How to Prepare for the ACT English Test

Picture of a young high school student sitting at a desk and using her laptop to prepare for the ACT exam
June 6, 2022
ACT English Practice Test6 ACT English Test-Taking Strategies Review Basic Grammar and Key ConceptsACT Test PrepACT English Test: FAQs

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 6/6/22

Preparing for the ACT English test? We’ll walk you through study test-taking strategies, key concepts, and the ACT test prep materials. Keep reading for everything you need to know!

The ACT English test has a total of 75 questions. Students will read five passages and answer 15 multiple-choice questions per section. The test is 45 minutes long. 

The English test contains five writing sections that students should be able to edit correctly. The test is multiple-choice, but each question will require an understanding of grammatical rules, style, and tone.  

Let’s explore everything you need to know to prepare for the ACT English test.

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ACT English Test Scores 

Each section of the ACT English test will provide four scores. The first score will be an overall score for the section. The test covers three categories, each carrying a different weight.  

Table outlining the weighting of each section of the ACT English test

Students will need to understand grammar rules enough to analyze sentences and paragraphs. There will be paragraphs with a particular sentence underlined in some sections. In these cases, the questions will apply directly to the underlined portion. However, students should still consider the context by reading the entire paragraph.  

Reviewing grammatical rules will be essential for preparing for the ACT English test. Making the ACT English practice test part of your study program will help you gauge your preparedness for the test. The ACT English test prep materials will be essential to your preparation. 

Take a look at our top ACT English test-prep tips. We recommend you start with reviewing the ACT English Practice Test and before moving on to our study and test-taking strategies. 

Take a Baseline ACT English Practice Test 

Students should take the ACT English test after completing a few practice exams. Baseline testing allows students to take a practice test to get an idea of their level. An  ACT English practice test is a great way to understand where to focus your efforts for the ACT English test.  

ACT offers a practice test with sample test questions and answers. It  has five passages with five multiple-choice questions for each passage. 

Taking the ACT English Practice test directly before your exam may not be helpful to the study process, but it can be a helpful refresher. Taking the practice test in advance allows you to study the areas you may be weaker in with enough time to improve sufficiently.  

Assess Your Mistakes 

The answer key on the ACT English practice test is a great resource when preparing for the English test.  

We recommend taking your first practice test after a fair bit of studying. Review the ACT English practice test answers to understand where you may be going wrong. This will help you see what you need to look out for. 

The practice test will provide clarification along with the answers. Even if you get a question correct on the practice test, you will receive an explanation as to why that answer is correct. This should not be overlooked. Read the explanations for all your correct and incorrect answers and use them as study material. 

Retake the Practice Test 

You can take the ACT practice test as many times as you would like, though we recommend spacing out the practice tests. Take the time to read the explanations for each question. Reread the text and understand where you went wrong. 

You may find that you will need to do more studying before you are ready to take another practice test. Let the first practice test help guide you in your ACT English test prep.  

6 Study Test-Taking Strategies  

Preparation is important for any upcoming test, and the strategies you use should be effective. The ACT English test will not be quizzing students on their ability to memorize facts. Students’ comprehension of rules and the ability to apply them will be essential.

There are many study strategies that you can use when studying, and during the test. These will help you put your knowledge to best use. Start applying these strategies when you take your ACT English practice test to achieve best results. 

Don't Rely on What Sounds Right 

Language is very intuitive, and it can be easy to rely on our gut when making grammatical and stylistic judgments. This will not be entirely helpful in the ACT English test. Be sure to understand the writing sample and review all the multiple-choice options.  

Read the Whole Text 

The underlined portions of some of the writing samples will be the most crucial part of that question. Your answer will be directly related to the underlined part. This does not mean it is okay to skip the rest of the text.  

It may be tempting to read only the underlined portion to save time, but the context of the section is equally important. Read the whole text, even if the question is only related to a small part. The context will likely be an essential part of the answer. 

Practice with a Timer 

The ACT practice test gives students 45 minutes to answer 75 multiple-choice questions. This should be plenty of time to finish the test. 

We recommend doing the practice test with a timer to give you an idea of how long it will take you. Depending on your tendencies, you can even record how long each section takes and work on increasing your speed or taking your time. 

Reread the Sentence With the Answer You Selected  

The multiple-choice questions give alternative answers for an underlined sentence. When you select an answer, reread the sentence with the answer you selected. If you believe that is technically the correct answer, how does it sound when you read it together?  

Consider What the Question Is Asking

Some questions will reference a specific writing element, like tone or emphasis. Pay particular attention to the multiple-choice answers offered. Some may be answers that have nothing to do with the element of writing that the question is asking about.  

Even if you feel that there is a grammatical option that may be correct, ask yourself if that is what the question asks.  

Consider the Most Concise Option

The most concise sentence will often be the correct option on the ACT English test. After reading the passage, consider what the text is trying to say. Which multiple-choice option delivers the message in the most concise way? 

The option you select must be conducive to a complete text. It should make sense and contain all the information, but avoid wordy sentences and phrases.  

Review Basic Grammar and Other Key Concepts 

A crucial part of preparing for the ACT English test is being familiar with basic grammatical rules. The test will require a working knowledge but will not require you to state the rules themselves. Even if you have an excellent command of the English language, being aware of grammatical rules will help you achieve better results. 

Run-On Sentences 

A run-on sentence fuses two ideas. Their length can sometimes identify them. Run-on sentences are often long and can feel like a mouthful when spoken. Correct a run-on sentence by adding punctuation, like a comma or semicolon. It is often better to split the sentence into two separate sentences.  

Agreements 

Agreements in grammar occur when a word changes its form depending on other parts of the sentence. A sentence is grammatically incorrect when there is no agreement, even if it does not necessarily change the sentence's meaning. 

Subject-Verb agreement 

Subject-verb agreement refers to the rule that a noun or subject in a sentence must match the form of its relative verb. For example, if a noun is singular, the verb form must also be singular. 

Ambiguity 

It is essential to avoid ambiguity when taking the ACT English Test. If it is unclear who or what is being referred to in a writing sample, it may be a clue to the answer. Even if you can decipher what the passage refers to, note any ambiguity.

ACT Test Prep 

In addition to practice tests, ACT provides test prep materials, including online classes, self-paced courses, and tutoring. Some of these resources are free on the ACT website. ACT also puts together yearly textbooks and text sets for each ACT, requiring payment.  

Review the ACT test prep options to determine which is best for you. Preparation is key before your ACT English test. It is essential that you review the best strategies and key concepts prior to your test. 

ACT English Test: FAQs

Still have questions about the ACT English Test? Keep reading to find out more!

1. Does the ACT English Test Ask About Grammar Rules?

While having a grasp of grammar rules can help you during the ACT English Test, you will not be asked any questions that require you to memorize and recall these rules. 

2. How Long Is the ACT English Test? 

The ACT English test is 45 minutes long.

3. Can I Take the ACT English Test More Than Once?

Yes, you can take the ACT English test more than once. 

4. How Many Practice Tests Should I Do Before Taking the ACT English Test?

We recommend completing at least one ACT English practice test before taking the test. We highly recommend looking over the explanations of each answer, even your correct answers.

Final Thoughts 

Preparing for the ACT English test can be a unique challenge for most students. The test does not evaluate your ability to memorize and restate information. It will require an understanding of grammatical rules and an eye for detail. 

We recommend familiarizing yourself with the ACT English test prep materials. Most importantly, take as many ACT English practice tests as you can. Remember to review our study test-taking strategies and the key concepts we’ve outlined if you’re looking for somewhere to start. 

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