ACT Grammar Practice Tips

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To ace the ACT English section, your grammar skills have to be on point. These ACT grammar practice tips will help you focus on what the test uses to trick you.

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10 ACT Grammar Practice Areas To Study

Run-On Sentences & Fragments 

Remember what’s needed for a completed sentence.

Every complete sentence has three components:

  • A subject
  • A predicate
  • A complete thought

If it doesn’t have all three components, then it is a fragment. It doesn’t matter how long it is or anything else. When analyzing a sentence, ask yourself these questions:

  • What is the subject?
  • What is the predicate?
  • Do they form a complete thought?

On the other side, a run-on sentence presents too much information. The main reason being it is two independent complete thoughts joined together improperly.

If you read a sentence and can divide it with a semi-colon without affecting either thought, then it’s a run-on.

Subject-Verb Agreement & Tenses

The ACT will try to use verbs against you.

The English section presents long sentences that separate the main subject and verb from each other with additional words. The trick is identifying the subject and making sure the corresponding verb matches.

Besides agreement, you’re also tested on correctly identifying verb tenses. Make sure to review and practice the differences between the following:

  • Past
  • Present
  • Future
  • Past Perfect
  • Present Perfect
  • Future Perfect

For example, the formula to correctly identify past perfect tense is “had” + the past participle.

Punctuation

You need to have your punctuation marks and usage rules down.

Expect to be tested on how to correctly use these punctuation marks:

  • Apostrophes
  • Colons
  • Commas
  • Dashes
  • Exclamation Points
  • Periods
  • Question Marks
  • Semicolons

Referring back to the earlier example, if you want to join two complete independent thoughts together then use a semicolon.

Idioms

Practice using these common English expressions.

The most common idioms you’ll run into are two-part one such as “neither…nor“, and “not only…but also“. Other idioms to watch out for are prepositional ones.

Common examples include phrases like “opposed to” and “participate in“. The ACT also tests for verb and preposition idioms.

The problem here is there aren’t set rules to follow. Instead, go online and look up the most common ones and practice using them.

Wordiness

Shorter is normally the best option.

When evaluating the answer choices, the shortest word choice is normally correct. The caveat here is to make sure that there aren’t any other grammatical errors in it.

However, answer choices that are exceedingly long and contain extraneous information can be skipped. Correct answers go straight to the point.

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Parallelism

Make sure things are structured in the same form.

Parallel structure means that all phrases in a sentence or a list are in the same form. This form check is conducted over various speech parts such as nouns, prepositions, and verbs. For example, a phrase with a correct parallel structure is “he likes to read and to write.”

Pronouns

Avoid common errors involving pronouns on the test.

The most frequent pronoun error to watch out for is incorrect pronoun-antecedent agreement. For clarity, ‘antecedent’ is the word that the pronoun is replacing.

A pronoun requires a clear antecedent for correct usage. Sometimes an antecedent is present but doesn’t match with the pronoun number-wise.

For example, “the boy hit the ball” or “the girls wore their dresses“. Another common error is ambiguous pronouns that can represent more than one noun.

For example, “the professor and her assistant discussed the lesson plan before she made a decision”. In this example, “she” doesn’t clearly refer to either party.

Modifiers

These words and phrases describe nouns.

Modifiers fall into two broad categories:

  • Adjectives (modify nouns)
  • Adverbs (modify verbs, adjectives, other adverbs)

When answering questions, keep an eye out for odd adverb-noun and adjective-verb groupings. Also, keep an eye out for sentences that begin with both a modifying phrase and a comma.

In these cases, the subject after the comma must be either the person or thing performing the modifying phrase’s action.

Transitions

Make sure that transition words reflect the author’s intention.

Transitions are words or phrases that demonstrate:

  • Continuation
  • Contrast
  • Cause and Effect

A common ACT English trick is to use transitions that sound similar to each other, but one doesn’t fit in the context. An example is using “could of” in the place of “could have“.

Both phrases sound similar but have different meanings in context. Keep an eye out for these tricks. Again, ask yourself if the phrase makes sense in the context of the sentence’s main thought.

Organization

Examine how sentences and paragraphs are structured.

The ACT English section will test your ability to determine sentence and paragraph order, as well as focus. In terms of questions, you either add, remove, or edit existing sentences.

Besides structure, you will also examine if particular sentences fit with a paragraph’s purpose, focus, or intended audience or not. Be able to use context clues and have a working knowledge of paragraph structure.

ACT grammar practice will be much easier for you now, as long as you take these tips into account. Remember, the ACT English section tries to trick you. Don’t let the test catch you with grammar errors.

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