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15 Hardest ACT English Questions to Improve Your Score

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As you may already know, each section of the ACT carries an equal weight in your composite score. So, doing well on the ACT English Test is crucial in bettering your overall score. In this post, we’ll cover some of the trickier types of questions you may encounter on this test, along with detailed explanations of the answers.


Overview of the ACT English Test


The ACT English Test consists of 75 questions, to be answered in 45 minutes. Each question corresponds to a passage, and there are a total of 5 passages in the test.


The questions are broken down into three categories:


  • Conventions of standard English (51–56%)
  • Production of writing (29–32%)
  • Knowledge of language (13–19%)


Like the other sections of the ACT, the ACT English Test converts your raw score to a scale from 1–36, and you’ll receive subscores for each of the categories listed above.


As you study for the ACT English Test, be conscious of avoiding common mistakes, like pronoun agreement or misplaced modifiers.


15 Hardest ACT English Questions


Question 1



Answer: G


This question illustrates the dangers of misplaced modifiers. In the original sentence, the modifier is the adjective “delighted.” Since “delighted” is placed immediately before the noun “sculpture,” the sentence indicates that the sculptures are delighted, which cannot be true, so option F is incorrect. 


Option H is similarly incorrect since it also indicates that the sculptures were delighted. Also, option J has the modifier “secretly delighted” placed immediately before the noun “sculpture,” indicating that the sculptures were secretly delighted.


Thus, option G is the correct answer, and this makes sense since the adjective “delighted” modifies the noun “staff.”


Question 2



Answer: G


This question asks us to choose the appropriate transition. To do this, we’ll need to focus on the sentences before and after the transition.


The sentence before is “More creations appeared at more than a few additional places where literature and artifacts are related to books and writing.”


The sentence after is “A total of ten sculptures were bestowed on special institutions, whose staff are thrilled by their luck.”


Option F is incorrect since the transition “therefore” indicates a cause and effect relationship, which isn’t really appropriate given these sentences.


Option H is incorrect since the transition “of course” implies that the second sentence emphasizes or adds on to the previous, which isn’t the best choice.


Option J is incorrect since the transition “however” indicates that the second sentence contrasts or contradicts the first, which isn’t the case.


So, the answer is G, which is appropriate since “eventually” indicates that time has passed, and this makes sense within the context of the two sentences.


Question 3



Answer: C


You should definitely expect to be tested on subject-verb agreement on the ACT English test. The key to these questions is looking at the sentence as a whole to make sure you have the right subject and verb.


For this question, we can start by determining whether “these” or “this” should be used. Since we are referring to a plural noun (“sculptures”), we should be using “these”. So, answers B and D are incorrect.


Next, let’s determine whether the verb should be singular or plural. Since the verb is located right next to “sculptures,” you might be tempted to pick the plural conjugation. But, if we look at the sentence as a whole, we see that the subject is “the creator.”


This means that the subject is singular, so we should use the verb “is,” which corresponds to answer choice C.


Question 4



Answer: D


This question involves looking at the paragraph as a whole. For these types of questions, it’s often helpful to jot down or take a moment to briefly summarize the paragraph. This paragraph talks about the method in which Pollack uses corks to construct the boat.


So, answer choice D best introduces the paragraph. Answers A, B, and C each focus on other information (like the amount of corks, other people helping, and a complication in the plan), which isn’t necessarily the focus of the paragraph. 


Question 5



Answer: G


Since we’re asked for the “most specific description,” we’ll need to find the answer choice that is the most descriptive. This question is tricky, since you might avoid picking “hexagonal” since there isn’t any information in the passage that informs us that the shape is hexagonal.


But, the question isn’t asking us to accurately describe the shape based on our existing knowledge; rather, it merely wants the description that is the most specific. Since hexagonal is more clear than “pretty interesting,” “certain,” or no adjective at all, the answer is G.


Question 6



Answer: F


This question is difficult since we need to look beyond the underlined portion and consider the sentence as a whole. We can start by eliminating answer choice H, since “whom” is not grammatically correct (we are referring to “the company,” which is the subject of the sentence, not the object). 


Next, to determine the correct answer, we need to look at the later part of the sentence. The phrase that describes “the company” is “had donated thousands of corks to Pollack’s project.” This phrase is a parenthetical, since it can be eliminated without significantly altering the sentence’s meaning.


But, since the phrase is a parenthetical, it must be either surrounded on both sides by punctuation or not have punctuation on either side. This means that options G and J are incorrect, since they each introduce a comma at the beginning of the parenthetical, but as we can see, the parenthetical does not end with a comma.


So, we are left with option F as the correct answer.


Question 7



Answer: C


For this question, you’ll need to be able to avoid redundant information. The underlined portion has no grammatical errors, but it repeats what we already know (the beginning of the sentence introduces the fact that Anna and the speaker are in southeastern New Mexico). 


Also, answer choice B contains redundancy in that the phrase “nearly transparent to the eye” is unnecessary since the word “translucent” was already used, and these two ideas are very similar.


Deleting the underlined portion is not correct because that would render the sentence grammatically incorrect.


So, the answer must be C, which effectively eliminates any repeated information while still retaining the meaning of the sentence.


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Question 8



Answer: C


This question tests your ability to detect tone. If we are able to determine the tone of the preceding sentence, it’ll be much easier to choose the correct answer.


Since the sentence says that “Anna laughed” at the absurdity of the situation (i.e. that they were looking in the sand for something that they could merely buy at a gift shop), we see that the tone is light-hearted and humorous.


This immediately indicates that options A and B are incorrect, since Anna’s tone is not frustrated nor scolding. Also, option D is incorrect, since Anna was making a joke about the gift shop, not expressing a desire to go there to buy the fulgurite. 


So, answer choice C is the correct answer, which makes sense since Anna was merely making a joke.


Question 9



Answer: B


Again, it’s very important that you understand misplaced modifiers to do well on this test. This question tests your skills by asking where the modifier should go.


In this case, the modifier is “formed by air and moisture.” This phrase clearly refers to the bubbles, so the best location would be after the word “bubbles.” This means that option B is the correct answer.


Question 10



Answer: B


As mentioned earlier, subject-verb agreement is prominent on the ACT English Test. Let’s first determine the subject. This sentence is tricky since there are many misleading nouns, like “facility” and “peak.” 


But, if we look at the sentence as a whole, we can see that the subject is actually “Weather conditions.” This means that our subject is plural, so “have” is the appropriate conjugation to use.


Question 11



Answer: B


This question also involves parentheticals, but in an indirect way. The original passage treats the phrase “of 231 mph” as a parenthetical, since it has been placed in parentheses. But, if we were to remove that phrase from the sentence, we get: “In fact, scientists in 1934 recorded a surface wind speed: one of the fastest ever recorded.”


Removing that phrase does alter the meaning of the sentence, so it would not be a parenthetical in this situation. This means that answers A and D are incorrect. 


Now, we need to decide whether a dash or semicolon should be used to join the two clauses. Let’s examine each clause separately. 


The first clause is “In fact, scientists in 1934 recorded a surface wind speed of 231 mph,” which is an independent clause since it can stand alone as a sentence. 


The second clause is “one of the fastest ever recorded,” which is a dependent clause since it can’t stand alone. 


Semicolons are used to join two independent clauses. So, a semicolon would be incorrect in this situation. Therefore, option B is correct. 


Question 12



Answer: A


Since this question asks about punctuation, we’ll need to consider the two clauses separately. 


First, the clause “The observatory takes volunteers and accepts interns, who assist with research” can stand alone as a sentence, so it’s an independent clause. 


Next, the clause “The bold can take part in educational trips to the summit in winter” can also stand alone as a sentence, so it’s also an independent clause. 


There are a few ways that you can join two independent clauses:


  • A period
  • A semicolon
  • A comma, followed by a coordinating conjunction (for, and, not, but, or, yet, so)
  • A colon
  • A dash


You can’t use a comma alone to join two independent clauses (this is called a comma splice), so option D is incorrect. 


Also, options B and C are incorrect since there needs to be commas before the coordinating conjunctions. 


Option A correctly uses a period to separate the two independent clauses. 


Question 13



Answer: D


As you complete practice problems for the ACT English Test, you’ll find that, more often than not, less is more. 


In this case, answer choices A, B, and C all contain repeated information. The sentence already uses the word “revolutionized,” so the phrases “affecting both incredibly,” “changing both of these industries fundamentally,” and “so that they would never be the same” don’t contribute any additional information and they even impede the clarity of the sentence. 


Then, D is correct since it offers the most clear and concise answer. 


Question 14



Answer: F


You might be tempted to pick J as the correct answer here, since the sentence would then start with “McCoy recognized,” which seems correct. But, if you continue reading, we see that it doesn’t make sense with the rest of the sentence. 


In fact, “recognizing the similarities between train wheels and factory machines” is actually a parenthetical. This phrase can be removed from the sentence without impeding grammar or clarity. 


So, in this case, the correct answer is actually no change. This question illustrates the importance of reading the full sentence to ensure the answer is correct. 


Question 15



Answer: D


This question is particularly tricky since all the options are technically grammatically correct— we’re being asked to determine which option has the best wording. 


The words “do it” are too vague, so option A is incorrect. On the other hand, “lend itself to superiority” is a bit too wordy and doesn’t make sense within the sentence. Though, “give off the best result” is a strong contender, “work well” is ultimately more concise and clear, making it the best answer. 


How Does the ACT Impact Your College Chances?


Most colleges (aside from the UCs, which have implemented a new test-blind policy), use standardized testing like the ACT to determine your academic strength. Some selective colleges even automatically reject students with test scores and GPA that are too low.


To see how your scores compare, try out CollegeVine’s free Admissions Calculator, a tool which will tell you your chances at the colleges of your choice. The calculator will take into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and more to estimate your chances, and will even offer tips on how to improve the rest of your profile!



Short Bio
Nisha Desai is a second year student at the University of California, Riverside. She recently started working at CollegeVine, but has done application guidance and tutoring in a private capacity for a couple of years. She is in school to eventually get her Masters in Education and enjoys reading and running in her free time.