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Types of Rhetorical Skills Questions on the ACT English

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  • 0:08 Rhetorical Skills Questions
  • 0:33 Strategy Questions
  • 2:17 Organization Questions
  • 5:28 Style Questions
  • 8:40 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Bayliss
Learn about the three main types of rhetorical skills questions on the ACT English as well as some helpful strategies for answering these questions correctly.

Introduction

The ACT English has two question types: usage and mechanics and rhetorical skills. We've learned that usage and mechanics questions test you on punctuation, grammar, word usage, and sentence structure and that rhetorical skills questions cover style, strategy, and organization. In this lesson, we'll dig deep into rhetorical skills and learn exactly what strategy, style, and organization mean for the ACT.

Strategy

Strategy questions comprise 16% of questions on the English section, which comes out to about 12 questions. For most strategy questions, you'll need to determine if a sentence should be added to the passage. In other cases, you'll be asked to look at the passage as a whole and determine the purpose of the passage. Strategy is a broad word, so let's look at some concrete examples of the types of strategy questions you might see.

Strategy - Additional Detail

Many strategy questions might ask you to identify a sentence that provides additional relevant details to the paragraph. For example, you might be asked to select a sentence that provides a specific example, such as in this question:

Sample question 1

For all rhetorical skills questions, you should read the question very carefully, but this is particularly true for these types of questions because all of the answer choices could be correct. The question will tell you what type of detail needs to be added. In question 1, the question is specifically asking for sensory details. All of the answer choices are acceptable sentences, but choice B is the only answer choice that includes sensory details, such as 'warm vanilla' and 'spicy cinnamon.'

Strategy - Big Picture

Once in a while, you'll see a question that asks about the purpose of the whole passage. Questions about the whole passage are always the last question of the passage and are always clearly labeled.

Sample question 2

I normally recommend to not read the whole passage in order to save time, but the big exception to that rule is questions about the whole passage. Each time you start a new passage, flip to the end to check if there is a passage-as-a-whole question - if there is, you can read it as you answer the other questions. This strategy ultimately saves you time because you don't have to go through the passage twice.

Organization

Organization on the ACT English refers to the sentences, paragraphs, and the whole passage. When you think of organization in writing, you probably think about the structure of the essay, such as if the paragraphs are in a logical order. You'll see questions that ask you to order paragraphs on the ACT as well as questions that ask you about the order of sentences within a paragraph and transition, introductory, and closing sentences that best fit the content. Organization questions comprise 15% of questions, which is about 11 or 12 questions total.

Organization - Transition & Topic Sentences

Many organization questions ask you to choose the best topic or introductory sentence for that paragraph. Here's an example of how a topic sentence question might look on the ACT.

Sample question 3

Do you see the correct answer? It's choice H. Since the rest of the paragraph describes three different types of baked goods, the sentence 'Every week, Uncle Mick showed me his recipe for a different treat.' best sets up the paragraph for details about the various treats. Notice that this question also has a slightly different format than many rhetorical skills questions. Instead of being indicated by the number in the box, it's indicated by underlining.

A related question type simply asks you to consider the beginning of a paragraph and determine the best sentence that transitions from the previous paragraph. Since a transition sentence is a bridge between two paragraphs, make sure to determine the main idea in the paragraphs both before and after the transition before choosing an answer.

Organization - Paragraph & Sentence Order

You'll also see organization questions that ask you to choose the most logical order of paragraphs within the passage or sentences within a paragraph. Paragraph order questions typically appear at the end of the passage, and the question will clearly state that it is asking about the passage as a whole. This is your clue that you should read the whole passage and evaluate the ideas in each paragraph to determine the most logical order. When you see these questions, all of the paragraphs will be numbered, and you'll be asked to use the numbers to indicate the correct order.

Sentence order questions typically appear at the end of the paragraph. Like for paragraph order questions, the sentences will be numbered. You probably won't see sentence or paragraph numbering unless there is an organization question, so if you see numbers, pay attention to them! To answer sentence order questions correctly, make sure you read the whole paragraph!

Take a second to read the paragraph in example 3 and determine the correct answer.

Sample question 4

Ready? The correct answer is B. This example is pretty straightforward because the sentences contain clue words like 'first', 'then' and 'finally.' You'll likely see trickier sentence order on the test, but if you read the sentences carefully and think about the most logical sequences of events, you should be able to determine the right answer.

When answering questions about paragraph or sentence order, be aware that the numbers always appear before the sentence or paragraph. Sometimes students get these questions wrong because they associate sentences with the wrong number. Read carefully so you don't fall into this trap!

Style

You'll see a variety of style questions on the ACT. Some ask you to select the sentence that best fits the writer's style. Others ask you to choose a sentence that demonstrates clean and concise writing. About 16% of questions are style questions, which translates to about 12 questions. Your strategy will vary based on the type of question it is, so let's go into a little more detail.

Style - Overall Essay

Many style questions will ask you to determine which sentence best fits the style of the rest of the essay. Picture your science textbook. Can you imagine it saying, 'Meiosis is the coolest process ever!'? Probably not. Most textbooks have a more formal, academic style and are unlikely to call something 'cool.' To determine the passage's style, read the paragraph containing the sentence and compare the style with the answer choices.

Sample question 5

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