Why is the English ACT test so hard?
The English test on the ACT is a bit of a paradox. Though it is undeniably the easiest test on which to make significant score gains, it is also the test that causes many students a great deal of frustration the first time they take it. Why?
First of all, the structure of the ACT English test presents a puzzle. Students are asked to read 5 passages that have 75 words, phrases, or even complete sentences underlined. They must decide whether the underlined portion is correct as given, which would lead them to the first NO CHANGE answer, or whether there is a problem with grammar, punctuation, or rhetoric (word use) that needs to be corrected.
Many students take the English ACT test by just plugging in all four choices and hoping that one will “speak” to them. The problem is that if a student has no idea what the question is asking, this strategy becomes very time consuming, not to mention totally confusing. The test requires knowing basic rules of Standard English grammar, punctuation, and writing. Once students learn them, they can develop a plan of action for taking the test that leads to success.
That action plan begins with recognizing that all answers on the English ACT test fall into three categories—grammar, punctuation, and rhetoric. Once they identify what category of question they are dealing with, students can predict what the answer has to be. We show students how to decide what the correct answer is BEFORE they look at the answer choices. This way, students not only save time, but they are not sidetracked by incorrect choices. This strategy has helped our students raise their English score up to 11 points.
To apply this strategy to the English ACT test, however, students MUST know the rules of punctuation and grammar. The ACT knows that many students today are totally clueless about comma rules, when to use a semicolon or colon, or what a dash is for. Colon use is the currently a favorite on the ACT English test. To raise their English score, students must also know correct grammar usage, including noun-pronoun and subject-verb agreement. And finally, they must be able to comprehend rhetorical questions, which can be very devious.
Once our students have acquired the background they need for the English ACT test, we give them many ACT tests (retired tests) to practice on. The results are remarkable. The English ACT test is by far the most predictable and thus the easiest test on which to raise scores. A significant gain on the English ACT test raises the composite score as well. Pay attention to this test.
Written by Dr. Ene-Kaja Chippendale