best closing sentence
  • Proper sentence placement within a paragraph

Every one of those question types relies on you understanding the passage’s main ideas.

Keep Tense Consistent

Focus on keeping things consistent.

In general, verb tense and voice should be consistent throughout a sentence. If you’re looking for the proper tense for an underlined verb, look at surrounding sentences.

The correct answer choice will have the same verb tense as the other sentences. There are exceptions, like referring to a past event. In general, use consistency to identify verb tense.

Avoid Redundancies

If an idea has been implicitly stated, then don’t state it again.

You don’t require two adjectives that mean the exact same thing in a sentence. This tip again falls under the general idea of keeping it simple. Eliminate unnecessary words that don’t communicate new information.

Be Mindful of Parallelism

This grammatical principle is easy to spot with practice.

For a sentence to be correctly parallel, its clauses must follow a matching structure. For example, “my favorite things to do are biking, swimming, and running”.

All three items in the series are in the gerund (-ing) form. If, for example, “swimming” was replaced with “to swim”, then the gerund structure is interrupted by the infinitive form.

Look For Run-On Sentences

Comma splices are common mistakes in writing, so you may not readily notice them in an English passage.

A comma splice is a specific run-on, in which two independent clauses are joined together with a comma. Remember that independent clauses are able to stand on their own as complete sentences.

Comma splices are fixable by doing one of the following actions: Making one of the clauses dependent, Replacing the comma with a semi-colon.

Check On Verb-Subject Agreement

Make sure every underlined verb agrees with its subject.

If the subject is plural, then the verb must be plural. If the subject is singular, then the verb better be singular too.

These errors are easy to spot when the verb and subject are next to each other. Sometimes they aren’t, so make sure to locate them both in the sentence and analyze accordingly.

If prepositional phrases are in-between the verb and subject, then take them out and read the verb and subject together. Don’t let prepositional phrases confuse your understanding.

Check For Pronoun-Antecedent Agreement

Again, make sure that pronouns and antecedents correctly match.

The antecedent is the noun that a pronoun is replacing or referencing. Draw an arrow from the pronoun back to its subject and check if they both agree in number and gender.

For example, the pronoun “her” requires a singular, feminine subject like “Kate”. Or, the plural pronoun “them” needs a plural subject like “teachers”.

Check Transitional Sentences

Some questions ask you to pick the best opening or closing sentence for a paragraph.

The best answer choice will create a smooth transition by citing ideas from the current paragraph and the following one. If an answer choice cites concepts from both paragraphs in a seamless way, then that’s likely the correct one.


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