ACT Verbal: 8 Tips To Maximize Scores

December 29, 2014 

The ACT gives high school students two chances to let their verbal skills shine — the English and Reading sections. The two sections, commonly referred to as the verbal sections, together make up 50 percent of your composite ACT score.ACT_Verbal

The 45-minute English section consists of 75 multiple-choice questions through which students demonstrate their mastery of punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure, along with the rhetorical skills of strategy, organization, and style. Similarly, students have 35 minutes to complete the 40-question, multiple-choice Reading test, demonstrating their reading comprehension abilities.  

Below are eight tips to improve your performance on the ACT verbal sections: 

1. Be Familiar with the Format of the ACT 

Abraham Lincoln once said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.” Sharpen your axe by practicing with actual ACT exams in order to familiarize yourself with the format and content of the ACT verbal sections. A+ Test Prep and Tutoring provides sample ACT verbal questions online, and even offers students the opportunity to take a free practice exam (an actual ACT) to experience similar questions prior to the real test date.

2. Read (and Follow!) Directions Precisely

Questions on the ACT verbal sections ask students to choose the “best” answer. That means that there will often be more than one correct answer, but only one choice will best answer the question posed. You must carefully consider all choices before selecting an answer. In general, the ACT favors answers that are worded concisely and clearly.

3. Patience Is a Virtue

Be patient if the correct answer to a Reading question does not immediately jump out at you–use process of elimination to weed out the more obvious incorrect answers. 

4. Remember There is No Penalty for Guessing 

One of the most important things for ACT test takers to keep in mind is that no points are deducted for incorrect answers. If you feel stumped by a difficult question, the best strategy is to eliminate the obviously wrong choices and then make an educated guess—if you are right, your score goes up; if you are wrong, no worries. 

5. Be an Active Reader

In the Reading section, read “actively” and mark up the passages, underlining key words and phrases, etc. This helps you maintain concentration and remember information.  

6. Answer Every Question

Because there is no penalty for wrong answers, you should answer every question on the ACT. This means that within the final minute of each section, make sure to fill in an answer for any remaining unanswered questions. After all, a 25 percent chance of a correct answer is always better than the 0 percent chance that an unanswered question ensures. So as the seconds tick down, randomly filling in answers can help your scores go up.  

7. Review Your Answers

On the English section of the ACT, quickly check your answer by plugging it back into the sentence to ensure that it makes sense and has not introduced an error. For example, be sure that the sentence is complete and not a fragment.

8. Pace Yourself

Time is of the essence on the ACT. It is essential that you move efficiently through both of the ACT verbal sections, without spending too long stewing over any one question; select what you consider to be the best answer, be confident in it, and then move on to conquer the next question. Since questions are not arranged in order of difficulty, take heart in knowing that easier questions await. 

Cick here to read an ACT tutoring success story here. You can also learn more about a custom-made ACT test preparation program or read more about how A+ Test Prep & Tutoring can help you develop these and other test-taking strategies


Photo Credit: Shannon Muskoph


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