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Keys to Unlock the Mystery of the English Test - Key 1


In this lesson, we will look at strategies and techniques that can be used to work through the English test.  The first step is to pick up as many easy points as possible.


This test evaluates the student’s use of grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and rhetorical skills.  In other words, this is a test of how well the student communicates with standard written English.


The English test is basically an assessment of your ability to proofread and edit examples of Standard Written English. Keep in mind that redundant and wordy answers will be wrong, even if they are grammatically correct.  The ACT wants clear, concise writing.


The first step when approaching a page of the English test is to read the entire paragraph before answering any questions. This is important because it will give you context that is often needed to eliminate some of the incorrect answer choices.


Consider the writing style used in each passage. Correct answers will not change the writing style.


Work through the English test 1 page at a time. Identify the degree of difficulty for questions on the page in front of you.  Questions the are easy for you and will be quick to answer. Answer them first. Then address questions that are doable, but may take a little longer.  Go ahead and use your “Lucky Letter” on any questions that are difficult for you.  Do NOT get bogged down answering them and lose time.  Circle correct answers in your test book and cross through incorrect answers in the book.  Work through the entire page and THEN bubble in answers on the answer sheet. This will save time and improve accuracy.  Do not wait until the end of the test to bubble in answers as you could run out of time and not receive the credit due to you for all your work.  Do NOT go back and change your answer. Overthinking generally results in an incorrect answer and costs you valuable time. When you get down to the last 5 minutes of testing time, you should bubble answers as you go and at the 2 minute mark bubble in every remaining blank with your “Lucky Letter.”  We will talk more about that.


Beware of questions with no underlined portions.  These questions refer to passage sections or the passage as a whole.  They are usually identified by a question number in a box [x] at a point in the passage. Questions about the entire passage are placed at the end of the passage. Decide which choice is most appropriate in terms of the questions posed or the stated situation.  Pay special attention to ensure that the answer you choose is actually answering the question that was asked.


Never – EVER – EVER leave an answer blank on the ACT.  You will decide before taking the ACT which 1 letter you will use when you either don’t know an answer or need to fill in empty blanks.  This is your “Lucky Letter.” No, it’s not really lucky.  But by using the same letter every time, you will benefit from the law of probabilities and get a boost in your score.  You cannot be more wrong than you would be by leaving an answer blank.  So fill it in with your Lucky Letter.  Choose to use the letter in the same position of the answer column.  If you are choosing the first answer option, then use A or F, as appropriate.  If you are choosing the second answer option, then use B or G, as appropriate.  And so on….


Always look through the answer choices to see what options can be eliminated. Use the process of elimination to identify incorrect answers and eliminate them. Remember, there are 3 – 4X more wrong answers than correct answers.  Eliminate anything that could not possibly answer the question.  We will discuss strategies for eliminating answers more in the next lesson.


Be sure to continue your list of subject matter content that you need to review.  Keep up your list in your journal.  This list will direct your subject content study time. is a good resource for reviewing high school English content. Make sure to schedule time to go back and review topics that you need to work on.