Why a 21 on the ACT is a GREAT Place to Start: English


You picked up a practice test from the high school counseling office, looked it over, went to bed early, ate a good breakfast, and scored a 21 on your first ACT.

Congratulations!  A 21 is the average national ACT score; a 36 is a perfect one.  If you scored anywhere around a 21 on your first test, you are right where the test makers assume you will be: the middle of the bell curve. But, take heart. You have ALL the skills necessary to dramatically improve your score.


There are 75 questions.  If you scored a 21 on the English section, you answered approximately 48* of the questions correctly. You missed approximately 27*.  You missed roughly 1 out of every 3 questions.  This is GOOD news because there is much room for improvement.  Although the English portion of the test is written at a 9th grade reading level, the format of the passages is extremely confusing. Most people plow their way through the test, trying to understand what each question is even asking, and run out of time before they even make it to the end.

Unfortunately, as a first time test taker, you fell prey to some of the ACT’s tricks and traps and missed questions that you may have known otherwise. The test writers work hard to keep most students snuggled safely inside the wide arc of the bell curve.

However, I have good news. With proper guidance and lots of practice, you can move out of the center of that overcrowded arc.  Most tutors agree, that of all four sections, the English section holds the most promise for a significant increase in score.

The English section tests formal, written English.  The comma is the most heavily tested punctuation mark, pronoun/antecedent problems are rampant, and subject/verb agreement is king.  You will need to train yourself to think like an editor and deeply familiarize yourself with the test and its content. With proper study and practice, you can make significant strides in English.  My son went from a 24 to a 34 in the English section.  He just recently told me that I actually taught him how to write. I find this of more value than his test score. Thank you, ACT!

*Each individually administered test has a different range of scores used to determine the actual ACT score of that section. This is referred to as the “curve” of the test and is used to make sure the test results are standardized, i.e. the bell curve looks the same for each test.

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