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ACT English Strategy
Case Western Univ., summa cum laude
Perfect scorer on the SAT & the ACT
Devorah is the founder of Advantage Point Test Prep and the author of the book “Boost Your Score” The Unofficial Guide to the Real ACT.
In English content I we went over the top skills you'll need to answer the punctuation, the grammar and the sentence structure questions on the ACT. In this episode we're going to talk about the next three question types you'll see; strategy questions, style questions and organization questions. Let's take a closer look at those three.
So let's take a look at the top strategy questions you'll see on the ACT. First we'll look at transitions between paragraphs and next we'll talk about questions that require you to add evidence to the passage. Let's first look at a passage and then we'll look at the corresponding questions. 'In addition to gains from direct sales to visitors, many indirect benefits are realized from tourism. Visitors contribute to the tax revenues collected and can influence the quality of life by financing community facilities such as swimming pools, golf courses, restaurants, and shopping facilities.' So that was paragraph two which we know from the little square on top that a two in it, now let's go to paragraph three. We've got a box here so we know we're going to have the question that asks something about the preceding paragraph or the passage as a whole and we'll get to that question a little later. For example, the need to provide services to tourists creates new jobs in the community, another box question probably a question about the preceding sentence but we'll see that in a minute. Although they may not be high paying employment opportunities, these jobs satisfy the need of students and dual-earning families for part-time or seasonal employment.
Okay so let's take a look at some questions that correspond to this passage. First we've got a transition question; When placed at the beginning of paragraph 3, which of these sentences would provide the best transition between paragraph 2 and paragraph 3? And we know it's transition question 'cause it's got this word transition and it's asking us to connect the previous paragraph with the next paragraph. Let's take a closer look now, we know that that first paragraph was talking about some indirect benefits of tourism things like contributing to taxes stuff like that and then we've got for example starting off the next paragraph so probably even when we first read it, you kind of had a gut sense that it just didn't sound great and you need something introducing the paragraph before you say for example and keep going.
So what would be the best sentence to put in? Well let's take a look at these answer choices; A says 'Tourism offers other indirect benefits,' that might work. Let's read it back in and see so we've got our list of some benefits and then we go to our next paragraph; Tourism offers other indirect benefits, for example the need to provide services to tourist creates new jobs in the community. That sounds pretty good we talked about some indirect benefits up here, we're connecting it down here and then we've got some examples of more indirect benefits, great transition. Just to double check though we can shop through the other answer choices, what about B? If they become permanent residents, they will contribute even more to community taxes, so how does that work as a connector? Not great right because the next sentence 'for example the need to provide services to tourists,' they're still talking about tourists so we don't even want to talk about permanent residents just yet. Let's cross that off.
What about C another thing about permanent residents; 'If the community is a pleasant place, visitors may become permanent residents,' still not great because you want to transition that still talking about the benefits of tourism. Okay and what about D; Sometimes, however, tourism can be a drain on community resources that's talking about tourism which is good but it has a negative vibe to it right, talking about the negative effects of tourism. That's not a good transition because we know that we're talking about new jobs in that next paragraph which is positive, so we want something positive or neutral about tourism not a negative sentence about tourism as our transition. We know we can cross D out, it just doesn't work and that means that A has to be the correct answer, perfect.
Alright let's keeps going and we'll take a look at the question requiring you to add evidence. Here's a question about adding evidence; 'The writer wishes to add information here that will further support the point made in the preceding sentence. Which of the following sentences will do that best?' So you see how they're asking you to really to support a point, what would be the best way to expand on what happened in the previous sentence? Let's take a closer look. So here we've got the passage back up here and the answers underneath and we're looking remember at number 48. What's the best way to really expand on the preceding sentence?
So the preceding sentence is; 'For example the need to provide services to tourists creates new jobs in the community,' so probably if they're asking is to expand on it to think of some examples it would be great to give some examples here of new jobs that are created by tourism. Let's look through the answer choices and see what looks best. How about F; 'Most of the dollars generated from outside visitors stay within the local economy,' not really so relevant here right when you're talking about examples of providing services to tourists. So we can cross that off. Okay what about G; 'Leaders must assess the potential for tourism in their community,' not great either right. Nothing that adds evidence here about providing services to tourists. Let's cross that off.
H; 'The pros and cons of tourism development in rural America are varied, totally out there' right nothing that adds anything that's helpful especially when it talks about services. Which leaves J; 'Every new restaurant, bar and lounge requires managers, waiters and other types of employees,' perfect that helps elaborate on this idea that the need to provide services to tourists creates new jobs in the community and just to make sure let's read it back in and see how it sounds; 'For example, the need to provide services to tourists creates new jobs in the community, every new restaurant, bar and lounge requires managers, waiters, and other types of employees' and we can keep going a little bit just to make sure it sounds great; 'Although they may not be high-paying employment opportunities, these jobs satisfy the need of students and dual-earning families for part-time or seasonal employment.' Sounds good right and that's it for the top strategy questions you're going to see, adding evidence and fixing transition.
Now we're going to talk about the type of question you'll see when it comes to style on the ACT English section. The top two things you'll see are redundancy and wordiness and tone. Let's take a closer look' Redundancy and wordiness questions, these test things like is it just too wordy or does it repeat you know a concept too many times. Tips to remember the shortest answer is usually correct, remember that with redundancy if there is shorter better way to say it, say it that way. When in doubt take it out, if you're not sure if something belongs somewhere you know you're not sure if a word is relevant or not take it out you probably don't need it. This is one of my favorite quotes "Smoking can kill you, and you've if been killed, you've lost a very important of your life," can we say redundant right. So that's an example for redundancy.
Let's look at some examples; 'That company needs an efficient manager who can get the job done.' People sometimes write this way, it's almost like you feel the more I write the better, forget that especially on the ACT. What's better way to say this? Well being efficient means you can get the job done right, perfect and instead we can just say; That company needs an efficient manager, period. Let's look at another example and people do this all the time when they write; 'If you refer back to the You Tube user agreement, you'll notice that the video you posted violated the site's policies,' now is there a need to refer back. When you're referring you're referring back so we can cross off back we actually don't need it, it's redundant.
So let's look at some common examples of redundancies; free gifts that's a biggy, gifts are free that's the point of a gift, foreign imports, advanced planning, planning is in advanced, combined together you could just say combined you don't have to say combined together, few in number that's a biggy tested on the ACT very frequently you wouldn't say fewer number if you could just say few and it means the same thing, close proximity we all say this you know he lives in close proximity, proximity means close so that's redundant, honest truth is there something such as a dishonest truth no so don't use it ever. My favorite which is not up here he made a conscious decision as if people could make an unconscious decision.
So let's look at an example question that you would see on the Act testing redundancy; 'In my opinion I think we should skip Melissa's party,' now here's the question if you're saying I think we should skip Melissa's party is it your opinion, probably. So on the ACT you're always going to ask yourself does this have to be here, can I say this in a shorter and more concise way and just with fewer words and we can here, we would just omit the entire underlined portion. We can say the same thing taking out in my opinion and we can just say I think we should skip Melissa's party.
On to tone questions in these tests just the general tone of the passage make sure underlined words and phrases fit the tone. Let's take a look at a tone question that you would see on the ACT. 'Tourism provides income and diversification to rural communities. Most of the bucks generated from outside visitors stay within the local community.' So you kind of think to put a formal tone to this passage and bucks really doesn't work and you really have a feeling right, this kind of hits you we got to change it. So let's look at our answer choices. We can choose not to change it at all but we said we should change it. We can say money, most of the money generated from outside visitors stay within the local economy. That sounds good let's just check the other two answers just to make sure. Currency, most of the currency generated from outside visitors not a great choice currency is really talking about the type of money and that's not a great word here. And what about bills? Most of the bills generated from outside visitors stay within the local economy also not fantastic right? Bills is also kind of talking about a form of money you know is it coins or is it bills? Totally not necessary here so we see that B money is the best choice here.
Let's take a look at the top organization questions you'll see on the ACT. First we're going to look at paragraph organization, questions that ask you to actually reorganize an entire paragraph. Next we look at reorganizing sentences. So we've got a passage that we've seen earlier 'that day my best friends give me my first pet Charlie a red tailed boa constrictor. Unfortunately Charlie ate my younger sister's pet rabbit within the first week. Shaken my mother insisted that I give him away. I read all about my new pet and learned that he could grow up to ten feet in length and weigh 50 pounds.' So reading that you probably were thinking it doesn't sound like the best organization for this paragraph and probably you're going to have this guy learning about his new pet when he still has it as a pet which we know is before he ate his younger sister's pet rabbit. So you see the question type here which of the following provides the most logical ordering of the sentences in paragraph three? We need to reorganize this paragraph so that it sounds better.
Okay so we have a sense that sentence four needs to show up sooner right? So we're going to look through it first and see which ones have sentence four showing up earlier in the passage right? So we know it can't be F, F has sentence four still showing up last and that needs to show up before he eats his sister's pet rabbit. Okay what about something like G? It has sentence three showing up first, shaken my mother insisted that I give him away, give who away? We don't know yet so it can't be G either. Let's look at H, H has that first sentence staying first which is a good place for it that introduces the fact that this guy got this pet. It has the fourth sentence next that's pretty good too that day my best friends give me my pet, I read all about my new pet and learned he can grow up to ten feet in length sounds good what happens next?
Shaken my mother insisted that I give him away not great 'cause we don't know what happened to make his mum give away his pet right? So it's going to have to be J just to double check let's read it through. We've got sentence one that day my best friends give although we know it would actually be gave, me my first pet Charlie a red tailed boa constrictor. Next I read about my new pet and learned that he could grow up to ten feet in length and weigh 50 pounds that's sentence four pretty good. Next we have sentence two unfortunately Charlie ate my younger sister's pet rabbit within the first week. Shaken my mother insisted that I give him away perfect now we understand this paragraph great.
Let's move on to the next category which is just rearranging the organization of sentences. We've got a sentence here Araucana chickens in South America lay eggs from medium blue to medium green that range in color. You look at it and you'll feel there's just a better way to organize this sentence. You've got your chickens in South America that's kind of a clause you've got them laying eggs and then you've got the eggs ranging in color but it just sounds like there's a better way to make that flow. So there's nothing really grammatically wrong here just the organization isn't fantastic. Let's look through the answer choices and see if we can find something that sounds better. Araucana chickens in South America lay eggs that range in color from medium blue to medium green. That sounds nice now you've got your ranging in color and then what they're ranging in color from right? And then you've got the whole part about introducing the chickens you've got that first.
That sounds nice but let's check the other ones just to make sure. From medium blue to medium green, eggs that range in color are laid by the Araucana chickens in South America not so great. So you've got from medium blue to medium green and then you're going to be thinking what? Eggs okay but then the chickens that lay the eggs come way late in the sentence that's just not organized well. Let's look at D eggs that range in color from medium blue to medium green are laid by the Araucana chickens in South America. That's actually not terrible so really the best way to say it though is to have the chickens up front so you know exactly what you're talking about you're not left wondering. And then you know okay we got my chickens what do they do? Tell me well they lay eggs that range from medium green to medium blue so B is still our best answer choice.
Just to recap in this episode we talked about strategy questions and we talked about things like adding transitions or adding evidence to a passage. We talked about style of questions asking yourself is this redundant is it wordy and does it fit the tone? And last we just talked about organization questions, reorganizing a paragraph or reorganizing a sentence to improve effectiveness.
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