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Macro Logic in ACT English: Sentence and Paragraph Order

Posted by Justin Berkman | Jul 22, 2015 5:19:41 PM

ACT English



Macro logic questions on ACT English ask you to determine where to properly place sentences within a paragraph and where to properly place paragraphs within a passage. These rhetorical skills questions test your ability to analyze sentences and determine how to most logically organize a passage. Knowing how to recognize and using my top ACT English strategies to approach these questions will enable you to correctly answer them in an efficient manner.


How to Identify a Macro Logic Question

The first step in solving any ACT question is determining what type of question it is. Before learning how to solve macro logic questions, we need to figure out how to spot them. Once you identify a macro logic question, you can use the methods we'll discuss later in the article to determine the right answer. 

Macro logic questions are easily identifiable. Bracketed numbers at the beginnings of sentences signal that a sentence order question will appear:


Also, bracketed letters in different paragraphs signal an impending sentence order question:


Similarly, bracketed numbers at the top of each paragraph signal that there may be a paragraph order question:


Whenever you see bracketed numbers or letters within a passage, you know you'll encounter a macro logic question.


body_construction.jpgCheck out how these questions are constructed.


Macro Logic Example Questions

Most macro logic questions tend to be constructed in similar ways, so let's take a look at some example questions. 


Sentence Order Question

Macro logic questions are among the most easily identifiable.


All sentence order questions will ask you where a sentence should be placed. The answer choices will all be various locations within the passage.


Paragraph Order Question

The other category of macro logic question is paragraph order. Let's take a look at a paragraph order question:


Like sentence order questions, paragraph order questions are fairly straightforward. You'll be asked where a paragraph should be placed. Again, the answer choices will all be various locations within the passage.

I'll start by going over the types of and strategies for sentence order questions before moving onto paragraph order questions!


Types of Sentence Order Questions

Let's break down the three types of sentence order questions. Each question type requires a slightly different approach, even though all macro logic questions test the same general skills. 


Type #1: Accomplishing a Goal

The question will ask you where to place a sentence for the author to fulfill some stated purpose. Our sentence order example question from above is representative of this type of question.


For 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.


Type #2: Determine the Most Logical Placement Within a Paragraph

These questions will ask you where a sentence should be placed within a paragraph to maintain logic and coherence. 


You simply have to determine where the sentence should be placed for it to make the most sense. The sentence should logically proceed from the previous sentence and connect to the following sentence.


Type #3: Determine in Which Paragraph Would Be the Most Logical Placement

Most sentence order questions I've seen focus on a single paragraph. However, there are sentence order questions that ask you to determine in which paragraph a sentence should be placed to maintain logic and coherence. Here's an example:


body_sentence_order_type_3.pngThe letters in the answer choices are bracketed and placed at specific points in the various paragraphs. This type of question requires the same approach and skill set as the previous type. You'll just be looking at locations in different paragraphs as opposed to focusing on a single paragraph.

It's good to be familiar with all of the basic constructions of these questions so that nothing shocks you on test day.

Now let's go through the process of answering sentence order questions.




Strategies for Answering Sentence Order Questions

I'll go through the step-by-step process for how to answer a sentence order question. We'll use the first type as an example, but you should use the same approach for the other two types as well.





#1: Determine What the Question is Asking

This question is asking where the sentence be placed to emphasize previously expressed uncertainty. Focus on the key words or phrases in the question. In this question, the words "emphasize" and "amplify" are important. Therefore, the previous sentence should somehow suggest uncertainty. The sentence "I still have doubts" should be placed somewhere in which it would emphasize uncertainty that's already present.


#2: Go Through the Answer Choices

Plug in “I still have doubts” after each option to determine where it logically fits and will satisfy the requirement that it emphasize previously expressed uncertainty. Here are all of our options:


[1] Our son has started playing organized T-ball, a beginner’s version of baseball.


[2] “Organized” is what parents call it, anyway.


[3] 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’re in the infield), grass (if they’re in the outfield).


[4] Children of that age still think nothing of doing little dances in the outfield, often with their backs to home plate and, consequently, the batter.


#3: Eliminate Wrong Choices

As we go through the choices, we’re looking for a sentence that somehow expresses uncertainty and would make sense preceding “I still have doubts." We can eliminate sentence 1 because that is a statement of fact and there is no expression of uncertainty. The narrator wouldn’t have doubts that his son has started playing T-ball.

Similarly, in sentence 3, there is no implied uncertainty and these are just stated observations made by the narrator. He's commenting on the behavior of seven-year-olds.

Finally, sentence 4 is also another observation that the narrator states about children of that age. There's nothing that implies or expresses uncertainty.

We are left with B, “after sentence 2."


#4: The Right Choice Should Logically Follow the Sentence Before and Connect to the Following Sentence

The quotation marks in sentence two suggest uncertainty. The narrator is saying that parents call T-ball “organized," implying that he does not. That logically connects to him saying, “I still have doubts," meaning that he still doubts that there is organization in T-ball. The following sentence provides evidence that there is little organization in "organized" T-ball. Everything fits and the answer is B.

Now let's focus on paragraph order questions.



Types of Paragraph Order Questions

There are two basic types of paragraph order questions.


Type #1: Determine the Most Logical Paragraph Order

These questions ask you where a paragraph should be placed for the passage to maintain logic and coherence.




You have to figure out the main ideas of the various paragraphs to determine where a certain paragraph most logically fits.


Type #2: Dividing a Paragraph Into Two

These questions ask you where a paragraph could be split into two to fulfill a stated purpose.



These questions are relatively straightforward. For this example, you just have to determine where the explanation of one type of kayak ends and where the explanation of the other type of kayak begins. To determine where a paragraph should be divided, you just have to identify where the topic shifts.

Here's the process for figuring out paragraph order questions.


Strategies for Answering Paragraph Order Questions

We're going to focus on the first type of paragraph order question. These questions are more involved and require you to look at the passage as a whole as opposed to looking at a single paragraph. Again, here's our example question:



#1: Determine What the Question is Asking

Basically, the question is asking where paragraph 5 should be placed for the passage to be most logical and easily understandable. For these questions, make sure you identify the key word in the answer choice. The question is asking you to determine which paragraph paragraph 5 should be placed AFTER.


#2: Determine the Main Idea of the Paragraph

Use topic and concluding sentences to determine main ideas of paragraphs. Here are the topic and concluding sentences for 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 determine that this paragraph is about the history of Banneker’s work in the field of astronomy.


#3: Go Through the Answer Choices

Use the main ideas of the other paragraphs and the general structure of the passage to determine if it would be logical to place paragraph 5 after a certain paragraph.

Based on topic and concluding sentences, here are the main ideas of the paragraphs in the answer choices:

A. where it is now (after paragraph 4): Paragraph 4 starts with a statement that Banneker lived and worked on the family farm, but it concludes with a statement about how he pursued scientific studies and taught himself the flute and violin.

B. Paragraph 1 is a general introductory paragraph about Banneker. The topic and concluding sentences state that he was an African American inventor who grew up on his family’s farm and had a keen interest in acquiring knowledge.

C. Paragraph 2 starts with a statement about Banneker’s grandmother: she was an indentured servant who bought some land and married a freed slave. It concludes by stating that his grandmother taught him to read and he attended a Quaker school when the farm work slowed down in the winter.

D. Paragraph 3 is about how Banneker constructed a clock that kept time for over 40 years.


#4: Eliminate Wrong Choices

The concluding sentence of the preceding paragraph should logically transition to the paragraph about Banneker’s work in astronomy. Paragraphs 2 and 3 have nothing to do with astronomy and do not logically transition to Banneker’s work with astronomy; therefore, we can eliminate those choices.

While the first paragraph mentions Banneker’s “keen interest in acquiring knowledge," the rest of the passage is in roughly chronological order. It makes more sense for the second paragraph to be about Banneker’s family history and his childhood. Consequently, we can get rid of B, C, and D.

We are left with answer choice A.


#5: The Right Choice Should Logically Follow the Paragraph Before and Connect to the Paragraph After

Paragraph 4 concludes with a statement that Banneker pursued scientific studies. That logically transitions into the paragraph about his work in astronomy. Paragraph 6 is the concluding paragraph and mentions how Banneker liked to study astronomy. Paragraph 5 fits where it is currently placed. The answer is A.


body_path.jpgFollow this path to the right answer.


General Tips for Macro Logic Questions

Here are some tips for any macro logic question you may encounter on the ACT English section.


Determine What the Question Is Asking

Before answering the question, identify the type of question that is being asked. Is it a sentence order question? Is it a paragraph order question? Which type of sentence order or paragraph order question is it? Look for the key words within the question. Make sure you know what you should be looking for before you attempt to answer the question.


Go Through the Answer Choices

For macro logic questions, you need to look at the various options you're given for where to place a sentence or paragraph. Look at the placement options and determine the function of the sentence or paragraph in the answer choice. For paragraph order questions, identify the main idea of the paragraphs.


Eliminate Wrong Choices

For sentence order questions, the wrong choices will not fulfill the intended goal or will not logically connect one sentence to the next. For paragraph order questions, the wrong choices will cause the passage to have less of a logical flow from one paragraph to the next. If an answer choice would make the passage confusing or hard to follow, then you should be able to eliminate it.


Use Chronological Order or Order of Events When Applicable

Often, paragraphs are ordered chronologically. In our paragraph order example, the paragraphs were ordered chronologically. For passages that have paragraphs in chronological order, the order of the paragraphs should coincide with the order in which the events that they're referencing happened. The things that happened first should go at the beginning of the passage and the things that happened last should be placed at the end of the passage.

Similarly, order of events can help determine sentence order within a paragraph. Order of events refers to the logical order of events. For example, you have to fall down before you can get up. Keeping in mind chronological order and order of events can enable you to more easily answer macro logic questions.


Make Sure That the Answer Choice You Pick Logically Follows What Comes Before and Connects to What Comes After

For all types of sentence and paragraph order questions, the placement of the sentence or paragraph has to make logical sense. Look at the sentences before and after to determine if the placement is logical and understandable.


What's Next?

I highly recommend that you read this article about how to approach ACT English passages.

For articles on other types of ACT rhetorical skills questions, check out these posts on author technique and author main goal.


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Justin Berkman
About the Author

Justin has extensive experience teaching SAT prep and guiding high school students through the college admissions and selection process. He is firmly committed to improving equity in education and helping students to reach their educational goals. Justin received an athletic scholarship for gymnastics at Stanford University and graduated with a BA in American Studies.

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