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The ACT English section contains 75 multiple-choice questions relating to the mechanics and style of the English language. You will have 45 minutes to complete this section.
The test uses five prose passages of varying lengths and complexity to evaluate your understanding of mechanics and rhetoric. Mechanics consist of grammar, punctuation, diction and sentence structure — the more concrete “rules” of language. Rhetoric indicates elements of style, such as organization and tone.
Each passage is generally followed by 15 multiple-choice questions concerning some aspect of the passage’s mechanics or rhetoric. Many passages contain underlined sentences or phrases that you will be questioned about specifically. Other questions (usually those examining rhetoric) will address the passage as a whole.
Spelling is not tested on the ACT English test. Nor are specific rules of grammar, although it is useful if you know them. Likewise, vocabulary lies beyond the test’s scope, but it is to your advantage to have as wide a range as possible.
The practical application of English is tested. For example:
Your ability to analyze a passage in terms of style, tone, and structure is also important.
The ACT English section is scored much like the test as a whole. The questions you answered correctly (the ACT does not penalize incorrect answers) are added to determine your raw score. This is then converted to a scale score between 1 and 36, with 1 being poor and 36 being excellent.
The English test also receives two sub-scores, one for mechanics and another for rhetoric. These scores are between 1 and 18, with 1 being poor and 18 being excellent. They are offered more for your convenience, as indicators of strengths and weaknesses, than for consideration by college admission boards.
The national average score for the ACT English section is 20.6.