ACT English Practice: Rhetorical Strategy

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  • 0:01 Rhetorical Strategy
  • 1:28 Question 1
  • 3:48 Question 2
  • 5:40 Question 3
  • 7:09 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.

Learn how to answer ACT English questions about details, adding and removing different words or phrases, and other rhetorical strategy issues. See three sample questions with explanations, and then try five more on your own.

Rhetorical Strategy

Not all ACT English questions are about straight-up grammar rules. Sometimes, you get to do something a little more interesting and play with rhetoric. Rhetoric isn't just about subjects and verbs; it's about making your writing engaging and easy to follow, so you can persuade your readers more effectively. After all, just because something is grammatically correct doesn't make it persuasive!

That's what the rhetorical strategy questions on the ACT English test are about. These questions test your ability to organize paragraphs and use details in relevant and effective ways. They'll ask you about:

  • The consequences of adding or removing words or phrases
  • The most effective expressions to use for a given purpose
  • The relevance of certain details or statements within the passage

It might seem like all this is just a matter of 'getting it' or not, but the most important point to remember when you're working on these questions is that they're really all about logic. For every answer, you should be able to come up with a justification that you could explain to your English teacher. If you're not sure what that means, you'll get a much better idea once you're working through some examples with explanations.

Ready to give it a try? Let's do some practice questions.

Question 1

[1] I refused to abandon her. [2] Every day that winter, I walked Jessi to school. [3] I walked with her in snow, in sleet, in a freak hailstorm, and even on those brittle days when the sidewalk glittered with ice and the freezing wind squirmed through all our layers.

If the author deleted sentence [3], the essay would lose details that…

(A) Show the author's expert knowledge of cold-weather safety
(B) Reinforce the author's commitment to Jessi
(C) Demonstrate Jessi's dedication to school
(D) Distinguish Jessi from the author

First, let's just think about what sentence [3] says. This sentence lists all the weather conditions that the author had to put up with to walk Jessi to school every day - and nothing on that list sounds particularly pleasant. Whoever Jessi is, the author must really like her.

Now let's look at the answer choices. There's nothing about cold-weather safety in the passage, so you can safely cross off (A). (C) also doesn't work because the passage doesn't say anything about why Jessi is doing any of this - it's all about the author and the author's motivations. (D) doesn't make sense either because there is no distinction between Jessi and the author - they're both walking through the cold weather.

The only answer choice that makes sense here is (B). Sentence [1] describes how the author 'refused to abandon' Jessi, and sentence [2] explains that in practice this meant walking Jessi to school every day. All the details about the awful weather just reinforce how dedicated the author must have been to keep walking Jessi to school every day through such unpleasant conditions. So (B) is correct because it's the only answer supportable from the passage.

See how the answer to this question wasn't just about intuition or getting it? That's the kind of rationale you should have behind your answers for the rhetoric questions.

Question 2

Now let's try another one.

I didn't even have enough money for my own bus fare, so I had to borrow Mark's ID card, which was the same size as an average credit card, to get to the interview.

Which of the following, if added to the paragraph in place of the underlined portion, would be a relevant clarifying detail?

(A) (as it is now)
(B) which had been issued to him two weeks ago,
(C) which could also be used to get discounts at the movie theater,
(D) which I could use to get a half-price student fare,

To tackle this one, let's first take a step back and look at the sentence as a whole. The author doesn't have money, so she borrows Mark's ID card. This should raise some questions in your mind: how on Earth will borrowing an ID card help the author pay for her bus fare? That doesn't make any sense.

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