The difficulty of the English section of the new ACT is not so easily measured as in the math section—so much depends upon a student’s comfort with a comma, a colon, or a concept. The changes to the English section have little to do with content: get ready for 75 questions about grammar, usage, and rhetoric. The changes instead have more to do with scoring. The change comes in the form of a composite score: instead of getting just an English score based on the number of questions answered correctly in that section, students will get an English Langauge Arts score, which is a combination of the scores in English, reading, and writing. The theory behind this change is that an overall English Language Arts score gives a comprehensive account more closely reflective of the student’s abilities and college readiness.
The reading section’s scoring is different in the same way, but the reading section itself will have an additional two types of questions. Students will still be given four passages to read followed by a set of comprehension questions—ye olde familiar riff. Many questions will focus on small details or larger themes within the passage just as in previous ACT tests. The first difference in the new ACT reading section will be questions that may refer to more than one of the passages; this will test not only for comprehension, but also critical thinking and integration of ideas. Additionally, the reading section will have corresponding graphs or charts related to the passage. Expect questions regarding interpreting this data. These changes reflect the new ACT’s focus on skills students will need in college and beyond.