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ACT English - An overview of the ACT English section

The ACT English test consists of 75 questions that must be answered within the 45-minute time limit. There are two types of ACT English questions: Usage/Mechanics questions and Rhetorical Skills questions. Below you can find more detailed information about the content and skills these questions test, as well as sample ACT English questions and answer explanations.

ACT English Test Question Types

Usage/Mechanics Questions (Total of 40 questions)

Skills/Content Tested


# of Questions


commas, apostrophes, colons, semicolons, dashes, periods, question marks, and exclamation points


Grammar & Usage

subject-verb agreement, pronoun agreement, pronoun forms and cases, adjectives, adverbs, verb forms, comparative and superlative modifiers, and idioms


Sentence Structure

subordinate or dependent clauses, run-on or fused sentences, comma splices, sentence fragments, misplaced modifiers, shifts in verb tense or voice, and shifts in pronoun person or number


Rhetorical Skills Questions (Total of 35 questions)

Skills/Content Tested


# of Questions


adding, revising, or deleting sentences; how a sentence fits with the purpose, audience, and focus of a paragraph or the essay as a whole



opening, transitional, and closing phrases or statements; order and focus of sentences or paragraphs



writing style, tone, clarity, and effectiveness; eliminating ambiguity, wordiness, and redundant material; clarifying vague or awkward material


Sample ACT English Test Questions

To give you a better feel for the format and content of the ACT English test, let’s take a look at a few sample ACT English questions.

Usage/Mechanics Question

Determine which answer choice is the best version of the underlined portion of the sentence.  If the original is the best version, select “NO CHANGE.”

Fitzgerald attended St. Paul Academy his first published story ran in his school newspaper.

B. St. Paul Academy; his first
C. St. Paul Academy, his first
D. St. Paul Academy, but his first

Answer: This question tests a student's knowledge of run-on sentences and punctuation rules. The original sentence fuses two independent clauses without proper punctuation. Because there is an error in the original version of the underlined portion of the sentence, we can eliminate choice A. Choice C creates a new error: a comma splice. Two independent clauses cannot be connected by just a comma. Though choice D corrects the run-on sentence error, the addition of the conjunction "but," which implies a contrast, does not fit within the context of the sentence. Choice B, which connects the two independent clauses with a semi-colon, correctly fixes the run-on sentence error without creating new errors. Thus, choice B is the correct answer.

Rhetorical Skills Question

Though many high-ranking government and military officials anticipated the possibility of war with Japan, the attack on Pearl Harbor came as a shock to the general population of Oahu, Hawaii. On the morning of December 7th, two Army operators at a radar station picked up the signal of Japanese fighter plans approaching Pearl Harbor. Finally, a low-ranking officer dismissed their report, assuming that the signal must have come from American planes off the west coast of the United States.

Which of the following, if inserted to replace the underlined portion ("Finally,"), would provide the most effective transition between the previous sentence ("On the morning of…") and this one ("Finally, a low-ranking officer…")?

B. And,
C. However,
D. But,

Answer: When we consider the possible answer choices and the paragraph as a whole, we see that choices A, B, and D do not create an effective transition between the two sentences. We need a transitional word that shows that though there were warning signs of the Pearl Harbor attack, those warnings were not heeded, which is one of the reasons why the attack was such a shock to the general population. Choice C ("However,") would provide the most effective transition. Therefore, choice C is the correct answer.

For additional ACT English test sample questions, visit the ACT website.

Related Topics

  • For information about the ACT Writing section, visit our ACT Writing page.

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