The ACT exam is a college entrance and placement exam, nationally recognized by most colleges and universities across the United States. It is comprised of four sections – English, math, science, and reading – and an optional fifth section. This fifth section asks the student to write an essay about a topic given in a prompt. Some colleges and universities require or highly recommend that applicants take the writing portion of the ACT, while other institutions do not feel it is necessary. It is best to check with each individual university to see if they require it as part of the admissions process.
Because only thirty minutes are given to think about, prepare, and write the essay, it is advisable that you plan accordingly. You will probably not have time to write a first draft, edit and revise, and then write a final copy. Therefore, begin by carefully reading through the prompt provided to you. Make sure that you understand exactly what is being asked of you. Next, take a few minutes to pre-write and organize your essay. Space will be provided for you to do this in the test booklet, so that you can keep referring back to your notes throughout the writing process. You can use a pre-writing strategy, such as a Venn diagram, or you can simply list some ideas, examples, and supporting details that will back up the argument you present in the essay. Think of the best way to present and organize these ideas. A rule of thumb is to include the most important and most impactful information at the beginning of the essay.
As you are writing, try not to focus on the number of paragraphs or words, but rather on the content, clarity, and development of your ideas. You may want to follow formulaic writing, such as the five-paragraph essay, or you may want to write in your own style. The scorers of the essay are not going to add or deduct points based on whether or not you use a writing formula, so the choice is yours.
Make sure that your voice and opinion are clearly present in the essay. Explore the issue and your position in detail and in depth, instead of simplifying the topic by listing numerous examples with little insight about them. Discuss all sides of the issue, and provide counter-arguments to strengthen your position. Remember to vary your sentence structure and length, use strong vocabulary, provide transitions, and clearly establish relationships between ideas. A strong conclusion is just as important as a strong beginning, and it gives you one last shot to state your ideas and neatly tie together your essay.
All of these components are essential to writing a great essay. Leave enough time to edit your essay. Make sure that you did not accidentally leave out any words (sometimes our brains think faster than our hands can write), and check for spelling, usage, punctuation, and grammar mistakes. The scorers will take into account that you only had thirty minutes to write your essay, but you do not want errors to take away from the content of you have to say.
For additional information, we recommend you check out these free ACT test resources: