The ACT English Test is not a grammar test or a test of how well you write. Instead, the ACT tests your editing skills—your ability to fix errors in grammar and punctuation and to improve the organization and style of five different passages. Sound scary? We can help! Learn what to expect on test day and the expert ACT English strategies you need to score higher.

Sample ACT English Question

On the ACT English Test you’ll face five passages on topics ranging from historical essays to personal narratives. Portions of each passage are underlined, and you must decide if these are correct as written or if one of the other answers would fix or improve the selection. Other questions will ask you to add, cut, or reorder text, and ask you to evaluate the passage as a whole.

Here's an example question, which comes straight from a passage in our book Cracking the ACT.

Student with backpack

One college class chose Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao as (3)  their favorite book  of the semester.

B. it’s favorite book
C. they’re favorite book
D. its favorite book

Stumped? Here are six ACT English tips for prepping for any passage.

1. Remember the 4 C’s

  • Good writing should be in complete sentences.
  • Everything should be consistent.
  • The meaning should be clear .
  • The best answer, free of any errors, will be the most concise.

Even when you can’t figure out what type of error a question is really testing, apply the 4 C’s, and you’ll be able to eliminate answer choices.

2. Know what ACT Grammar Rules to Expect

You don’t need to memorize your grammar textbook to prep for the ACT. But it’s a smart move to review the most common rules tested on the English Test. You can expect to encounter grammar questions about the following topics (to name a few):

  • subject-verb agreement
  • pronoun agreement
  • adjectives and adverbs
  • comparisons and superlatives
  • punctuation
  • conjunctions

We’ve got a thorough overview of rules that show up the most in our book Cracking the ACT.

3. Let the Answers Help You

The answer choices are your clues to identifying what the question is really asking. Do any of the words or punctuation change? Pay attention to what changes versus what stays the same in the answers to figure out what the potential error is.

4. Trust Your Ear (But Double-Check)

Your ear is pretty reliable at raising the alarm for outright errors and clunky, awkward phrasing. Always verify what your ear is telling you by checking the answers to identify the topic and confirm there is no error. If something sounds off, investigate further, but remember to be careful for errors your ear won’t catch.

5. Cross Off Answers That Don’t Fix the Error

To go from good to great on the English test, you can’t just fix a question in your head and then find an answer that matches. Instead, after you’ve identified what’s wrong, eliminate all the choices that do not fix the error.

6. Don’t Change What Isn’t Broken

NO CHANGE is a legitimate answer choice. Don’t make the mistake of assuming that all questions have an error that you just can’t spot.

Answer: (D)

That original sentence sounded pretty good to us, how about you? But before we circle NO CHANGE and go on our merry way, look at the answers to identify the topic and confirm there is no error. Only the pronoun changes, so the question is testing pronouns. Their is a plural pronoun, but class is singular. Cross off choices (A) and (C)—choice (C) isn’t even the right type of pronoun, plural or not. Since we need a possessive pronoun, cross off choice (B) as well. Choice (D) is the correct answer.

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