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Cracking the English Test

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1 Cracking the English Test

2 Details 75 questions to answer in 45 minutes
5 passages, which are presented differently from the Reading Test. Tests grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, rhetorical skills

3 Details – Questions Punctuation (13% – 9 or 10 questions – misleading stat) Grammar and usage (16% - 12 questions) Sentence structure (24% - 18 questions) Rhetorical strategy (16% - 12 questions) Rhetorical organization (15% - 11 or 12 questions) Rhetorical style (16% - 12 questions)

4 General Hints Answer the questions in order (different strategy from Reading Test) Leave the tougher rhetorical questions for the end. Skip troublesome questions until the end. A later question may help you with an earlier one. Use POE (Process of Elimination) to search the answer choices for clues to determine the error(s) being tested.

5 General Hints, cont’d HINT: Don’t assume that something is wrong if it’s underlined. NO CHANGE is correct a little less than 25% of the time. If you can’t find anything wrong with the underlined portion, it may be correct as written.

6 Sentence Structure Tests your knowledge of how sentences are put together correctly.
Fragment – e.g. Walking to the store. (Most of these are just dependent clauses.) Run-on – Two sentences fused together without punctuation (Need either a period, semi-colon, or comma + conjunction.) e.g. Aunt Sally swept up the shards of glass she was furious. How to fix? Comma Splice – Two sentences joined by a comma. e.g. Aunt Sally swept up the shards of glass, she was furious. How to fix? HINT: Sentence structure questions can be spotted by looking at the variations in the answer choices.

7 Sentence Structure – Modifier Problems
Misplaced Modifiers – Word, phrase, or clause that seems to modify the wrong word or phrase. e.g. Walking to the pawnshop, Bob’s watch dropped into the sewer. How to fix? Construction Shifts – Similar to above with awkward placement of modifier. e.g. Stepping to avoid the puddle, I carefully tripped and fell. How to fix?

8 Sentence Structure – Parallelism
Non-parallel construction (aka Parallelism) 1) Look for a series of words, phrases, or clauses. 2) Look for changes in verb tense. Verbs: e.g. Annie kissed him, hugged him, and gives him his favorite dinner. How to ix? Nouns: e.g. 1) Fans praised the quarterback’s speed, skill, and how agile he was. 2) Seeing the beauty of a sunset in Venice is to experience perfection. How to fix these?

9 Grammar and Usage If a pronoun is underlined, check for noun-pronoun agreement (everybody with he/she), pronoun-verb agreement (neither…is), and pronoun case (subject or object). If a verb is underlined, check for subject-verb agreement (neither…is), verb tense errors (past, present, future, etc mixed in a paragraph), and verb parallelism (past mixed with present in a series.)

10 Grammar and Usage – Pronoun Agreement
Pronoun Agreement: A pronoun must agree with its antecedent (the noun or pronoun it renames). Pronoun/Pronoun Agreement e.g. 1) Neither of the two young girls expressed their feelings. 2) Anyone going on the field trip needs to bring their lunch. 3) Everybody stayed late at the dance because they were enjoying themselves. How to fix these? HINTS: 1) If you see a pronoun underlined, check to see if it agrees with the noun to which it refers. 2) Words such as each, either, somebody, anyone, everyone, either, neither are singular.

11 Grammar and Usage – Pronoun Case
Pronoun Case: Decide whether the pronoun is used as a subject or object, e.g. 1) The students, whom had been studying the space program, were thrilled to witness the lunar landing. 2) Before the moon landing, the TV announcer gave some additional background on the astronauts, about who we were all quite interested. How to fix? HINTS: 1) Remember the he/who, him/whom rule. 2) Also note differences in punctuation in all questions in case you see two answers with the same pronouns.

12 Grammar and Usage Subject-Verb Agreement / Pronoun-Verb Agreement
Subject-Verb Agreement: Singular subject + singular verb and plural subject + plural verb. e.g. Emily Dickenson’s structure and verse has been analyzed and praised by many critics. How to fil? Pronoun-Verb Agreement: Same as above with S + S and Pl + Pl. e.g. 1) Neither of my parents have trouble using the metric system. 2) Everyone visiting Bob and Lynn notice how well their children behave. 3) Each of these moments have played in my mind again and again. How to fix?

13 Grammar and Usage Verb Tense Agreement / Verb Tense Construction
Verb Tense Agreement – Past, present, future, etc., e.g. Sam was walking down the street when he finds a large suitcase. How to fix? Verb Tense Construction: The verbs need to work with each other, e.g. Sam has ate all the cookies in the cookie jar. How to fix?

14 Grammar and Usage Adjectives and Adverbs
Adjectives and Adverbs: Be careful to use the correct type of modifier for what is being modified. e.g. 1) Sid behaves more polite than Tom. 2) Between Jenny and Jane, Jenny is the tallest. 3) He behaves intelligent. How to fix?

15 Grammar and Usage - Idioms
Idioms are expressions that require the use of a specific preposition. e.g. My sculpture is based after Rodin’s Thinker. How to fix? If you know the correct idiom, great. If not, just guess. Check answer choices.

16 Punctuation More than half of the punctuation questions concern commas. Punctuation errors are often found along with grammatical errors. Notice differences in answer choices. Other punctuation marks to consider on the test include semi-colons, colons, dashes, and apostrophes. ACT has avoided quotation marks in the past, but…who knows.

17 Punctuation – Clauses and Phrases
Commas Separating Clauses and Phrases: Two Independent Clauses: Mary wondered why there was a bird in the classroom and she decided to ask the teacher about it. How to fix? Independent Clause and Dependent Clause: e.g. Before Mary could reach the teacher she saw the woman offer the bird part of the bagel. How to fix? Independent Clause and Phrase: e.g. Hungry and excited the bird snapped up the bagel. HINT: If some of the answer choices insert a comma and others don’t, that is reason enough to check whether the sentence has two clauses or a clause and a phrase.

18 Punctuation – Serial Commas
Serial commas – Used to separate words, phrases, or clauses in a series - e.g. When Mary walked into the classroom, she saw a teacher, a doctor, a woman eating a bagel and a bird. How to fix? (HINT: ACT likes the last comma, even though some folks say it’s not needed.)

19 Punctuation Comma Splice or Run-on
Comma splice: Two sentences combined, or spliced, with a comma, e.g. Lightning speeds to our eyes at 186,000miles per second, thunder creeps to our ears at 1,087 feet per second. How to fix? Run-On: Two sentences fused with no punctuation, e.g. Lightning speeds to our eyes at 186,000miles per second thunder creeps to our ears at 1,087 feet per second. How to fix?

20 Punctuation – Essential Clause
Essential Clause or Phrase (aka Restrictive): Correct e.g. People who snore are advised to sleep on their sides. (“Who snore” is essential for us to know who is being discussed so NO COMMAS.) Another correct e.g. Only a person who is a little peculiar would feed a bagel to a bird. (NO COMMAS.) HINT: Remember “I DON’T NEED commas when I DO NEED the clause.

21 Punctuation - Non-essential Clause
Non-essential (Nonrestrictive) Clause: Correct e.g. My father, who snores loudly, always sleeps in his long johns. (We know specifically who is being discussed, and “who snores loudly” and just adds something akin to a parenthetical thought. (NEED COMMAS.) Another correct e.g. Mary, who by now was very confused, stopped in front of the woman. (NEED COMMAS.) HINT: 1) Remember “I NEED commas when I DON’T NEED the clause.” 2) Check answers for differences in punctuation.

22 Punctuation – Semi-colons
Semicolons connect two related yet independent clauses. e.g. Sentence; sentence. HINTS: 1) Although there are other uses for semi-colons, ACT only applies them for run-ons or comma splices. They are only used if you have independent clauses (sentences) on either side of it. 2) If a semi-colon is correct, you will not see period or comma with conjunction options. 3) If you see both a semi-colon and a period, you will know neither answer is correct.

23 Punctuation - Colons Colons – On the ACT, colons typically introduce a list that follows an independent clause. e.g. Sentence: list of some kind. ACT will try to trick you by having an incomplete thought to introduce the list – e.g. I bought the supplies, including: pencils, pens, and paper. “Including” turns the independent clause into a dependent clause. How to fix? Colons may also separate two independent clauses if they follow this format: A sentence that is a general thought: Sentence that explains or expands the first thought, Correct e.g. I didn’t know what to do: I could either go camping or stay home.

24 Punctuation - Dashes Dashes indicate a break in thought. Correct e.g. I tried to thank him – not that words are adequate – but he just nodded and walked away. Dashes may be used to introduce an explanation. Correct e.g. We heard the howling of wolves – a sound that made our hair stand on end. Dashes usually come in pairs unless the isolated group of words is at the end of the sentence. A dash cannot be combined with a comma. However, commas do the same thing as dashes, so you won’t see both as answer choices.

25 Punctuation - Apostrophes
Apostrophes can either indicate possession or contractions. Singular Possession e.g. The boss’s limo; the girl’s room. Plural Possession e.g. The bosses’ limos; the girls’ room. (NOTE: Add “es” to words ending in “s” to make plural, then add apostrophe.) Contractions It’s can be used only to replace it is or it has. Its is the possessive form of the word it. Its’ is not a word. (NOTE: Act will have at least one of these on test.) Check answer choices for variations.

26 Rhetorical Skills Strategy, transitions, organization, style
Reorder sentences or paragraphs Reword something Summarize the passage Evaluate whether the writer of a passage has satisfied a particular assignment These questions vary more widely than grammar or punctuation questions.

27 Rhetorical Skills, cont’d
The official ACT book suggests you skim the entire passage for content, but the Princeton Review folks say it’s a waste of time because most of the questions can be answered as you read, including some of the rhetorical ones. Answer the questions in order. However, if you’re having trouble with a particular question or if it seems to be taking too much time, circle the question number, leave it, and come back on your second pass. Often a later question will help you with an early one.

28 Rhetorical Skills, cont’d
Utilize POE to search the answer choices for clues. Focus on the differences between the answer choices, and use that information to determine the error(s) being tested. HINT: Look for one error at a time. Eliminate all answers that do not correct the first error you spotted. Compare the remaining answers and choose the most concise answer choice free of any additional errors.

29 Rhetorical Skills, cont’d
Remember that NO CHANGE is correct a little less than a quarter of the time. If you can’t find anything wrong with the underlined portion, it may be correct as written. Also remember to look very carefully at any question with OMIT as an answer. If you can OMIT and the passage/sentence is still correct, then do so.

30 Rhetorical Skills - Strategy
Transitions: Show contradiction – “BUT” WORDS: however, quite the contrary, despite, rather, notwithstanding, contrarily, on the other hand, although, nevertheless Show cause and effect – “THEREFORE” WORDS: hence, and so, thus, consequently, because of, for example, finally, in conclusion Show in addition – “ALSO” WORDS – in addition, for example, furthermore, and, another, first, second, moreover, by the same token, besides, similarly, so too Choose the most appropriate connector. HINT: If you see two of the same type of transition, neither answer will be correct.

31 Rhetorical Skills - Strategy
Improving Rather than Fixing The wording in the question will provide clues. Be sure to look at what the question is specifically asking. Choose answer based on the purpose of the passage or the effect on the reader. The question might read something like this: Which of the following sentences provides new, specific information about… that would enhance the passage?

32 Rhetorical Skills - Organization
Three Kinds of Organization Questions Asks you to check the placement of an underlined word or phrase and possibly relocate it, according to what it should logically modify Asks you to reorder sentences within a paragraph Asks you to reorder paragraphs within the passage as a whole. NOTE: These will take time, so you might want to skip them and come back to them later. If you run out of time, use the letter of the day.

33 Rhetorical Skills - Organization
HINTS to Organizing Paragraphs Trick to reordering sentences in a paragraph: Find what should be the first sentence and look at answers to see which have it listed as first. This will eliminate some choices. If you can’t figure out which sentence comes first, try to pair two sentences together and check answers to see which have them listed together. Again, eliminates choices. If that doesn’t work, look for a concluding sentence. When all else fails, pick your letter of the day.

34 Rhetorical Questions - Organization
Hints to Organize Whole Paragraphs This will be the last question and it is challenging. Do not reread the whole passage. Skim it and scribble a mini-summary by each paragraph. Try to find the first paragraph and look for that choice in the answers. Do POE. If you can’t find the first paragraph, try to find two paragraphs that have a close relationship and look for that choice. If that doesn’t work, try to find a concluding paragraph. If you are spending too much time, pick your letter of the day and move on.

35 Rhetorical Skills - Style
Redundancy - Saying the same thing twice. Most ACT style questions are about redundancy. e.g. 1) Cheap and inexpensive gifts can be found here. 2) After birth, the newborn babies are weighed. 3) The Vietnam vets were recently memorialized by a memorial in Washington. How to fix?

36 Rhetorical Skills – Style, cont’d
Other style possibilities Tone Mood Purpose Misuse of figurative language, such as metaphors Awkward wording (in answer choice) Words that don’t exist (in answer choice) Wordiness (in answer choice) Just do your best with these

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