ACT English : Writing and Revising Effectively

Study concepts, example questions & explanations for ACT English

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Example Questions

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Example Question #1 : Writing And Revising Effectively

Jimmy is annoyed at the video game that he was playing. For one thing, there was not nearly enough interesting characters suspenseful moments or exciting escapes in the game to satisfy him. For another, it was incredibly hard while playing the game to control the cars. It always wanted to veer to the left when he tried to steer to the right. But the ending of the game was worst. By the time he got to the end, the hero had decided to stop chasing rogue spies and therefore marry his girlfriend, a surprise attack resulted in her being kidnapped, and the hero must go on a final mission to save her before the game can be completed. That would of been fine, except it involved tracking the enemy using a helicopter, and Jimmy much to his chagrin never mastered flying the helicopter.

Which of the following is a redundant phrase that could be removed from the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

while playing the game

For another

NO CHANGE

to control the cars

Correct answer:

while playing the game

Explanation:

The phrase "while playing the game" is not needed since there would be no other circumstances under which Jimmy would have trouble controlling a car in the context of this passage.

Example Question #2 : Revising Content

Adapted from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1784)

At the time I established myself in Pennsylvania there was not a good booksellers shop in any of the colonies to the southward of Boston. In New York and Philadelphia the printers were indeed stationers; they sold only paper, etc., almanacs, ballads, and a few common school-books. Those who loved reading were obliged to send for their books from England; the members of the Junto had each a few. We had left the ale-house, where we first met, and hired a room to hold our club in. I proposed that we should all of us bring our books to that room, where they would not only be ready to consult in our conferences but become a common benefit, each of us being at liberty to borrow such as he wished to read at home. This was accordingly done, and for some time contented us.

Finding the advantage of this little collection, I proposed to render the benefit from books more common by commencing a public subscription library. I drew a sketch of the plan and rules that would be necessary, and got a skillful conveyancer, Mr. Charles Brockden, to put the whole in form of articles of agreement, to be subscribed, by which each subscriber engaged to pay a certain sum down for the first purchase of books, and an annual contribution for increasing them. So few were the readers at that time in Philadelphia, and the majority of us so poor, that I was not able, with great industry to find more than fifty persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay down for this purpose forty shillings each, and ten shillings per annum. On this little fund we began. The books were imported; the library was opened one day in the week for lending to the subscribers, on their promissory notes to pay double the value if not duly returned. The institution soon manifested its utility, was imitated by other towns and in other provinces. The libraries were augmented by donations; reading became fashionable; and our people, having no public amusements to divert their attention from study, became better acquainted with books, and in a few years were observed by strangers to be better instructed and more intelligent than people of the same rank generally are in other countries.

Which of the following would be an acceptable replacement for the underlined phrase?

Possible Answers:

station-keepers

sellers of tickets

sellers of stationary

immobile

Correct answer:

sellers of stationary

Explanation:

The word "stationers" has fallen out of use since Franklin's time, but it referred to people who sold stationary such as paper, cards, and not much else.

Example Question #3 : Revising Content

Adapted from The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin (1784)

At the time I established myself in Pennsylvania there was not a good booksellers shop in any of the colonies to the southward of Boston. In New York and Philadelphia the printers were indeed stationers; they sold only paper, etc., almanacs, ballads, and a few common school-books. Those who loved reading were obliged to send for their books from England; the members of the Junto had each a few. We had left the ale-house, where we first met, and hired a room to hold our club in. I proposed that we should all of us bring our books to that room, where they would not only be ready to consult in our conferences but become a common benefit, each of us being at liberty to borrow such as he wished to read at home. This was accordingly done, and for some time contented us.

Finding the advantage of this little collection, I proposed to render the benefit from books more common by commencing a public subscription library. I drew a sketch of the plan and rules that would be necessary, and got a skillful conveyancer, Mr. Charles Brockden, to put the whole in form of articles of agreement, to be subscribed, by which each subscriber engaged to pay a certain sum down for the first purchase of books, and an annual contribution for increasing them. So few were the readers at that time in Philadelphia, and the majority of us so poor, that I was not able, with great industry to find more than fifty persons, mostly young tradesmen, willing to pay down for this purpose forty shillings each, and ten shillings per annum. On this little fund we began. The books were imported; the library was opened one day in the week for lending to the subscribers, on their promissory notes to pay double the value if not duly returned. The institution soon manifested its utility, was imitated by other towns and in other provinces. The libraries were augmented by donations; reading became fashionable; and our people, having no public amusements to divert their attention from study, became better acquainted with books, and in a few years were observed by strangers to be better instructed and more intelligent than people of the same rank generally are in other countries.

Which of the following would be an acceptable replacement for the underlined phrase?

Possible Answers:

Locating

Discovering

Deciding

Concluding

Correct answer:

Discovering

Explanation:

The word "discovering" here is the best choice since it implies that Franklin was not aware of the advantage of having a shared library before establishing one.

Example Question #2 : Writing And Revising Effectively

Adapted from The Autobiography of John Adams (ed. 1856)

Here I will interrupt the narration for a moment to observe that, from all I have read of the history of Greece and Rome, England and France, and all I have observed at home and abroad, articulate eloquence in public assemblies is not the surest road to fame or preferment, at least, unless it be used with caution, very rarely, and with great reserve. The examples of Washington, Franklin, and Jefferson are enough to show that silence and reserve in public, are more efficacious than argumentation or oratory. A public speaker who inserts himself, or is urged by others, into the conduct of affairs, by daily exertions to justify his measures, and answer the objections of opponents, makes himself too familiar with the public and unavoidably makes himself enemies. Few persons can bear to be outdone in reasoning or declamation or wit or sarcasm or repartee or satire, and all these things that are very apt to grow out of public debate. In this way, in a course of years, a nation becomes full of a man’s enemies, or at least, of such as have been galled in some controversy and take a secret pleasure in assisting to humble and mortify him. So much for this digression. We will now return to our memoirs.

Where does the independent clause begin in the underlined sentence?

Possible Answers:

Unless it be used with . . .

Here I will interrupt . . .

All I have observed . . .

From all I have read . . .

Articulate eloquence in public assemblies . . .

Correct answer:

Here I will interrupt . . .

Explanation:

The easiest way to find the independent clause is by eliminating any subordinate clauses.  This will give you:

"Here I will interrupt the narration for a moment to observe that . . . eloquence in public assemblies is not the surest road to fame or preferment."

Thus, the beginning of the sentence is indeed the beginning of the main clause, though it does seem rather hidden among all the other verbiage!

Example Question #3 : Revising Content

Identify the prepositional phrase(s) in the sentence below. 

A cold wind from the north cut through the woods, making the air outside the tent unbearably cold.

Possible Answers:

outside the tent

through the woods

from the north

None of these answers

All of these answers

Correct answer:

All of these answers

Explanation:

Prepositional phrases typically follow the structure "Preposition + Optional Modifiers (adjectives/adverbs) + Noun/Pronoun/Gerund." This means that they are introduced by prepositions. "From," "through," and "outside" are all prepositions. Within the sentence, each introduces a prepositional phrase following the pattern ("from" + "the north," "through" + "the woods," "outside" + "the tent"). Thus, all of the answers are correct.

Example Question #3 : Writing And Revising Effectively

Which sentence uses substantive adjectives? 

Possible Answers:

The gap between the rich and the poor is growing. 

None of these answers.

All of these answers.

The quick fox made it over the hill before the hound could catch him.

The oranges grew on the tree.

Correct answer:

The gap between the rich and the poor is growing. 

Explanation:

Substantive adjectives are adjectives that are used as nouns in their own right, rather than as modifiers. Here, "rich" and "poor" are not used to modify "people," but are used to represent groups of people, so this is the correct answer. "Oranges" is a noun, so this choice is incorrect. "Quick" modifies fox, so this choice is incorrect. 

Example Question #4 : Writing And Revising Effectively

The ship was having trouble again. Engineer James Ferguson couldn't figure out why the super-duper drive engine kept breaching. Every time he had fixed it, something seemed to go wrong again. He had a capable crew and he was friendly with all of them: but the aliens who had evolved from deer rather than from apes as humans hadhad some problems when it came to fixing things. Their strong arms ended in tiny predicative hooves that sometimes makes it difficult for them to hold large objects. They were good at problem-solving though and he did like them a lot. The nearest one gave him a dough-eyed look of sympathy—appropriate, given her gender. He looked back at the breaching drive engine and sighed. "Once more into the breach, deer friends" he announced.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded portion of the passage. If the bolded portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

prehensile

predatory

NO CHANGE

preternatural

Correct answer:

prehensile

Explanation:

The word "prehensile" means able to grasp things and refers to parts of an animal's body like a tail or claws. So, it is the best answer choice because it best fits the context of the sentence. None of the other answer choices make sense in the sentence: "predicative" means being a part of the predicate; "predatory" means in the manner of a predator; and "preternatural" means extraordinary or singular.

Example Question #5 : Revising Content

Adapted from “Puritanism as a Literary Force” in A Book of Prefaces by H.L. Mencken (1917)

Naturally enough, this moral obsession has given a strong color to American literature. It is true that American literature is set off sharply from all other literatures. In none other will you find so wholesale and ecstatic a sacrifice of ideas, of all the fine gusto of passion and beauty, to notions of what is proper and nice. From the books of grisly sermons that were the first American contribution to letters down to that amazing literature of "inspiration" which now exists, one observes no relaxation of the moral pressure.

In the history of every other literature there have been periods of what might be called moral innocence. In such periods a naive “joie de vivre” (joy of living) has broken through all concepts of duty and responsibility, and the wonder and glory of the universe has been hymned with unashamed zest. The age of Shakespeare comes to mind at once. The violence of the Puritan reactions offers a measure of the pendulums’ wild swing. But in America no such general rising of the blood has ever been seen.

The literature of the nation, even the literature of the minority, has been under harsh and uneducated Puritan restraints from the beginning, and despite a few stealthy efforts at revolt, it shows not the slightest sign of emancipating itself today. The American, try as he will, can never imagine any work of the imagination as wholly without moral content. It must either tend toward the promotion of virtue or, otherwise, be questionable.

Which of the following adjectives best describes the “minority” bolded in the final paragraph?

Possible Answers:

enlightened

tedious

persecuted

influential

Correct answer:

enlightened

Explanation:

The key to this question is to note the implied contrast. The minority of people who might provide acceptable literature is contrasted to the "uneducated Puritan restraints" that have been placed upon them. Thus, it is implied that the minority in question is "enlightened," or intelligent.

Example Question #5 : Writing And Revising Effectively

Adapted from The Sorrows of Young Werther by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1774; trans. Boylan 1854)

That the life of man is but a dream, many a man has surmised heretofore. I, too, am everywhere pursued by this feeling. When I consider the narrow limits within which our active and inquiring faculties are confined, I am silent. Likewise, when I see how all our energies are wasted in providing for mere necessities, which again has no further end than to prolong a wretched existence, I find myself to be silenced. Indeed, discovering that all our satisfaction concerning certain subjects of investigation ends in nothing better than a passive resignation, while we amuse ourselves painting our prison-walls with bright figures and brilliant landscapes—when I consider all this Wilhelm—I am silent. I examine my own being, and find there a world, but a world rather of imagination and dim desires, than of distinctness and living power. Then, everything swims before my senses, and I smile and dream while pursuing my way through the world.

All learned professors and doctors are agreed that children do not comprehend the cause of their desires; however, nobody is willing to acknowledge that the grown-ups should wander about this earth like children, without knowing whence they come or whither they go, influenced as little by fixed motives but, instead, guided like them by biscuits, sugar-plums, and the rod.

I know what you will say in reply. Indeed, I am ready to admit that they are happiest, who, like children, amuse themselves with their playthings, dress and undress their dolls.  They are happiest, who attentively watch the cupboard, where mamma has locked up her sweet things, and, when at last they get a delicious morsel, eat it greedily, and exclaim, "More!" These are certainly happy beings; but others also are objects of envy, who dignify their paltry employments (and sometimes even their passions) with pompous titles, representing them to mankind as gigantic achievements performed for their welfare and glory. However, the man who humbly acknowledges the vanity of all this, who observes with what pleasure the thriving citizen converts his little garden into a paradise, and how patiently even the poor man pursues his weary way under his burden, and how all wish equally to behold the light of the sun a little longer—yes, such a man is at peace, and creates his own world within himself. Indeed, he is also happy precisely because he is a man. And then, however limited his sphere, he still preserves in his bosom the sweet feeling of liberty and knows that he can quit his prison whenever he likes.

What is the form of the bolded verb “to be silenced”?

Possible Answers:

Present active infinitive

Present passive imperative

Past active infinitive

Present passive infinitive

Correct answer:

Present passive infinitive

Explanation:

In general, the infinitive form of a verb is "to" + the base form. For instance, for "run," the infinitive is "to run." Likewise, "to silence" is the present active infinitive form. However, when the action of the infinitive is "received," the form is passive. This is akin to the passive in finite verbs, like, "I am hit by the ball." In our selection, the character is silenced ("finds himself to be silenced") by the sight of all the wasted energies.

Example Question #5 : Writing And Revising Effectively

Jimmy is annoyed at the video game that he was playing. For one thing, there was not nearly enough interesting characters suspenseful moments or exciting escapes in the game to satisfy him. For another, it was incredibly hard while playing the game to control the cars. It always wanted to veer to the left when he tried to steer to the right. But the ending of the game was worst. By the time he got to the end, the hero had decided to stop chasing rogue spies and therefore marry his girlfriend, a surprise attack resulted in her being kidnapped, and the hero must go on a final mission to save her before the game can be completed. That would of been fine, except it involved tracking the enemy using a helicopter, and Jimmy much to his chagrin never mastered flying the helicopter.

Choose the answer that best corrects the bolded and underlined portion of the passage. If the bolded and underlined portion is correct as written, choose "NO CHANGE."

Possible Answers:

NO CHANGE

had to go

will have to go

is forced to go

Correct answer:

had to go

Explanation:

The phrase "had to go" both signals the hero's lack of choice about his final mission and the past tense of the action.

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