How To Improve Your ACT English Score

Correct These 5 Mistakes

University students taking exam at classroom
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Some people are just "English" people, those people who are good at all things grammar, spelling, punctuation, style, and organization. They thrive on tidy texts and accurately placed modifiers. They live for tricky apostrophes and accurate capitalization. Not you? Well, don't sweat it. Not everyone can be great at English, but there are definitely ways you can improve that ACT English score whether you're an English nut or not.

The best thing to do is to correct the mistakes you made the first time around on the ACT English test, which is one of the five sections on the ACT exam. There are five separate ACT English passages worth 75 points total, so it's hugely important to correct your errors! Here are the top mistakes students make on the ACT English test, and the best ways to fix the problems!

Mistake #1: Misjudging Paragraphs

The Problem: The ACT English test is a little strange; the paragraphs are all broken up so that the questions on the right side of the page are straight across from the text the questions refer to on the left side of the page. Perhaps when you took the ACT English section the first time around, you misjudged where the paragraphs started and ended. This is a BIG mistake​ because you can certainly miss points on questions that refer to a specific paragraph if you're leaving out a sentence or two.

The Solution: Pay close attention to indentations that indicate the next paragraph has started. The best way to avoid this issue altogether is to go through the text and draw a line in between paragraphs (for the passages that aren't marked already). Then, you'll be better able to see the paragraphs in their entirety and your ACT score will improve because you'll answer questions more accurately.

Mistake #2: Answering Question In Order

The Problem: When you first started on the ACT English test, you opened the booklet and answered question 1. Then, you moved on to questions 2, 3, 4 and so on in order. When you got to the end of the test, you had to hurry because you only had a few minutes (but a bunch of questions) left! You randomly guessed on the last 10 questions, and you didn't even have time to check anything.

The Solution: The ACT English test has difficult questions and easy questions. Neither is worth more points than the other. It's true! A simple usage question (like a subject-verb agreement question) will earn you exactly the same amount of points as a cohesion question (like figuring out what a paragraph would lose if you took out a sentence). Therefore, it makes sense to go through each passage individually, answering the easy questions first. Then, when you get to the end of the passage, go back through and answer the difficult questions.

Mistake #3: Taking Too Long To Answer

The Problem: Because you like to take your time and think things through, you spent roughly 45 seconds or so on each English question. When you got to the end of the test, you still had a ton of questions left because you took too long. You had to guess, even on the easy ones because you didn't have time to read anything.

The Solution: It's simple math. On the ACT English test, you must answer 75 questions in 45 minutes. That means, that you have 36 seconds or less to spend on each question; that's it. If you answered the questions in 45 seconds, you'd need roughly 56 minutes to take the entire test, which is about 11 extra minutes. You're not going to get that time.

Use an ACT strategy like practicing taking the English test in a timed setting. Figure out how long you're spending on the easy questions and the difficult ones, and try to find ways to shave time off of the easy ones so you're not stuck when you need more than 36 seconds for a tough one!

Mistake #4: Not Choosing "NO CHANGE"

The Problem: When you took the English portion of the ACT, "NO CHANGE" popped up frequently as the first answer choice, which means that the underlined portion in the text was accurate just the way it was. Most of the time, you chose another answer because you assumed that the ACT was trying to trick you into thinking the underlined part was right.

The Solution: You need to consider the "NO CHANGE" option every time you evaluate a question. Not every apple has a worm in it! Historically, the ACT test-takers have included between 15 to 18 questions that are correct just as they are in the text. If you never choose the "NO CHANGE" option, then there's a good chance you're getting the answer wrong! Think about it every single time, and rule out the other answer choices if you can.

Mistake #5: Creating a New Error

The Problem: You read through the question, read the text, and decided on an answer choice right away. Since the underlined portion of the text had a comma in it, you figured the question was testing your comma knowledge. Choice B had correct comma usage, so it was the right answer! Wrong! Sure, Choice B fixed the comma error, but the last part of the sentence was not parallel to the first, creating a new error. Choice C fixed both parts, and you didn't pay attention.

The Solution: The ACT English test likes to test more than one skill at a time on some questions, especially the ones with longer answer choices. If you come across a question that seems pretty straightforward and want to improve your score this time around, be sure to read each answer choice carefully. If the question is not 100 percent right, it is 100 percent wrong. Cross it off. The ACT test-makers will always provide an answer that is accurate in every way. If you see a new error, don't choose it!

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Your Citation
Roell, Kelly. "How To Improve Your ACT English Score." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Roell, Kelly. (2023, April 5). How To Improve Your ACT English Score. Retrieved from Roell, Kelly. "How To Improve Your ACT English Score." ThoughtCo. (accessed June 1, 2023).