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More Keys to Unlock the Mystery of the English Test


Addressing questions about underlined portions of a passage:

Be sure to understand the passage context of the questions asked. Always read several sentences above and below the sentence containing an underlined portion. Evaluate how the underlined section fits in with the surrounding sentences and the passage as a whole. Reread the sentence, and surrounding sentences, using the answer choice you selected to make sure that it is the best answer within the context of the passage.

Some questions ask you to make a determination on a specific element of writing, such as tone or emphasis that the text should convey.  In other words, ask yourself if the underlined portion is written correctly as given or would one of the 3 alternative answers given work better in the passage? Some questions ask you to choose an alternative to the underlined portion that is NOT acceptable.  Pay close attention to what the question is asking. Remember – answer choices will contain changes in 1 or more of the elements of writing.

Pay close attention when you are asked to choose the best alternative to an underlined portion of a passage.  Decide how the underlined portion may best be phrased in standard written English or in terms of the particular question posed.  If the underlined portion is the best answer, choose “no change.”


Keep in mind that “no change” is the correct answer only about 25-30% of the time. Always double check all the other answers before choosing this option.

Use the Process of Elimination to Weed Out Bogus Answer Choices

One of the greatest things about multiple choice questions is that the correct answer is given right there on the page in front of you. Of course, there are several wrong answers masquerading as the correct answer as well. Remember, there are 3 or 4 times as many wrong answers on the test as there are right answers

a. Watch out for answers with the right words (terms and ideas used in the problem or passage), but when you look at the answers in context with the problem or passage, they do not actually mean the same thing the problem or passage is addressing, so it isn’t an exact match.

b. Sometimes, the ACT gives the right answer to the wrong question. This is tricky! Yes, the answer is correct, but it doesn’t answer the specific question that was asked. If it doesn’t answer the specific question that was asked, then it is wrong.

c. Find the throw away answers. I call these “the bunny did it!” answers. These are crazy answers that may be related to the topic of a passage, but the information doesn’t actually appear anywhere in the passage. It’s a throw away and it doesn’t get to stay.

d. If you have to guess from the remaining answers after you have eliminated some of the choices, go for it! At least you raised your chances of getting it right by eliminating wrong answers.