ACT® Prep

With Shmoop's ACT prep, your pencils may be #2, but you'll be #1.

Get Our Online ACT Test Prep

Get Started >

Want to learn a bit more about ACT english?

ACT English >


ACT English Strategies

ACT English Strategies and Tactics: ACT Test Prep Tips

1. Get used to doing some (educated) guessing.

All the mathematical reasoning behind process of elimination and educated guessing boils down to one thing: if you can cross off even one answer from your choices, go ahead and guess.

In fact, the odds of guessing correctly on the ACT English Test are even better. Since you're only facing four choices, not five, each answer you can eliminate brings you that much closer to the possibility of landing on the right one.

Eliminate one answer? You've got a 33 percent chance. Two? It's 50-50. If you can get rid of three answer choices...well, that means you're good to go.

We know that it might still be hard to guess on something as important as a standardized test, but the ACT takes some of the pain away. Because—say it with us now—there's no penalty for a wrong answer. There's absolutely no difference between leaving an answer blank and choosing the wrong answer.

Of course, we're going to help make sure it never comes to that, but isn't it nice to know it's an option?

2. Read carefully.

ACT English passages might be fairly straightforward, but answering questions can be tricky—even if they look easy. In fact, obvious answers should be a warning sign. Like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park that only look like cute little lizards with flowers on their heads, multiple-choice questions can get dangerous in a hurry.

Avoid the scary little poison-spitters and read for both meaning and context. Since most of the questions consist of underlined words or phrases, always refer to the passage and make sure that you can identify the sentence and what it is about, even if you have to read a couple of extra sentences. In the same way, always glance over the entire paragraph or essay when the question asks you to—it might take what seems like a valuable minute or two, but we promise that it'll be worth it.

3. Remember the rules of grammar and writing.

When dealing with grammar, it's especially tempting to go with whichever answer "sounds" right. Unfortunately, the wild and wonderful world of grammar doesn't always match up to what you hear spoken every day. Even if a sentence like "I could of danced all night" sounds like something you'd say, remember that "could of" should be "could have" or "could've" in formal English.

Slow yourself down there, partner, and remember to use what you've learned and practiced in review.

4. Go with your gut.

It's important to know grammar rules inside and out, but don't let them get in the way of kicking butt at ACT English. Apply your skills to the questions, but don't second-guess yourself once you have your answer. Remember, you already have the tools you need to beat this test.

With that, let's get started!

Free excerpts from Shmoop's online ACT subject material:

* ACT is a federally registered trademark of ACT, Inc. Shmoop University is not affiliated with or endorsed by ACT, Inc.