Rhetorical Skill: Macro Logic and Organization on ACT English
Macro logic questions on ACT English ask you about proper placement of sentences within paragraphs or proper placement of paragraphs within a passage. These rhetorical skills questions test your reading comprehension as well as your ability to analyze sentences to determine the most logical organization of the passage. Knowing how to recognize these types of questions and how to apply strategies to these questions will help you answer them quickly and efficiently.
Macro Logic and Organization on ACT English. The first step to answering any ACT English question is determining what type of question it is. Before learning how to answer macro logic questions, we need to know how to identify them.
Luckily, macro logic questions are easy to detect. Whenever you see bracketed numbers before each sentence in a paragraph, you should be aware that a sentence order question will be asked.
In addition, bracketed letters sometimes signal an imminent sentence order question. For example,
Finally, bracketed numbers at the top of each paragraph signal an upcoming paragraph order question.
Whenever you see bracketed numbers or bracketed letters in the passage, be aware that a sentence or paragraph order question is coming up soon.
Macro Logic questions are usually constructed in similar ways, so let’s take a look at some examples:
All sentence order questions will ask you where a sentence should be placed. The answer choices will be various places within the paragraph or passage.
Here is an example of a paragraph order questions. Similar to sentence order questions, paragraph order questions will ask you where in the passage should a certain paragraph be located and answer choices will be in various places within the passage.
Paragraph order questions are typically asked at the end of a passage.
Macro Logic and Organization on ACT English. There are three types of sentence order questions and although all macro logic test the same general idea, each type of sentence order question requires a different approach.
This type of question will ask you where to put a sentence for the author to achieve some stated purpose. For example,
To answer this type of question, you have to identify the intended goal. Then, you have to determine where the sentence should be placed in order to achieve that goal. If after looking at the question your first thought is that you have no idea, don’t worry – the answer will be in one of the spots identified by the answer choices.
This type of question will ask you where to put a sentence within the passage to maintain logic and coherence. For example,
For this type of sentence, you have to determine the placement of the sentence where it would make the most sense. The sentence should logically fit the preceding sentence and flow into the following sentence.
Although most questions dealing with sentence order focus on a single paragraph there exist questions that ask you to determine in which paragraph a sentence should be placed to maintain logic and coherence. For example,
The letters in the answer choices are bracketed and placed at specific locations within various paragraphs. This type of question requires the same skill set as the previous type, but you will be looking at how the sentence in question will fit in different paragraphs rather than the same one.
Let’s go through the process of answering these questions.
Macro Logic and Organization on ACT English. Let’s talk about the steps you should take to answer Sentence Order questions. Keep in mind that this approach can be applied to any sentence order or paragraph order question. Let’s look at an actual ACT example.
This question is asking you to determine a place in the paragraph where the sentence “I still have doubts” can be placed to emphasize a previously expressed uncertainty. Focus on key words and phrases in the question. Here, the words “emphasize” and “amplify” are important. This means that the sentence in front of “I still have doubts” should suggest uncertainty.
Plug in “I still have doubts” after each option to determine where it would logically fit and satisfy the requirement of placing emphasis on a previously expressed uncertainty. Here are the options:
- Our son has started playing organized T-ball, a beginner’s version of baseball. I still have doubts.
- “Organized” is what parents call it, anyway. I still have doubts.
- Joe is seven, living in those two or three years when they can manage to throw a baseball a few feet but when what they’re really interested in are things closer at hand, bugs, butterflies, dirt (if they are in the infield), grass (if they are in the outfield). I still have doubts.
- Children of that age still think nothing of doing little dances in the outfield, often with their backs to the home plate and, consequently, the batter. I still have doubts.
As we go through the choices, we are looking for the sentence that expresses uncertainty and would make sense preceding “I still have doubts.”
We can eliminate sentence 1 because it’s a statement of fact and there is nothing uncertain about it. The narrator would not have doubts that his son started playing T-ball.
We can eliminate sentence 3 because it describes narrator’s personal observations, so there is no uncertainty.
Also, we can eliminate sentence 4 because it is another observation by a narrator about the tendencies of T-ball playing children.
We are left with B, “after sentence 2.”
#4. Make Sure Your Choice Logically Follows the Previous Sentence and Connects to the Following Sentence
The quotation marks around the word “organized” suggest uncertainty. The narrator is saying that the parents call T-ball “organized,” which implies that he does not. That logically connects to him saying, “I still have doubts,” meaning that he has doubts about organization of T-ball. The following sentence (the one where narrator describes what kids are interested in “bugs, butterflies, grass” provides evidence that there’s actually very little “organization” in T-ball. Because the phrase “I still have doubts” logically follows the previous sentence and is supported by the information in the following sentence, the correct answer is B.
Let’s shift our focus to paragraph order questions.
Macro Logic and Organization on ACT English. There are two types of paragraph order questions.
These questions ask you for the best placement of a paragraph for the passage to maintain logic and coherence.
In order to answer this type of questions you have to be able to determine the main points of various paragraphs and determine where a paragraph in question would logically fit in.
These questions ask you where we can split a paragraph into two in order to fulfill a purpose.
In order to answer this question, you have to determine where there is a shift in the topic. In this case, you would find the sentence where discussion of one type of kayak ends and the discussion of the other type of kayak begins.
Let’s talk about the process of answering paragraph order questions.
We’re going to focus on the first type of paragraph question. These questions are a lot more involved and require you to analyze the passage as a whole instead of looking at a single paragraph. Here is our example question.
This question is asking for the best placement of paragraph 5 for the passage to be most logical and easiest to understand. Make sure you identify the key word in the answer choice. The question is asking you which AFTER which paragraph should paragraph 5 be placed.
Use the topic and concluding sentences of each paragraph to determine each paragraph’s main point. Here are the topic and concluding sentence of Paragraph 5.
Topic: In 1788, a neighbor loaned Banneker some astronomical instruments and four books on mathematics and astronomy.
Concluding: He also began to calculate annual tables of yearly sets of astronomical data, which became the basis for almanacs published under his name from 1792 through 1797.
From these two sentences we can conclude that paragraph 5 is about the history of Banneker’s work in the field of astronomy.
Identify main ideas of the other paragraphs as well as the general structure of the passage to determine the most logical place for paragraph 5.
Based on the topic and concluding sentences, let’s look at the main ideas of the paragraphs in the answer choices.
- where it is now (after paragraph 4). Paragraph 4 tells us that Banneker lived and worked on the family farm and concludes with a description of how he pursued scientific studies and taught himself the flute and violin.
- after paragraph 1. Paragraph 1 is a general introductory paragraph about Banneker. Both the topic and the concluding sentences state that he was an African American inventor and astronomer who grew up on his family’s farm and was interested in acquiring knowledge.
- after paragraph 2. Paragraph 2 starts with a description of Banneker’s grandmother. She was an indentured servant who bought land and married a freed slave. The concluding sentence says that Banneker’s grandmother taught him to read and he attended a Quaker school in the winter when farm work slowed down.
- after paragraph 3. Paragraph 3 topic and concluding sentences state that at the age of 22, Banneker constructed a wood-carved clock that worked for forty years.
The concluding sentence of the preceding paragraph should logically transition into the topic sentence of paragraph 5 which talks about Banneker’s work in astronomy. Paragraphs 2 and 3 do not have anything to do with astronomy and, therefore, can be eliminated.
The first paragraph mentions Banneker’s “keen interest in acquiring knowledge.” The rest of the passage is in a roughly chronological order which makes sense that the second paragraph would be about Banneker’s family and his upbringing.
Because of these reasons, we can eliminate options B, C, and D. The correct answer choice is A.
#5. Make Sure Your Choice Logically Follows the Previous Paragraph and Connects to the Following Paragraph
Paragraph 4’s concluding statement states that Banneker pursued scientific studies. This statement logically transitions into paragraph 5 which talks about his work in astronomy. Paragraph 6 is the concluding paragraph that mentions that Banneker enjoyed studying music and astronomy. Paragraph 5 fits at its current place. The correct answer is A.
Before attempting to answer any question, determine what type of question it is and make sure you know what information you should be looking for. Is it a sentence order question? Is it a paragraph order question? Which type of sentence or paragraph order question is it? Look for the key words within the question.
Consider the various options to determine where to place a sentence or paragraph. Determine the function of the sentence in terms of the paragraph or the function of the paragraph in terms of the passage organization.
For sentence order questions, the wrong choices will make the sentence wordy, will not logically connect to the surrounding sentences, or will not fulfill the intended purpose. For paragraph order questions, the wrong choices will interrupt the logical flow of the passage from one paragraph to the next. I an answer choice makes the sentence or passage confusing or hard to follow, you should eliminate it.
Sometimes, paragraphs within a passage are ordered chronologically (like in our example above). For passage order questions, the passage in question should seamlessly fit into the chronology of the rest of the passage, i.e. the things or events that happened first should be placed at the beginning of the passage, while things or events that happened last should be placed at the end.
Similarly, logical order of events can help you identify where to place a sentence within a paragraph. For example, you have to run before you can feel winded.
#5. Make Sure the Correct Choice Logically Follows the What Comes Before and Connects to the What Comes After.
Remember: the placement of sentence or paragraph should make logical sense within the context. This applies to all paragraph order questions. The sentence or paragraph in question must logically follow the preceding sentence or paragraph and smoothly flow into the following sentence or paragraph.
If you are struggling with rhetorical skills questions, review our articles on redundancy and author technique.
Do you struggle with transitions? The ACT frequently tests Transitions in combination with punctuation. I strongly encourage you to read our article about commas and other punctuation on the ACT English.
Make sure you are familiar with what the ACT actually covers and 5 critical concepts you must know to ace the ACT English.