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ACT English Practice: Paragraph Organization

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  • 0:03 Organizing Paragraphs
  • 1:06 Example 1
  • 3:15 Example 2
  • 4:33 Example 3
  • 5:55 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Elizabeth Foster

Elizabeth has been involved with tutoring since high school and has a B.A. in Classics.

Many students struggle with ACT paragraph organization questions, but with the right strategy for approaching them, they're really not that bad. Learn how to tackle them and get some practice here.

Organizing Paragraphs

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.

Example 1

[1][2][3][4]

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.

Example 2

Ready to move on to another example? Try this:

[1][2]

Which of the following, if inserted at the beginning of Sentence 2, would most effectively connect it to Sentence 1?

(A) Accordingly,
(B) And,
(C) Because of this,
(D) However,

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.

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