Students taking the ACT exam have the option of taking the ACT with, or without, the writing section.
While some schools do not require that applicants take the ACT Writing Test (use the search function here to see which colleges and universities do), the reality is that most students will do the Writing portion of the test because at least one of the schools they are applying to requires the essay.
By doing some preparation ahead of test day, you can walk into the ACT Writing Test feeling confident and ready to maximize your ACT writing score.
What the Test Looks Like
The 30-minute ACT Writing Test presents an issue and two different points of view on the issue. Select one of the positions (or you can develop one of your own), and answer the given question by arguing your position. The topic will be one that is relevant to high school students, but don’t worry about which side you choose. Your score will not be affected by the stance you take on the issue, but rather by how persuasively you write in defense of whatever position you do take.
How to Approach Practice Prompts
Crafting a persuasive essay in a short period of time is like anything else—practicing will make you more comfortable doing it. By using practice ACT writing prompts, you will develop a system that works for you before you take the test. This process should include selecting your point of view, prewriting, and compiling your ideas into a concise, polished essay within the 30-minute time limit.
How to Approach Practice Prompts
Read the practice prompt carefully to ensure you understand the question, underline or circle any key words or phrases in the prompt, and then consider the following three steps:
1. Select Your Point of View
As mentioned above, the specific point of view you choose won’t help or hurt you, but it is important to make a definitive choice. Choose a side that you can support with specific reasons and examples. While you should address and then respectfully disagree with the other side, make sure you have enough logical points and examples that defend your position.
Prewriting helps you organize your ideas to ensure you hit all of the relevant points. Start by making a brief outline that lists the specific points you will make in your argument. Also consider the order in which you plan to present your ideas—is there a logical sequence that you should follow? Consider starting with your strongest point. The ACT provides space in the test booklet for prewriting, so prewriting in response to practice prompts will get you in the habit of organizing your thoughts before writing.
3. Write Your Essay
Start your essay by clearly stating your point of view in the introductory paragraph. Then, work your examples into cohesive body paragraphs that argue your stance. Note that in order to receive the highest possible score on your essay, you must include responses to possible counterarguments. Then, finish strong by summarizing your position in the conclusion.
Review Your Work and Figure Out What Works for You
Use sample ACT Essays with critiques and scores to help you understand how grading works.
Practice ACT writing prompts allow you to determine what steps in the process are difficult for you. Are you unsure which side to take on a given issue? Does the prewriting process take you too long? Are you able to successfully identify counterarguments and then refute them in your essay?
A one-to-one ACT test prep tutor can help you identify your weaknesses so you can address your problem areas and improve on them with additional practice prompts. With enough practice, you can hone your writing skills and create a process that works best for you so that on test day, you can take the ACT Writing Test with confidence.