The ACT English Section

So what is on the ACT English? The ACT provides great information on what is on their test; that information is often hard to understand. I’ve broken it down for you here!

Usage/Mechanics – Half of the ACT English Test

  • Punctuation (13%).  Primarily you need to know commas.  Also, review usage of semicolons, colons, and dashes.  It is critical that you don’t just know simple punctuation rules but that you also know how proper punctuation affects the meaning of sentences.
  • Grammar and Usage (16%).  Look at subject verb agreement – words that need to agree with one another will often be separated, so you’ll really have to pay close attention to context.  Watch out for vague pronouns, idioms, and proper adjective and adverb usage.  Basically, make sure that the intended meaning matches up with the actual meaning.
  • Sentence Structure (24%).  You have to be more than a proofreader – you need to be an editor.  Be certain that individual words and longer clauses are placed in a logical order.

Rhetorical Skills – The Other Half of the ACT English Test

  • Strategy (16%). You will need to examine the intent of the author, and pick answers that do what the author actually intended to do.  You will also need to see if phrases and sentences are relevant, or if they can be removed.
  • Organization (15%).  You need to know where sentences and phrases should be placed – rearrange things until they make sense.  Also, you need to connect paragraphs, sentences and phrases with logical transitional words, like “but”, “also”, or “because”, as demanded by the situation.  You’ll  need to be able to see what a sensible introduction or a conclusion would be based on the context.
  • Style (16%). This is big picture stuff. How do you make an individual sentence have the same tone as the rest of an essay?  Depending on what the goal of the author is, how do you pick the best wording to express what is wanted?  How can you be clear with pronouns?  How can you prevent needless repetition and wordiness?

Check out our full length practice test and see how you do!

What to expect on the ACT: Timing

 

If you’re taking the ACT, you’re in for a long morning.  You should arrive at the test center before 8 AM in order to find your room and check in.  You will then have a roughly 4 hour test in front of you.

The ACT is broken up into four sections with an optional fifth section:  English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing.  To remember the order in which the test sections fall, simply remember that they go in alphabetical order!  

Here is the breakdown for timing of the test, and how you should pace yourself on the ACT:

English Test – 45 minutes, 75 questions, 5 passages.  You should take about 9 minutes per passage.

Math Test – 60 minutes, 60 questions.  Questions increase in difficulty so start out quickly and then slow down about half way through.

You then have a 10 minute break when you should have a snack!  Bring it yourself. 

Reading Tests – 35 minutes, 40 questions, 4 passages.  Take about 9 minutes per passage.

Science Test – 35 minutes, 40 questions, 6-7 passages.  Take about 5 minutes per passage.

If you are sticking around for the writing, you have a 5 minute break.  If you are not doing the ACT Writing, you can go home at this time. 

Optional ACT Essay – 40 minutes.  Spend about 5 minutes prewriting, and 30 minutes writing and 5 minutes editing.  They typically give you 4-5 pages on which to write.

 

As the tests go on, they become more difficult for most students to finish.  English is very easy to complete, and Science is quite tough.  Practice ahead of time so that you have a good internal feel for the pace at which you should go.  Also, by practicing, you will have a good idea of whether it makes sense to skip and guess on some questions.  Remember, there is no penalty for guessing on the ACT, so if you don’t complete all the questions, be sure to at least bubble something in for each question.

I hope you found this article helpful!  If you did, please share it with your friends.  Thanks, Brian Stewart

Schools that Superscore the ACT Test

Superscoring the ACT is when you take the best subscores from multiple test dates (i.e the best English, best Math, best Reading and best Science) and take a NEW average for the composite score.  Here is a list of many of the colleges and universities that superscore the ACT.  As always, double-check with the college directly to be certain as to their ACT scoring policy.

College/University Name If BLANK, they superscore the ACT. If they do something different, the policy is clarified.
Albion College
Amherst College
Babson College
Baylor University
Bates If a student chooses to submit ACT scores, we look at the highest composite score and  highest scores in each subsection.
Beloit College
Boston College
Boston University The Board does not superscore the ACT; however, if you send in scores from multiple test dates, the Board of Admissions will consider the scores from each of the subcategories, noting the highest scores achieved for each.  For this reason, we encourage applicants to submit scores from all ACT test dates as well.
Bowdoin College Applicants also have the option to select some test types and not others for review (for example, a student might choose to include SAT Subject Test scores but not an SAT score). These choices are communicated via the Bowdoin Supplement.

Bowdoin will not review selected sections of an SAT or an ACT score (for example, just the Science portion of the ACT). If an applicant chooses to include scores for a specific test type, Bowdoin will review the complete score for that test type.

Brandeis University
Butler University
California Institute of Technology When we review your application we have all of your test scores available to us. We will look at all of your scores, paying particular attention to the general pattern of scores and emphasizing the highest score for each individual exam.
California State University System Does not include the University of California, but the other schools in the system.
Colby College
College of Charleston We do not superscore the ACT for scholarship purposes.  However, we do want all ACT scores to be sent to us so that if superscoring would help the student in the admissions process, we can determine that.
Colorado College Yes, we do superscore the ACT and/or SAT (both by subject and overall score).

Regarding our testing policy, we require that applicants submit either the SAT Reasoning Test or ACT test, or elect a third option (the Flexible Testing option) including three exams of the applicant’s choice chosen from a list of acceptable exams:

 

Three Flexible Testing Options

  1. The College Board SAT Reasoning Test

or

  1. The American College Testing (ACT) Assessment Test

or

  1. Three exams of your choice, which must include at leastone quantitative test from Category A, at leastone verbal or writing test in Category B, and a third test of the student’s choice among those tests listed in Category C.

 

Connecticut College
Denison University
DePauw University
Dickinson College For the ACT, the composite score is given the most weight.
Drexel University
Duke University For students who choose to submit the ACT with writing, Duke will consider the highest composite score and highest subscores on each section, regardless of test date, but will not recalculate the composite score. Students who take the ACT are not required to submit SAT or SAT Subject Test scores.
Duquesne University
Eckerd College
Elon University
Florida Atlantic University
Florida State University
Georgia Tech We use all three portions of the SAT and/or the three equivalent parts of the ACT, as outlined below. We do not use the ACT Composite score nor the Science or Reading score.

  • SAT Critical Reading = ACT English
  • SAT Math = ACT Math
  • SAT Writing = ACT Combined English/Writing

Only your highest section scores from either test will be viewed in the evaluation process. Additionally, your highest combination of scores may come from tests taken on different dates. For example, your high test scores may include SAT Critical Reading from March, ACT Math from October and ACT Combined English/Writing from December. Each time you submit new scores to us, we will update your record with your highest scores.

Gettysburg College
Hamilton College Our applicants are best served by being provided with a variety of ways to meet our standardized test requirement.  They include:

  • The SAT Reasoning Test; OR
  • The American College Testing assessment test (ACT); OR
  • Three exams of your choice, which must include a quantitative test, a verbal or writing test, and a third test of student’s choice.  The following tests satisfy Hamilton’s quantitative and verbal/writing requirements:

Acceptable Quantitative Tests:  SAT Math; SAT Subject Tests in Math, Chemistry, or Physics; AP Computer Science, Chemistry, Economics, Math, or Physics; IB final exam results for Chemistry, Computing Studies, Economics, Math, Physics, or Physical and Chemical Systems

Acceptable Verbal/Writing Tests: SAT Critical Reading; SAT Writing; ACT Writing; AP English Language and Composition; IB final exam results for Language (A1, A2, or B English); TOEFL or IELTS (for International students ONLY)

Note:  It is Hamilton’s policy to select the testing options that will serve you best.  We strongly encourage you to submit all of your testing to Hamilton and we will choose the best scores for you.

 

Harvey Mudd College
Haverford College
Hawaii Pacific University
Hendrix College
Hollins University
Indiana University Bloomington
Ithaca College
Kalamazoo College
Kenyon College
Kettering University
Lafayette College
Lawrence University
Loyola University in Maryland
Middlebury College
MIT They do superscore the ACT. All applicants must complete one test from each category:

 

  1. SAT or ACT with writing or TOEFL
  2. Math Level 1 or Math Level 2
  3. Science SAT II Subject Test: Biology, Chemistry or Physics

 

Millsaps College
NCAA Clearinghouse
New York University We do not super-score the ACT, but we will see the individual subscores in addition to the overall composite. We can also see test scores from multiple test dates, so while your highest composite is ultimately what we will use to evaluate you, we can see whatever you send us.
Northeastern University
North Carolina State University
Pepperdine University
Pomona College Consistent with the ACT standards for acceptable use of ACT test scores, the admissions office will record the test date reflecting the highest composite score. We will consider all sittings and having all test scores from all dates permits the admissions deans further consideration of peak or higher sub-scores from other test dates as skill sets and performance are evaluated in our review process. Please be aware that Pomona requires a full testing history, so if you have taken any components of the SAT and the ACT, you are required to submit the results from all test dates.
Purdue University If you submit multiple ACT tests that you have taken, we always take the highest score from each of the sections and we take the highest composite.
Regis University
Rhode Island School of Design They do superscore although they do not refer to it as such.
Rice University Rice does not superscore the ACT. We only record the composite score. That being said, we do ask applicants to send all of their ACT test results. The reason for this is that we consider subscores in our admission committee discussions. If a student has received high subscores on any of the ACT tests they have taken, we will discuss those higher scores in our discussions. It is to the applicant’s advantage to submit all ACT test results.
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology
Scripps College We take the best overall composite score as the student’s “official” score and review all the subscores.
St. John’s University
Stanford University For the ACT, we will focus on the highest Composite and the highest Combined English/Writing scores from all test sittings. We will also consider individual subscores.
Swarthmore College
Syracuse University
Trinity College
Trinity University
Tufts University
United States Naval Academy
University of Arkansas For admission purposes we do superscore. (Check with Arkansas with respect to scholarships).
University of Chicago
University of Colorado – Boulder
University of Connecticut We encourage students to take the SAT and/or ACT more than once. We will accept the highest scores from your combined test dates.
University of Dayton
University of Delaware
University of Denver
University of Georgia
University of Illinois We do what I like to call sub-super scoring where we take the highest overall composite and each highest individual scores even if it was on a lower composite exam. We will always use this to the students advantage. This is why we ask all scores to be sent to our office.
University of Louisiana – Lafayette We only take the highest subscore from each test to determine your eligibility.
University of Maryland
University of Mary Washington We do not superscore the ACT, however we will see all of your scores.
University of Massachusetts, Amherst
University of North Carolina
University of North Texas For admissions requirements, we do superscore. Now for scholarship requirements we do not.
University of Pittsburgh
University of Puget Sound We consider the Composite, English, and Math sections of the ACT, and we do Superscore.
University of Rochester
University of South Florida
University of Tampa
University of Tennessee
University of Vermont
Valparaiso University
Vassar College 
Virginia Commonwealth Unviersity
Virginia Tech
Wake Forest University Wake Forest will only consider the highest score in each category, regardless of when it was achieved.
Washington University – St. Louis
Wellesley College Does not superscore but recommends that students submit all scores so that they may see best subscores.
Wesleyan University
Wheaton College
Williams College
Xavier University

 

 

New Concordance Tables for SAT and ACT Score Conversion

The College Board has just released updated concordance tables so that students can compare scores from the ACT to the SAT.  Students can also use the tables to compare scores from the old SAT to the new SAT.  Here is a link to the new tables:

https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/pdf/higher-ed-brief-sat-concordance.pdf

The college board has also created an app for smart phones that converts scores among these different tests.

Use these resources to compare your scores to determine whether the ACT or SAT is a better fit.

Guest Blog Post

How To Squeeze The Most Value Out Of An ACT Practice Test

As a tutor, I have many students who take lots of ACT practice tests before they take the real ACT. That, of course, is a good thing. The more experience a student has with official ACT practice tests, the more familiar many of the questions will look on the real test.

However, I don’t think most students are really getting all the value that they can from each practice test. Typically, after taking a test, a student will correct it and try to understand the questions that he missed or had trouble with. In addition to this, though, it’s important that serious students go a little further.

The main principle is this: a student should be able to explain a question to another person. This goes a step beyond being able to get a question right. In fact, many of my students get questions right but still don’t really understand what the question is testing, or how to defend their answer to it.

In light of this, I have some specific advice for each section of the ACT:

English: Students should be going through EVERY question and identifying what concept the question is testing. Certain questions will test grammar or punctuation; others will test rhetorical skills. Additionally, students should look at the wrong answers for a question to see WHY they’re wrong. I know that this process takes a long time, but it will pay off very well on future English sections.

When students come across concepts with which they’re unfamiliar or concepts they’re consistently having trouble with, they should practice the concept several times in a row.

Math: Students should revisit questions to identify the most EFFICIENT way of doing the question. Sometimes, students will find a way of completing an ACT math question, but often, there is a faster or easier way of doing it. Students should be redoing any questions they miss until they can answer them easily.

Like the English section, conceptual knowledge is key for the Math section. When students find concepts they’re having trouble with, these concepts should be practiced until they’re easier.

Reading: In the Reading section, it is all about students being able to JUSTIFY their answers. It’s important to be able to precisely identify WHY the right answer choice is right, and which part of the passage supports it. Similarly, students should think about why answer choices are wrong. Additionally, students need to think about what skill is required for the question: understanding a paragraph? locating a detail?

Science: Like the Reading section, students should spend time thinking about the path to the answer. They should retrace their steps, thinking about what each question is testing their ability to do, and what the best path is to the answer. Sometimes, it can be better to work backwards from the choices; other times, reading the passage is essential. By analyzing questions in this way, students will better be able to handle new questions when they encounter them.

Overall, students should generally spend at least as much time reviewing a section as they spend taking one. Students with the discipline and patience to do this will improve at the ACT much more quickly and efficiently.

Vince Kotchian

vincekotchian.com