SAT Test Prep PotomacHere is an easy to follow explanation of the ACT essay and the easy to follow template to make sure your teen gets a high score!

What’s the format like?

The 40 minute essay format demands persuasion and analysis.  Students are provided with 3 perspectives on a topic and asked to “evaluate and analyze” the perspectives, “state and develop” your own perspective, and to then “explain the relationship” between the 3 perspectives and their own.

What’s the best way to prepare for the essay?

The initial step in preparing is to examine the sample essays posted by ACT. There’s a prompt on the site that provides 6 sample essays from the lowest scoring to the highest. Reading these will give you a good understanding of what qualifies as  poor – superior essay. There is also an additional essay prompt for you to practice with.

Here are some easy to follow tips to help you structure your essay:

  1. Begin your essay with an opening that alludes to the 3 perspectives and also includes your take on the issue. For instance, in the provided ACT sample essay, “Intelligent Machines”, a good opening might be:

Some may say that machines  will cause us to lose our humanity, but it is too narrow an assumption to say that we will ‘forget’ what being human is. Machines and humans can work in concert to enhance each others strengths and weaknesses.

This opener mentions the focus of two of the perspectives and disagrees with the other. HINT: Don’t make it complicated. It’s much easier to agree with one of the perspectives rather present your own.

  1. Use this basic format:

Paragraph #1: Intro, 2-4 sentences.

Paragraph #2: Evaluate the first perspective you are not supporting with SPECIFIC examples.

Paragraph #3: Evaluate the other perspective not chosen with SPECIFIC examples.

Paragraph #4 (and 5): This is the paragraph that discusses the perspective you agree with so this will be the largest one, maybe even 2 paragraphs. Again, examples must be SPECIFIC, not a mere listing!

Last paragraph: Your conclusion that states the final assessment of your argument.

This format ensures that you will address everything demanded in the assignment.

What is the best way to express and support your point?

Please note that I said SPECIFIC examples each time in all caps. Don’t merely list examples, elaborate on them! The more specific the better. The graders are looking for signs that you know history, current events. literature, science, etc.  – that you have learned something in high school!

Also, don’t quote facts unless you absolutely know they are true and be careful of absolute statements that are subjective: “Everyone knows that George W. Bush was the worst president.” Instead, “There are some who believe that George Bush was . . .”

Use qualifying adverbs liberally: seemingly, merely, essentially, primarily, typically, etc.

Make sure you allow at least 2-3 minutes to proofread your essay to catch any “Language Use” mistakes: (grammar, mechanics, syntax, and word choice) since that is one of the (new) criteria used for scoring.

How will the essay be scored?

You will receive a total of five scores for this test: a single subject-level writing score reported on a range of 2-12, and four domain scores, also 2-12, that are based on an analytic scoring rubric. The subject-level score will be the rounded average of the four domain scores. The four domain scores are:

Ideas and Analysis
Development and Support
Language Use and Conventions

An image of your essay will be available to your high school and the colleges to which you have ACT report your scores from that test date.

Is the essay mandatory?

The essay is optional and will be the final section on the ACT. Many colleges require the essay, so if you are unsure where you are applying, it’s best to take the the test with the essay.



Is your teen planning on taking the ACT in April?

Could your student:

  • Want more personalized tips for writing his ACT essay?
  • Need some additional strategies on how to get through the reading passages and/or the 60 math problems without running out of time?
  • Get cross-eyed from reading the charts and graphs in the Science section?
  • Become frustrated when reading questions on the English section when asked if a sentence should be added or deleted?

Call or schedule now to find out more about our unique take on how to improve your teen’s ACT scores!

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