The 40-minute essay format demands persuasion and analysis. Students are provided with three 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.
Here’s a sample from ACT.org
Many of the goods and services we depend on daily are now supplied by intelligent, automated machines rather than human beings. Robots build cars and other goods on assembly lines, where once there were human workers. Many of our phone conversations are now conducted not with people but with sophisticated technologies. We can now buy goods at a variety of stores without the help of a human cashier. Automation is generally seen as a sign of progress, but what is lost when we replace humans with machines? Given the accelerating variety and prevalence of intelligent machines, it is worth examining the implications and meaning of their presence in our lives.
Perspective One: What we lose with the replacement of people by machines is some part of our own humanity. Even our mundane daily encounters no longer require from us basic courtesy, respect, and tolerance for other people.
Perspective Two: Machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs, and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases they work better than humans. This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone.
Perspective Three: Intelligent machines challenge our long-standing ideas about what humans are or can be. This is good because it pushes both humans and machines toward new, unimagined possibilities.
ASSIGNMENT: Write a unified, coherent essay about the increasing presence of intelligent machines where you address the given perspectives as well as provide your own take on why you agree or disagree.
- Spend 5-10 minutes planning your essay: This means to take a few moments to organize your thoughts.
- Confirm your understanding of the prompt and the three perspectives: The perspectives not only include an assertion about the topic but an opinion about it. Don’t waste time trying to come up with a fourth perspective. Your job is to land on a perspective that you feel most comfortable supporting. Remember, your task is to “analyze the relationship between your perspective and at least one other perspective”.
- Brainstorm or jot down notes and explanations: Since you’ll need to discuss the relationship between your perspective and at least one of the presented perspectives, you will need to incorporate evidence in your essay.
- Where to get your ‘evidence’:
- The opening of the prompt typically provides several examples you can use in your essay.
- Use personal experience relevant to you or someone you know or even be creative and make one up!
- Use statistics: It’s OK to make up generalizations that support conventional wisdom. For instance, one relevant to this prompt might be: 80-90% of callers end up hanging up when prompted by a computer repeatedly.
- Use historical sources or current events. For example: The invention of the automobile impacted every aspect of our life and literally changed the course of civilization. Today we are contemplating the impact of driverless cars on society.
- Remember, there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to respond to the three perspectives. If you disagree with the first perspective – dismissive of the negative effects of intelligent machines – you would want to address the other two positive perspectives in one paragraph.
NOTE: You only need to analyze the relationship between your perspective and one of the three presented; however, if you have strong evidence for both of the other perspectives, you could analyze both of them relative to your perspective.
Use this basic format below to write your essay. Alot 25-28 minutes for writing and at least 3-5 minutes to proof.
Paragraph #1: Introduction – Your introduction is your statement of the thesis – your perspective. Make sure it includes your statement on the issue presented as well as how it relates to one of the other perspectives. Your intro should be 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 restating your thesis.
This format ensures that you will address everything demanded in the assignment.
Please note that I said SPECIFIC examples each time in all caps. This is because I have noticed when I read most essays, examples are merely listed, not elaborated on! 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!
Use qualifying adverbs liberally: seemingly, merely, essentially, primarily, typically, etc.
Make sure you allow at least 3-5 minutes to proofread your essay to catch any “Language Use” mistakes: (grammar, mechanics, syntax, and word choice) since that is one of the criteria used for scoring.
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 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 you wish to have your ACT scores forwarded to.
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 test with the essay.