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Add/Delete Questions in ACT English: 6 Strategies


Brace yourself for some more ACT English fun. Add/Delete questions are a common type of rhetorical skills question on the ACT English section.

These questions ask whether you should add or delete a sentence or phrase within a passage. They test your reading comprehension and ability to analyze sentences within a passage.

In this post, I'll do the following:

  • Explain add/delete questions.
  • Teach you the basic constructions of add/delete questions.
  • Provide example questions.
  • Give you strategies and a step-by-step approach for answering this type of question.


General Construction of Add/Delete Questions

Being able to quickly identify an add/delete question on the ACT will be helpful in determining how to go about finding the answer. Here are the constructions for the different types of add/delete questions you will encounter on the ACT English section.


Add Questions

This is the general construction of an add question:

At this point in the essay, the author is considering inserting the following sentence:


Should this sentence be inserted?

 A. Yes, because...
 B. Yes, because...
C. No, because...
 D. No, because... 


Add questions are two part questions. First, you have to determine if the sentence should be added and if it logically fits at that point in the passage. Then, you have to identify the reasoning for why the sentence should or shouldn't be added. 

Now, let's take a look at the general constructions of delete questions.



Delete Questions

There are two primary types of delete questions.


Type #1: Kept or Deleted

This is the construction of the first type:

At this point, the author is considering deleting the following sentence:


Should this be kept or deleted?

A. Kept, because...
B. Kept, because...
     C. Deleted, because...
     D. Deleted, because...


These are also two part questions. You have to determine if a sentence or phrase is relevant at that point in the passage. If it's not relevant, then it should be deleted; it has to be necessary in the context of the passage.

Next, you have to determine why it should be kept or deleted. 

Additionally, there is another type of delete question.


Type #2: Primarily Lose

This is the general construction of the second type of delete question:

The writer is considering deleting the phrase or sentence...If the phrase or sentence was deleted, the sentence or essay would primarily lose:


For these questions, you have to analyze the purpose of a phrase in a sentence or the purpose of a sentence in a passage to determine what the sentence or phrase provides to the passage. 



 Follow these steps to right answers!


Strategies for Add/Delete Questions

After you identify an add or delete question, you need to know the strategies and steps for correctly answering the question. First we'll go over how to tackle add questions.


Add Questions

The following excerpt is taken from the last paragraph of a passage about fixing raptor feathers:



75. At this point, the writer is considering adding the following true statement: 

The imping procedure is just one of the many responsibilities bird rehabilitators have.

Should the writer make this addition here?

  1. Yes, because it reveals the relative importance of imping compared to the other work of bird rehabilitators.
  2. Yes, because it reinforces the idea that imping is of great benefit to raptors.
  3. No, because it goes beyond the scope of the essay, which focuses on how the feathers of certain types of birds are repaired.
  4. No, because it undermines the essay's earlier claim that imping is the most important work that bird rehabilitators do.

#1: Analyze the Added Sentence to See What It's Doing

The excerpt that I gave you describes the imping procedure. Earlier in the passage, the definition of imping is given:

body_imping_def-1.pngThe added sentence is discussing the activities of bird rehabilitators more generally. It's placing the focus on bird rehabilitators and what they do.


#2: Refer Back to the Passage to See if the Sentence Should Be Added Given Where It Would Be Placed

The added sentence must be relevant in context. For our example, the sentence should be related to imping.

For ACT English passages, you can typically determine main ideas with the title, and, if necessary, the first couple of sentences of the passage.

For our example, the title is Fixing Raptor Feathers.

Here are the first couple of sentences:

Raptors, or birds of prey, cannot afford to be grounded for weeks waiting for a large number of flight feathers to regrow. They must be able to fly if they are to hunt and eat. 


Based on just the title and the first couple of sentences, we can determine that the focus of the passage is on fixing raptor feathers.

Therefore, the sentence would not be an appropriate conclusion because the passage is not focusing on bird rehabilitators or their responsibilities but on the importance and process of fixing raptor feathers.


#3: Answer the Yes or No Question First

Because the sentence would not logically fit in the context of the passage, we can determine that the answer is no.


#4: Eliminate the Two "Yes" Answer Choices or the Two "No" Answer Choices

Since we have determined that the sentence should not be added, we can eliminate answer choices A and B.


#5: Provide the Reasoning in Your Own Words

In my own words, I would say that the sentence should not be added because the passage focuses on fixing raptor feathers, not on the responsibilities of bird rehabilitators.


#6: Pick the Answer Choice that Most Closely Matches Your Reasoning

Answer choice D is wrong because nowhere in the passage does the essay claim that imping is the most important job of bird rehabilitators. Even though it's possible that imping is the most important job of bird rehabilitators, you can't assume that's true unless it's directly stated or inferred from what's written in the passage.

Answer choice C is the one that most closely matches our reasoning. The added sentence would be outside the scope of the essay because the essay's focus is on fixing raptor feathers.




Delete Questions

Now that we've covered add questions, let's go through how to answer the two types of delete questions. 


Type #1: Kept or Deleted

The following excerpt is from the first paragraph of a passage on a potter's kiln:




#1: Determine the Purpose of the Deleted Portion

You have to figure out why the phrase or sentence is included at that point in the passage. What's it doing there?

In our example question, the phrase "and transform glazes to glorious colors" provides more information about what a kiln does.


#2: Refer Back to the Passage to Determine if the Deleted Portion Is Necessary Given Its Context and the Passage's Focus

For our example, we have to determine if providing more detail about the purpose of a kiln is relevant to the essay's focus. Once again, let's look at the title to determine the main idea. The title of this passage is The Potter's Kiln. Providing more information about the purpose of a kiln is indeed relevant to the essay's focus.


#3: Answer the Kept or Deleted Question First

Because the phrase provides a relevant detail about the passage's focus, the phrase should be kept.


#4: Eliminate the Two Kept or Deleted Answer Choices

We can eliminate choices C and D because we have determined that the phrase should be kept.


#5: Provide the Reasoning in Your Own Words

I would say that the phrase should be kept because it provides descriptive information about kilns, the topic of the passage.


#6: Select the Answer Choice that Most Closely Matches Your Reasoning

Answer choice A is wrong because the phrase has nothing to do with the time-consuming process of painting pottery. The phrase simply mentions that a kiln can transform glazes to glorious colors. Answer choice B is closest to our reasoning.

If you follow these steps and comprehend the meaning and function of the deleted portion, you should be able to arrive at the correct answer relatively quickly.

Now, here is the process for answering the second type of delete question.


Type #2: Primarily Lose

Take a look at this actual ACT "primarily lose" question:




#1: Determine the Purpose of the Deleted Portion

To determine the purpose of the deleted portion, first look at the sentence without the deleted phrases. The sentence would read, "By contrast American society has often been described as one that values youth over age."

In that sentence, the contrast is different and less descriptive. Therefore, the phrases make the contrast more descriptive and specific.


#2: State What Would Be Lost In Your Own Words

We can say that the sentence would be less descriptive and have a different contrast if the phrases were deleted.


#3: Eliminate Wrong Answer Choices

The correct answer must state the purpose of the phrases. Incorrect answers can sound logical, but they will not match the function of the phrases in the specific sentence. Only consider the specific portion that would be deleted.

Answer choice "F" is wrong. The phrases "the vibrant energy of" and "the wisdom and experience gained with" do not show a personal or reflective tone. That's not their purpose in the sentence and there's nothing about those specific phrases that indicates a personal or reflective tone.

Answer choice G is wrong. I think we can all admit that there is nothing inherently funny about those phrases.

Answer choice J is wrong. Nowhere in the sentence does the author indicate a preference. The phrases are both positive.


#4: Select the Answer that Most Closely Matches Your Own

Answer choice H is correct. The phrases are details that illustrate the contrast. American society does not just value youth over age, but American society values the vibrant energy of youth over the wisdom and experience gained with age. 

Let's review some general tips to help you with all add/delete questions.




Quick Review: General Strategies

Follow this advice when answering add/delete questions.


#1: Determine the Purpose of What Is Added or Deleted

In order to answer any add/delete question, you need to figure out what purpose the addition or deletion serves in the sentence.

The "primarily lose" questions are directly asking you to determine the purpose of a phrase or sentence.


#2: Refer Back to the Passage to Help Determine the Context of Added or Deleted Portions and if Added or Deleted Portions Logically Fit

Any added sentence should logically follow the previous sentence and connect to the following sentence. It should also be relevant to the focus of the paragraph or passage.

A phrase should be deleted if it's not relevant to the purpose of a sentence. A sentence should be deleted if it falls outside the scope of the essay or doesn't logically follow the previous sentence.

For delete questions, another good strategy is looking at the sentence or paragraph without the portion the question is asking about. Then, you can more easily determine if deleting that portion would be appropriate.


#3: For Two Part Questions, Answer the First Part First

For add questions, answer the "yes" or "no" question first.

For delete questions, answer the "kept" or "deleted" question first.


#4: Eliminate Wrong Answer Choices

For two part questions, you can immediately eliminate the two answer choices that don't match your answer to the first part of the question.

For "primarily lose" questions, eliminate the choices that don't match the purpose of the phrase or sentence.


#5: State Your Reasoning in Your Own Words

For all add/delete questions, state why something should be added or deleted or determine what would be lost in your own words, before looking at the answer choices.


#6: Select the Answer Choice That Most Closely Matches Your Reasoning

Ideally, you will see an answer choice that is almost identical to your reasoning. That should be your right answer.

If there's no answer choice that matches your reasoning, work backwards to identify the correct answer. Start with a possible answer choice and determine if it correctly answers the question.

Or, if time permits, review the question again to make sure you didn't make a mistake.


What's Next?

Make sure you're comfortable with all of the different types of rhetorical skills questions that appear on the ACT English section. Some examples of these types of questions include macro-logic, relevance, and author main goal.

Are you making one of the 8 most common mistakes? Learn how to avoid them with this post.

Rhetorical skills like Add/Delete questions are harder if you don't understand the big picture. Make sure you know the best way to approach the passage.



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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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