ACT English

Introduction to the ACT English Test

The ACT English test is the first section of the ACT. It is the longest in terms of questions out of the four tests, so it is important to come prepared, so that fatigue does not hurt your performance.

Although the ACT English test is the “easiest” of the four ACT tests and the least rushed, it is graded the most strictly, so make sure you do not make careless mistakes.

The ACT English Test Format: Structure and Timing


Below is a chart that provides an overview of the English test format, including how long the English test is, how many questions are on it, how it is organized, and how long you have for each question:

Overview of the English test format

Total Time Number of Questions Organization Time per Question
45 minutes 75 questions 5 passages –
All similar in difficulty and content
9 minutes per passage
36 seconds per question

Most students finish the ACT English test early. Although this can be helpful mentally to prepare for the ACT Math test, make sure you do not rush through the test, and make sure you spend time checking over questions you were unsure about.

Because the ACT English test is the “easiest” out of all four tests, it is graded the most strictly. Therefore, it is important to get every possible point correct on this test. It is worth the time and effort to take your time and make sure your answers are correct.

The ACT English Test Content: English Concepts Tested

The ACT English test covers a breadth of grammar and writing concepts. Although many times what “sounds right” is the correct answer, there are certain grammar rules that do not “sound right” that you need to know. Below is a chart that provides a list of all the concepts that might be covered by the English test. Make sure you study and know them for when you take the ACT test.

The Specific Content of the ACT English Test

Usage and Mechanics

Usage and Mechanics refers to specific grammar rules that will show up on the ACT English test. While many of these grammar rules might appear to simply “sound right,” it is important to be able to recognize tricky rules that might not actually “sound right.” Be especially careful with subject-verb agreement, pronouns, and modifiers.

Punctuation (13% – about 10 questions) Grammar and Usage (16% – about 12 questions) Sentence Structure (24% – about 18 questions)
Internal and end-of-sentence
punctuation: commas, semicolons, colons, dashes, apostrophes, etc.
  • Subject-Verb agreement
  • Pronoun-Antecedent agreement
  • Correct use of modifiers
  • Forming verbs
  • Correct pronoun case
  • Forming comparative and superlative adjectives and adverbs
  • Idiomatic usage
  • Relationships between and among clauses
  • Placement of modifiers
  • Shifts in construction

  • Rhetorical Skills

    Rhetorical Skills refers to effective writing. On the ACT English test, you will need to be able to choose the best way of communicating a particular idea. The ACT loves to test topics such as wordiness, logical transitions, and the effect of changing a part of a passage.

    Strategy (16% – about 12 questions) Organization (15% – about 11 questions) Style (16% – about 12 questions)
  • Organizing ideas
  • Choosing effective opening, transitional, and closing sentences
  • Choosing expressions appropriate to an essay’s audience and purpose
  • Judging the effectiveness of adding, revising, or deleting supporting material
  • Judging the relevance of statements in context
  • Selecting precise and appropriate words and images
  • Maintain the level of style and tone in an essay
  • Manage sentence elements for rhetorical effectiveness
  • Avoid ambiguous pronoun references
  • Avoid wordiness and redundancy
  • To learn or review a variety of grammar rules for the ACT English test, visit grammarbook.com. Knowing these rules will definitely help you for the ACT.

    Next Step

    The next step to preparing for the ACT English test is to learn the strategies for taking the English test. Learn more about the best ACT English test strategies at the ACT English Tips: Strategies for the ACT English Test page.