ACT English Questions, Reporting Categories, and Content

You don't have to be Shakespeare to score well on ACT English
Getty Images | Richard Cummins

Shakespeare, you’re not (even if you do look good in those Elizabethan tights). That does not mean you can’t score well on the ACT English test. Trust me on this. Most of what you will encounter on the ACT English section of the exam is stuff you have done a million times in school. Sure, the format is different but the content should be fairly easy for those of you who didn't fail out of all of your English and Language Arts classes. Read below for all of the ACT English Basics. And when you’re done getting the lay of the land, read through the ACT English strategies to help yourself before you test!

ACT English Basics

If you’ve read ACT 101, you know the following goodies about the ACT English section:

  • 5 passages of text
  • 75 multiple-choice questions (fifteen per passage)
  • 45 minutes
  • Approximately 30 seconds per question

ACT English Scoring

Just like the other multiple-choice sections, the ACT English section can earn you between 1 and 36 points. This score will be averaged with the scores from the other multiple-choice sections (Math, Science Reasoning and Reading) to get you your Composite ACT score.

You'll also get your raw scores based on reporting categories that were introduced in 2016. Here, you'll see how many questions you answered correctly in the Production of Writing, Knowledge of Language, and Conventions of Standard English. They do not in any way affect your section or composite ACT score. Rather, they give you an indication of where you can improve if you should take them again.

The English score is also tabulated with the Reading and Writing section scores to give you an ELA (English Language Arts) score. Like the 

The average ACT English score is about a 21, but you’ll have to do much better than that if you’d like to hit up a top university for admissions acceptance – more like between a 30 and 34.

ACT English Test Content

As I stated previously, you'll have three reporting categories scattered throughout the ACT exam. You will not see "Production of Writing," "Knowledge of Language," or "Conventions of Standard English" sections - that would be too easy! Rather, you'll encounter these types of questions as you work through all five passages.

Production of Writing

  1. Topic Development: 
    1. Identify the author's purpose
    2. Identify whether a portion of text has met its goal
    3. Evaluate the material's relevance in terms of the text's focus
  2. Organization, Unity, and Cohesion:
    1. Use strategies to create a logical organization
    2. Use strategies to ensure a smooth flow
    3. Ensure effective introductions and conclusions

Knowledge of Language

  1. Ensuring concision and precision in word choice
  2. Maintain consistent style
  3. Maintain consistent tone

Conventions of Standard English

  1. Sentence Structure and Formation: 
    1.  Identify misplaced modifiers (adjectives, adverbs, etc.)
    2. Fix run-ons, fragments and comma splice sentences
    3. Resolve problems with improper clause usage
    4. Correct parallel structure
  2. Punctuation
    1. Resolve improper usage of commas, apostrophes, colons, semicolons, quotation marks, etc.
    2. Improve the text with various punctuation
  3. Usage
    1. Recognize common problems with standard English usage.
    2. Revise common problems to improve the writing.