In the second part of our three part series, ACT tutor Terri of Prepped and Polished shows you on the whiteboard transitions between paragraphs on the ACT English test.


Hi, I’m Terri with Prepped and Polished in South Natick, Massachusetts. Thanks for joining us today.

Today, I’m gonna cover part two of a three-part series on how to avoid three pitfalls of rhetorical skills questions on the ACT English test. The ACT English test has two question types, usage mechanics and rhetorical skills questions. Usage mechanics cover grammar punctuation, word choice, and sentence structure or word usage. The rhetorical skills test style, organization, and strategy. Most of my students dread rhetorical skills questions. They find them daunting and very time-consuming. Today, we’re gonna tackle transitions between paragraphs, a common rhetorical skills question. Now, I’m gonna walk you through the steps of how to tackle transitions between paragraphs with an actual ACT example. So there’s a lot of information on this board, but it was necessary to show you everything at once.

These are portions of paragraphs from an actual ACT English Test, and these are the accompanying answer choices. These are the steps to approach that we’re gonna follow and try to find the right answer. So first, it’s saying, “What is the question asking for?” And you wanna know that right away. So here’s the question, given that all the choices are true, and this is what we need to find out, “Which one provides the best transition into the rest of the essay?” And here is the part that we have to consider. It’s in paragraph one, and so we’ll be trying to see if that makes a logical transition into the rest of the essay.
Then, you should read the paragraphs with an eye to main ideas, so let’s do that. So paragraph one says, “The autobiography by Mary Harris Jones is riddled with factual inaccuracies. These untruths matter very little, for the autobiography isn’t about the life of Mary Harris Jones.” And then, it says, “Jones became famous for her work.” So paragraph one is about… It’s focusing on Mary Harris Jones’ autobiography.

Paragraph two, “When Mary Harris Jones got involved in Labor politics in the 1880s, it was rare for a woman to attend let alone address Union meetings. Jones became one of the movement’s most powerful and controversial advocates.” So this Labor politics is really the focus of paragraph two, her involvement in Labor politics. And then, paragraph three, “The moniker or nickname “Mother Jones” was conferred on Jones by members of the American Railway Union. She herself adopted the name, and subsequently, a corresponding public persona.” Paragraph three is all about how she was called Mother Jones because she was involved in many causes, and particularly, the American Railway Union.

Is there anything referenced in the opening paragraph that needs to be further explained? Well, there is. It says that “The autobiography isn’t really about the life of Mary Harris Jones.” Well, my question is then, what is it about? So that I need to find out. I’m beginning to think there might be some, sort of, contrast. “Jones became famous for her work” doesn’t seem to… It seems awkward, but let’s continue. Now, we’re gonna narrow down choices. A is no change. Well, “Jones became famous for her work,” I think sounds very awkward there. Choice B, Born in Cork, Ireland, in 1837, Jones emigrated to the United States in the mid-1800s. I mean, that’s nice to know, but it’s really not needed, and it said the autobiography isn’t really about her life. So I think both of those are out. C is rather, it’s the story of her public persona, the radical labor activist Mother Jones. I think the word “rather” is key. It’s a contrast word, but let’s… I think we might need a contrast here. Let’s just see the last choice D. Instead, this essay will show you why Jones’ role in history is so important. Effective essays don’t say what they’re going to show you, they just do. So D is not really a good choice.

I think we found our answer, but let’s plug it in and try it. So, “The autobiography by Mary Harris Jones is riddled with factual inaccuracies. These untruths matter very little, for the autobiography isn’t about the life of Mary Harris Jones rather,” and there’s the contrast, a good transition. It’s the story of her public persona, the radical labor activist Mother Jones. That’s what we really need there to provide the best transition to the rest of the essay because it’s gonna be talking about how she got the name Mother Jones and that’s her public persona. So that leads into the rest of the essay, so we found our answer, C.

If you enjoyed these tips today on transitions between paragraphs, give us a thumbs up and subscribe to our channel. If you have any questions or you want more in-depth tutoring either online or in person, simply email, and we’ll be glad to help you. Good luck.

What was your biggest takeaway from this video tutorial about transitions between paragraphs on the ACT English test? Do you have any questions for Terri and Alexis Avila?

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