Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.
On the ACT English test, you'll get several questions about paragraph organization, or how all the parts of a paragraph fit together. This covers things like sentence order, logical flow of the argument, and transitions. You might be asked to add or remove sentences, rearrange sentences, or add transitions to the paragraph so it flows better.
These questions can be hard because you have to deal with a much larger chunk of text than just one sentence. However, too many students make them harder than necessary by trying to swallow the whole paragraph in one gulp and use only intuition to figure out the answer! A better approach is to tackle the paragraph one part at a time and always base your answer on a reason you could explain to your English teacher.
You'll see how you could put this strategy into practice on some actual practice questions.
The most logical order for the sentences in this paragraph would be...
(A) 1, 2, 3, 4
(B) 2, 1, 3, 4
(C) 4, 2, 1, 3
(D) 3, 4, 2, 1
This question asks you about the organization of sentences within a paragraph. Instead of trying to grapple with the whole paragraph, we'll work through it bit by bit.
First of all, it's pretty clear that sentence 1 doesn't go at the beginning. Sentence 2 might be a reasonably good first sentence, so we'll leave that for now. But 3 could never be first: if you just start with 'We caught them carefully,' the reader doesn't know who 'they' are. So you can cross off (D) as well. Now we're left with just two choices: 2, 1, 3, 4 or 4, 2, 1, 3. The difference comes down to one question: should Sentence 4 be at the beginning or at the end?
It makes more sense to put 4 before 2 because then 'I've always been an outdoorsy person' introduces the entire explanation of catching the frogs. This lets you finally cross off (B) and identify (C) as the correct answer.
As you can see, it's really not about intuition or just 'naturally' being a 'good' writer; it's about identifying logical relationships between sentences and fitting them together one step at a time.
Ready to move on to another example? Try this:
Which of the following, if inserted at the beginning of Sentence 2, would most effectively connect it to Sentence 1?
(C) Because of this,
Can you pick the choice that makes the most effective transition between these two thoughts?
Here, there's a contrast between the two sentences. First of all, the author loves dogs. But on the other hand, she never got one as a pet. So you need a transition word that expresses contrast.
If you picked (D), you got that one right. 'However' is the only word on this list that expresses a contrast between the two sentences. Again, notice how you can use a logical argument to justify every stage of this process.
One more: let's take a look at another variation on the theme.
What is the best way to deal with Sentence 3?
(A) Delete it
(B) Move it after Sentence 4
(C) Move it to after Sentence 1
(D) Connect it to Sentence 2 with a comma
What is Sentence 3 doing in this paragraph? You'll notice that in the answer choices, there is no option to leave it as it is - that's your clue that there's something going wrong here. Can you spot it and figure out how to fix it?
If you picked (A), you got it right. Sentence 3 is just irrelevant to the rest of the paragraph. Moving it after Sentence 1 or 4 wouldn't help, and connecting it with a comma would create a grammatical error. The only thing to do is to get rid of it.
In this lesson, you got some practice working with paragraph organization questions like the ones you'll see on the ACT. These questions can take a few different forms, but ultimately, they're all asking you to do one thing: rearrange the parts of the paragraph to be more effective.
Remember that this isn't about guessing or intuition; there's always a logical explanation for the answer. You should be able to justify your choice with reasons you'd give an English teacher, not just because it 'sounds right' or 'sounds better.'
Also remember to tackle the paragraphs one sentence at a time, especially if you're working with a whole bunch of sentences. This breaks the question down into more manageable parts, so you don't get overwhelmed by so many words on the page.
Ready to tackle some on your own? Get some independent practice on the quiz questions.
After viewing this video lesson, you should be able to determine the answers for the paragraph organization section of the ACT by following a few simple strategies.
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