ACT English Tips & Strategies: Crack ACT English In 2023

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MathTowne ACT Prep - ACT English section

What is the ACT English Section?

The ACT English section is always the first of the four on the ACT, so be ready! Remember the following while going through the ACT English practice tests, test prep, or even on the test day:

Timing and Format

The ACT English section consists of 75 multiple-choice questions to be completed within 45 minutes.

There are 5 passages with 15 questions for each.

You have 36 seconds on average to spend on each question.

You must select the best answer choice that corrects the error or improves the passage as a whole.


The English section aims to assess your proficiency in standard written English and your ability to understand and analyze written texts. You will be tested on:

  • Grammar and Usage
  • Punctuation
  • Sentence Structure
  • Rhetorical Skills
  • Transition Words
  • Vocabulary

You will assume the role of a writer who decides how to revise and edit a given text.

The texts are in various genres and selected to evaluate your writing and language skills.

ACT English: Types of QUestions

Before we dive into the ACT English tips, here’s an overview of the types of questions covered in the ACT English section:

Usage and Mechanics

Tests your understanding of grammatical rules, punctuation, and usage.

Examples include:

  • Identifying errors in subject-verb agreement
  • Recognizing misplaced modifiers
  • Selecting the correct word to complete a sentence
  • Using context clues to understand placement of specific punctuation marks

Sentence Structure

Tests your ability to recognize and correct errors in sentence structure (e.g. run-on sentences, fragments, and parallel structure).

Focus on sentence variety, such as using different sentence types (simple, compound, complex) and varying sentence length.

Rhetorical Skills

Tests your ability to analyze and interpret written texts.

Examples include:

  • Identifying the author’s tone, purpose, and audience
  • Understanding how the author uses language to convey meaning
  • Recognizing the effectiveness of an argument.


Tests your ability to correct errors in paragraph and passage structure, including transitions and coherence.

Examples include:

  • Identifying the best placement of a sentence or paragraph
  • Ensuring that ideas flow logically and coherently
  • Identifying the best transition words (however, therefore, etc.) to use between sentences or paragraphs.


Tests your ability to apply appropriate language and writing styles (e.g. formal or informal language and concise or elaborate writing).

Examples include:

  • Selecting the best wording for a sentence or passage
  • Identifying the most effective use of language for a particular audience or purpose

Knowledge of Language

You won’t be asked about the meaning of specific vocabulary words.

However, it’s helpful to review common ACT vocabulary words and study their meanings, synonyms, and antonyms.

What is the best approach to the ACT English Section?

You may be wondering how to improve your ACT English score. Try these ACT tips for English and see how you improve!

Strategy #1

Don’t Skim – Read The Text Carefully

Lightbulb of understanding when considering ACT tips for English

Read an entire paragraph first before answering the questions embedded in that paragraph.

To save time, don’t read the entire passage first unless you have trouble getting a sense of the main idea or tone of the text.

Before revising a phrase, read the entire sentence first to see if the underlined portion needs to be changed to fit in the context. Make sure to pay attention to specific details in the passage that relates to the question.

However, it’s important to manage your time effectively. Each question should take roughly 36 seconds to answer, so be sure to pace yourself accordingly and avoid getting bogged down on any one question.

Strategy #2

Avoid answers that are too formal or too casual

Avoid answer choices that are overly wordy, use overly complex sentence structures, or contain vocabulary that may be confusing to the reader. These types of answers may sound stilted or artificial, which can make the writing seem forced or unnatural.

On the other hand, answer choices that are too casual may be too informal or conversational in tone, using slang or colloquial language that may not be appropriate in a formal writing context. These types of answers may also lack the necessary precision and clarity required in academic writing.

Read the passage or sentence carefully and consider the intended audience and purpose of the writing. Look for clues in the tone and style of the passage that can help guide your choice of answer and select an option that is consistent with the overall tone and style of the writing.

Concise answer choices are often better, provided there are no grammatical mistakes nor drastic changes to the meaning.

Strategy #3

Eliminating ANswer Choices

Cartoon figure reads text carefully with magnifying glass

Eliminate answer choices that are obviously incorrect or redundant to narrow down the pool of potential answers and increase your chances of selecting the correct one.

Identical answers: If two or more choices are nearly identical, it is unlikely that they are all correct. Eliminate them and focus your attention on the remaining options.

Incorrect answers: Eliminate based on grammar, punctuation, or logic errors. For example, if an answer choice contains a subject-verb agreement error or a misplaced modifier, it is incorrect and can be eliminated.

Logical inconsistencies: Consider whether the answer choice makes sense within the context of the passage and question. If it contradicts a statement in the passage or doesn’t logically follow from the context, it is likely incorrect and can be eliminated.

However, be careful – sometimes incorrect choices can be made to look attractive by adding small changes in wording or phrasing. Read each answer choice carefully and consider the context of the question and passage.

Strategy #4

ACT Time Management Tips

Pace yourself: Aim to spend no more than a minute on each question.

Prioritize: Don’t get stuck on any one question. If you’re unsure of an answer, skip it and move on to the next one. Focus on answering the easier questions first, then come back to the harder ones if you have time.

Don’t change answers unnecessarily: It’s easy to second-guess yourself, but don’t change an answer unless you have a good reason to do so. Usually, your first instinct is the correct one.

Stay focused: Keep your focus on the test and avoid distractions. Don’t waste time on daydreaming or getting frustrated with difficult questions.

More ACT Tips For English

Know your grammar rules

Make sure you know the basic rules of punctuation, subject-verb agreement, pronoun usage, and so on. Review these rules before the test.

Read actively

When reading the passages, actively engage with the text by underlining key phrases, circling important words, and making notes in the margins. This can help you better understand the passage and answer questions more effectively.

Identify the main idea

Each passage has a main idea or purpose, so make sure you identify it before answering any questions. This can help you focus on the most important information and eliminate irrelevant answer choices.

Use context clues

If you’re unsure of an answer, use the context of the passage to help you make an educated guess. Pay attention to the words and phrases around the question and use them to infer the meaning.


There is no penalty for incorrect answers, so if you’re unsure of a question, eliminate as many answer choices as you can and take a guess.

Use logical reasoning

Some questions in the ACT English section require you to use logical reasoning to answer. Make sure you understand the relationships between different ideas in the passage and use this knowledge to make informed decisions.

How to Improve ACT Score?

Are you confident in your content knowledge, but are finding yourself hitting a wall with your ACT score? Are you doing well, but find yourself unable to break the 32-34 score range? If you want to raise your ACT score to the perfect 36, it is not impossible!

It should come as no surprise that scoring 36 on the ACT English is no easy feat. That is not to say it is out of your reach. With some extra help, MathTowne can definitely get you to perfection, or at the very least, very close to it. 

Schedule an ACT Lesson with an ACT English Tutor

Tutored students often outperform students who have only used reference books or studied on their own. Some experienced guidance may be all you need to push you over the edge. 

More often than not, it is not even a case of subject mastery, but understanding the test itself. Be sure to look into test-taking strategies or discuss them with your tutors to increase your performance.

Studying English tips will help students get a better ACT score on the ACT English section
Students and parents look for answers to frequently asked questions about ACT English portion

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between the ACT Reading and English section?

The ACT English section measures a student’s knowledge of English grammar, punctuation, usage, and sentence structure, while the Reading section measures a student’s ability to comprehend and analyze written passages.

Additionally, the passages on the ACT English section are generally shorter and less complex than those on the ACT Reading section, as the main purpose of the English section is to test grammar and language skills, whereas the Reading section requires students to comprehend and analyze longer and more complex passages.

How should students prepare for the ACT English test?

What is the average score on the ACT English section?

Want to learn more tips and strategies to improve your ACT English SCORE?

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