The ACT English section includes five text passages with a total of 75 related questions. The test lasts 45 mins and tests your understanding of standard English conventions, knowledge of the language, and production of writing. Fragments and run-on sentences in ACT English exams are commonplace. So, let’s take a look at what they are and how to address them.
What To Expect From the Format of English Questions
Some questions are focused on the writing in an underlined portion of the passage. The underlined text will be tethered to a question number. You will read the answer choices to decide whether replacing the underlined text with one of the answer choices could improve the quality of writing.
In order to make the correct selection, you will need to consider the information around the underlined material to ensure that your decision is logical to the surrounding contexts. Other questions will not have any underlined material to focus on. Instead, you will focus on the passage as a whole or one section of the passage.
What Is a Run-On?
Run-on sentences are caused when there is incorrect usage of punctuation or a comma splice. A comma splice occurs when a comma combines two incomplete sentences that have no common conjunction.
Example: There was a big storm, the game was canceled.
Correction: There was a big storm, and the game was canceled.
You can also spot run-on sentences if two or more sentences are combined without using punctuation. Keep an eye out for sentences that have two unrelated subjects. The subject of the sentence should be clear.
Example of a run-on: After the game they went back to the locker room Sarah forgot her bag and had to walk all the way back to the field.
Correction: After the game, they went back to the locker room. Sarah forgot her bag and had to walk all the way back to the field.
This version is corrected by turning this run-on sentence into two separate sentences.
Correction: After the game, they went back to the locker room, but Sarah forgot her bag and had to walk all the way back to the field.
This version is corrected by adding a comma and a coordinating conjunction.
What Is a Fragment?
There are several things to look for when ensuring that a sentence is not a fragment. However, the most important thing is to check whether a sentence lacks a subject or a verb. This instantly makes it a fragmented sentence. The sentence can also be a fragment if the sentence is entirely a subordinate clause or if the sentence has an “-ing” verb or an “-ed” verb without a helping verb.
You should also be aware of sentences that contain relative clauses, prepositional clauses, or appositives, but the main clause is incomplete.
Example of an incomplete main clause: Because of the storm.
Correction: Because of the storm, the game was canceled.
The sentence does not have a verb: After the show.
Correction: We left after the show.
The sentence does not have a subject: Studied the ACT practice tests.
Correction: I studied the ACT practice tests.
The sentence is a subordinate clause: Before the game.
Correction: Before the game, they got dinner.
The sentence has an “-ing” verb or an “-ed” verb without a helping verb: The kids walking to school.
Correction: The kids are walking to school.
The main clause is incomplete: The shelf, which held books and files.
The sentence does not make sense without the prepositional phrase, “which held books and files,” There must be a verb tethered to the subject, “the shelf.”
Correction: The shelf, which held books and files, extends across the entire wall.
Similarly, here’s another sentence that lacks a prepositional phrase: The fourth book, which took the author three years to write.
Correction: The fourth book, which took the author three years to write, is the longest and most exciting book in the series.
In the original sentence, “The fourth book” is an incomplete main clause. By crossing out the relative clause, “which took the author three years to write,” the error is more clear. The corrected version adds a verb so the main clause is completed.
Quick Tips To Remember
Now that we know what these terms mean, let’s go through a few quick tips to help you with fragments and run-on sentences in ACT English tests.
- Spot the usual suspects: If you’ve read a sentence and there isn’t a glaring mistake, try looking for the most common mistakes that make a fragment or run-on sentence.
- Eliminate: The common point of confusion for most students taking the exam is that more than one answer choice seems like the right one. If you find yourself in the same tricky situation, eliminate the choices that you know are most definitely wrong. This will limit your options and help you reach the right answer quicker.
- Prompts to prompt you: At the start of most questions, you will find a simple instructional prompt that will help guide you through what is expected.
- Remember the rules: If you’re confused about which answer to pick, remember the rules used in the ACT English section. See which options best follow the rules and pick from among them.
Sentence fragments and run-ons in ACT practice is key while prepping for the exam. There are a fair number of questions that focus on this topic. You can prepare to spot and improve these errors with the help of UWorld’s ACT Prep Course. The course offers detailed question explanations, performance tracking tools, and thousands of practice questions to help you prepare for the official ACT exam.
Take advantage of the detailed question explanations for sentence fragments and run-ons in ACT practice material to dive deeper into the concepts and skills that are tested. The performance tracking tool also serves as a valuable resource to track improvements or even to compare your results to your peers. Try it out to boost your scores and prepare for the English section of the ACT exam!