Language Network

 Test Practice

What to Expect on the ACT

The English Test
The English Test is a 75-question, 45-minute test that measures understanding of the conventions of standard written English (punctuation, grammar, usage, and sentence structure) and of rhetorical skills (strategy, organization, and style).

The test consists of five prose passages, each of which is accompanied by a sequence of multiple-choice test questions. Different passage types are included to provide a variety of rhetorical situations. Most questions refer to underlined portions of the passage and offer several alternatives. These questions include "NO CHANGE" to the passage as one of the possible responses. Some questions are identified by a number or numbers in a box. These questions ask about a section of the passage or about the passage as a whole. You must decide which choice is most appropriate in the context of the passage, or which choice best answers the question posed.

Three scores are reported for the ACT English Test: a total test score based on all 75 questions, a subscore in Usage/Mechanics based on 40 questions, and a subscore in Rhetorical Skills based on 35 questions.

Content Covered by the ACT English Test
Six elements of effective writing are included in the English Test: punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, strategy, organization, and style. The questions covering punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure make up the Usage/Mechanics subscore. The questions covering strategy, organization, and style make up the Rhetorical Skills subscore.

The Reading Test
The Reading Test is a 40-question, 35-minute test that measures your reading comprehension. The test questions require students to derive meaning from several texts by referring to what is explicitly stated; students are also expected to use their reasoning to determine implicit meanings, to draw conclusions, and make comparisons and generalizations.

The test comprises four prose passages that are representative of the level and kinds of texts commonly encountered in college freshman curricula; passages on topics in the social studies, the natural sciences, prose fiction, and the humanities are included.

Each passage is accompanied by a set of multiple-choice test questions. These questions do not test the rote recall of facts from outside the passage, isolated vocabulary items, or rules of formal logic. Rather, the test focuses upon the complex of complementary and mutually supportive skills that readers must bring to bear in studying written materials across a range of subject areas.

Three scores are reported for the ACT Reading Test: a total test score based on all 40 questions, a subscore in Social Studies/Sciences reading skills (based on the 20 questions in the social studies and natural sciences sections of the test), and a subscore in Arts/Literature reading skills (based on the 20 questions in the prose fiction and humanities sections of the test).

Content Covered by the ACT Reading Test
The Reading Test is based on four types of reading selections: the social studies, the natural sciences, prose fiction, and the humanities. A subscore in Social Studies/Sciences reading skills is based on the questions in the social studies and the natural sciences sections of the test, and a subscore in Arts/Literature reading skills is based on the questions in the prose fiction and humanities sections of the test.

Social Studies (25 percent). Questions in this category are based on passages in the content areas of anthropology, archaeology, business, economics, education, geography, history, political science, psychology, and sociology.

Natural Sciences (25 percent). Questions in this category are based on passages in the content areas of anatomy, astronomy, biology, botany, chemistry, ecology, geology, medicine, meteorology, microbiology, natural history, physiology, physics, technology, and zoology.

Prose Fiction (25 percent). Questions in this category are based on intact short stories or excerpts from short stories or novels.

Humanities (25 percent). Questions in this category are based on passages in the content areas of architecture, art, dance, ethics, film, language, literary criticism, music, philosophy, radio, television, and theater.

Sample questions:

The following passage is from an article published in Discover magazine. It presents the results of recent research on domestic cats and their wild ancestors.

To anyone who has stared into the deep and unwavering blankness of a house cat's eyes, or has watched his beloved pet stand motionless in the center of a room, waiting for a thought to enter its plum-sized brain -- to such a person, the news will be no surprise: compared with its wild ancestor, the domestic cat has about one-third fewer neurons [nerve cells]. The cat's brain has shrunk during the course of evolution, and it has shrunk by losing neurons. [The researchers Robert Williams of the University of Tennessee at Memphis and Carmen Cavada and Fernando Reinoso-Suarez of the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid] compared the brain of Felis catus with that of the Spanish wildcat. Spanish wildcats are living fossils‹rare survivors of the species that gave rise to domesticated wildcats 15,000 to 20,000 years ago. While the domestic cat's line has evolved rapidly since then, the Spanish wildcat has barely changed. Williams and his colleagues found that the domestic cat's brain is 20 to 30 percent lighter than a Spanish wildcat's brain. (Its whole body is about half the size of the wildcat's body.) To find out whether the domestic cat had smaller neurons, more tightly packed neurons, or simply fewer neurons, the researchers decided to actually count the number of neurons in a small section of the feline brain -- the visual pathway.

1. What is the meaning of "living fossils" in the context of this passage?

A. petrified animals that have been miraculously revived

B. animals that are hopelessly out of date

C. ancient animal species that have survived unchanged

D. ancient rocks that look like present-day cats

E. animals that feed on extinct species

2. How long ago did domestic cats evolve from wildcats?

A. Domestic cats didn't evolve from wildcats; they're an entirely different species

B. 15,000 to 20,000 years ago

C. 160,000 years ago

D. 2.5 million years ago

E. The passage doesn't provide that information

Answers: 1. C; 2. B


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