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ACT English Test: An Overview

Updated on 03 January, 2023
Mrinal Mandal

Mrinal Mandal

Study Abroad Expert

American College Testing (ACT) is a not-for-profit body that conducts standardized tests for students worldwide. This test is mandatory for students seeking admission to various undergraduate-level courses in the USA. 

ACT is accepted by all four-year institutes in the US, as well as over 200 universities all over the world. The test comprises four sections – English, Reading, Mathematics, and Science. Additionally, candidates can also choose to appear for a direct writing test.

The ACT English test comprises multiple essays with multiple-choice questions asked after each passage. Applicants have 45 minutes to answer 75 questions in this section. The primary aim of the ACT English test is to examine the students' writing and language skills. 

Syllabus

The ACT English test assesses candidates across three skills, each dedicated to assessing the different skills of the candidates. The skills and their weightage in the paper are as follows.

  • Production of Writing – 29 to 32%
  • Knowledge of Language – 13 – 19%
  • Conventions of standard English – 51 – 56%

Starting with section 1, the production of writing tests the ability of candidates to understand the goal behind a written piece. This section expects the candidate to detect if the text has conveyed its message and check whether the flow of the passage lines up with its intended focus.

In the next section of the ACT English test, the examination committee develops questions that check candidates' ability to present their ideas clearly and concisely. This section also inspects the use of consistent style and tone.

Section 3 has the most weightage and checks for basic grammatical knowledge and its application. Applicants can encounter questions about punctuation, sentence structure and formation, and English usage.

Question Types

The questions are usually in the form of underlined portions to assess the candidate's language knowledge. Each type of question will have a different passage dedicated to it. Here is a list of all question types and examples to understand them better.

  • Choose the alternatives for the underlined parts: In these questions, candidates are provided a passage, along with certain underlined parts. 

The questions are MCQs with four different options. In some passages, applicants may encounter an option called 'NO CHANGE,' which is to be chosen if none of the alternatives seem correct.

Here is an ACT English test sample question to understand it better.

 Passage excerpt: 

As a ten-year-old, I was supremely unenthusiastic

about swinging a hoe in the garden when I could be out

playing with my friends. Having tried and failed [4], 

my father was unable to make a gardener of me.

 Related question:

Choose the best answer.

Q) Which of the choices best emphasizes how much the father wanted his son to share his avid interest in gardening?

  1. NO CHANGE
  2. Because of my indifference to his hobby,
  3. Contrary to this thinking,
  4. Despite his repeated attempts,

Answer:

Option 4, despite his repeated attempts.

  •  Direct questions: The ACT English test can also pose questions that check how well candidates have read the passages. For example, consider the following ACT English test sample.

 Sample 1:

Surrounded by the ancient city of

Rome, Vatican City is an independent nation on the west bank of the Tiber River. This tiny country—about one-sixth of a square mile in all—is also home to a disproportionately large number of sites with great historical, artistic, and which have religious significance.

The Vatican Museums house a great many valuable paintings, sculptures, pieces of jewelry, and tapestries, as well as the world’s most extensive collections of ancient manuscripts. Scholars often probe the museums’ archives of early written works for insights into lives led long ago.

Q) Given that all of the choices are true, which one best supports the claim about Vatican City's status as an independent nation?

  1. NO CHANGE
  2. with an interesting past.
  3. with its own government, banking system, postal service, and army.
  4. that has to import most of its supplies, even such necessities as food and water.

 Answer:

 Option 3, with its own government, banking system, postal service and army.

Scoring

The scores of different sections of the ACT English test are converted into composite scores. The composite scores range from 1 to 36 and display the candidate's performance in the overall test. Fortunately, there is no negative marking.

Here is a more detailed scoring process:

  • Count the correct questions on the ACT English test. For a candidate with 60 correct answers, the raw score is 60.
  • This raw score is then converted to a scale score for the subject.
  • The examination committee uses scale scores to determine the composite score, an average of all four subjects.

Tips for the ACT English Test

Among the four subjects in the standardized examination, the ACT English test carries the most weightage, comprising 75 questions. Preparing well for this section can help a candidate's application to a prestigious university.

Here are some ACT English test tips to improve preparation.

  • The examination checks for the clarity and conciseness of ideas. Ensure a consistent approach to the answers and stick to a particular writing style to express ideas.
  • Refresh basic grammar concepts like subject-work agreement, punctuations, conjunctions, comparisons, and other concepts required for the ACT English test.
  • Cross-check answers to spot potential errors. Sometimes, candidates may brush over common mistakes and lose valuable points. Spend extra time after completing the paper to focus on rechecking the answers.
  • Don't be lured into thinking that the 'NO CHANGE' option is merely for confusion. Candidates should trust their judgment and choose the option if all alternative options do not match the underlined text.
  • Take classes and help from experienced teachers to understand the requirements and expectations of the examination committee and receive a better score.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q. What is the ACT English test?

The ACT consists of four sections, with English having the most weightage with 75 questions. The ACT English test aims to check a candidate’s understanding of the language and their ability to present ideas clearly and concisely.

Q. Is ACT English the same as SAT Writing?

The only difference is that the ACT English test consists of 75 questions with a time of 45 minutes. On the other hand, the SAT writing test comprises only 44 questions to be answered in 35 minutes.

Q. Is the ACT English test hard?

Although the ACT English test examines the core language concepts, it can be tricky due to due to the indirect manner in which the questions are framed. However, once candidates are familiar with the kinds of questions and the expectations from the test, it could provide a significant scoring opportunity.

Q. How can I get a 30 on the ACT English test?

To get a composite score of 30 on the ACT English test, candidates must correctly answer over sixty out of seventy-five questions without skipping any question. Only then can the raw marks from the right answers translate into a composite score of around 30.


 

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