What Is an ACT Essay and How to Write it

ACT Essay Basics

Writing an essay for a standardized test can feel tricky. The writing prompts might give you a feeling that you don’t understand what the main purpose behind the tests is. But when you understand more about the reasoning behind the test, then you’re on the right track.

What to Expect from This Article

So, what can you expect from this article?

This article will tackle how to write an ACT essay. Hopefully, after reading this article, you will be able to create an effective ACT essay that can help you get into the school of your choice. 

What You Should Know about ACT Essay

The essay is the last part of the ACT exam. So, after showing off all your knowledge and skills, your next step is to sit down and write essays. Here’s the thing, the ACT essay is not required. Yes, you’re not required to take this part of the exam. There are some reasons however which makes it a good idea to take it anyway.

Now, if you are set on taking the ACT exam with the essays then you need to register for that specifically, ACT with Writing. If you don’t register for it, then there would be no way for you to take it.

So, you have registered for the Act with Writing, you are done with the first parts of the exam, and now you’re ready to write, what do you get? You will be given one prompt, which you must answer on the answer sheet that has been provided. 

The essay test is a way to evaluate how you analyze things. You will be given different perspectives and then asked to come up with your own. You are supposed to show the connection between your perspective and those of the others. You need to persuade the readers that there is a connection between your perspective and those of the others. 

How Much You Have

As with any other exam, it is crucial to be aware of how much time you have to finish it. You will have 40 minutes to write the essay and that starts from the moment that you open it. During that period, you will have several tasks that you need to finish:

  • Read the instructions
  • Read the prompt
  • Read the sample perspectives
  • Think of your perspective
  • Actual writing
  • Revision 

When you break it down like that, it feels like the 40 minutes isn’t too much of time. But don’t worry, when you understand more how the ACT essay works, that should be plenty of time. 

Scoring the ACT Essay

The ACT essay is also different from the rest of the exam in another crucial aspect and that is in the way it is scored. Unlike the rest of the exam which is scored from 1 to 36, the ACT essay exam is scored from 2 to 12. The ACT essay is then combined with the score from the multiple-choice part of the exam.

You will be given subscores for the following categories:

  • Ideas and Analysis
  • Development and Support
  • Organization
  • Language Use and Conventions

The scoring system used for the ACT is devised in such a way that it can provide the maximum amount of feedback to the examinee. Two graders will be asked to score your exam. 

Now you might be worried about such a subjective method of scoring. As a precaution a score between two scorers that deviate for more than a point, another grader will be asked to go over it again. Ideally, this helps in preventing scorers from just giving an essay a low score because he disliked it.

Skills Tested in the ACT Writing Section

Here are the main several goals of the ACT wiring section:

  1. The graders will evaluate how well the writer is when it comes to making a judgment. They measure it through your response to the test.
  2. The graders will also talk about how well you were able to develop your position. They will consider how you supported the perspective you formed with arguments. It would be a good idea to be as specific as you can be when you are citing examples.
  3. The graders will also look at how logical your arguments are. They would like to see how logical you are when building arguments. So, this means your essay should have some kind of structure.
  4. Lastly, the evaluators will also consider the style and the language you use for your response. The ability to write well is always an advantage.

Colleges and universities care a lot about the ACT  essay and you should be. No matter what course you pick when you go into college, the key components measured by the ACT will always be important.

The ACT Writing Prompts

This is perhaps the most useful part of this article. Here is an example of what you might face:

Prompt: Religious Freedom

Religious freedom has always been associated with freedom and democracy. The freedom to worship as one chooses is one of the foundations of modern democracies. Should we continue people to follow their religious beliefs even if some of those are harmful?

Perspective One 

Religious freedom should be guaranteed no matter what.

Perspective Two 

Religion practice causes undue suffering throughout the world and should be controlled.

Perspective Three 

The guarantee for religious freedom should not be used by some an excuse by religious people for committing crimes but religious freedom should be guaranteed always.

The Task

Write an essay that will analyze the three perspectives given and evaluate them. You should also analyze the three points that have been given and give an explanation of your perspective and those that have been given. Your perspective may agree with one or none of the three. 

The Part of SAT Essay Where Most Students Have a Hard Time

Many students have a hard time forming their own opinion. For the most part, they end up agreeing with one of the perspectives given. That is okay but that hardly leaves room for you to impress the graders with your way of thinking. Keep in mind, you are writing the essay to impress the graders and not to agree with popular opinion.

Some students who do come up with their own opinion then struggle with finding concrete examples that can back up their views. 

What You Can Do?

So, what can you do to avoid the common pitfalls that people face when writing the ACT essay? First of all, you have to create a clear structure for your essay where your idea can flow smoothly. Your essay should not be all over the place.

Once you have a solid structure, do not use vague examples because those are weak. You need a specific example for each one of the three essays. Contemporary or even historical events work best. You can always use examples from your personal experience but some graders might not like that, so that should only be a final option.

You don’t have to be a great writer for you to get a perfect score on the ACT essay. It is enough that you understand how it works and will be able to get a good score. You should start practicing now so you can train yourself in dealing with different types of prompts.

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