Tips for Taking the ACT Writing Test

Pace yourself

The ACT Writing Test gives you 30 minutes to read and think about the issue in the prompt and to plan and write your essay. When asked to write a timed essay, most writers find it useful to do some planning before they start writing and to do a final check of the essay when it is finished. It is unlikely that you will have time to draft, revise, and recopy your essay. Therefore, taking a few minutes to plan your essay is a much better strategy than writing a first draft with the intent to copy it over for the final essay.

Prewrite

Some writers like to plunge right in, but this is seldom a good way to do well on a timed essay. Prewriting gets you acquainted with the issue, suggests patterns for presenting your thoughts, and gives you time to come up with interesting ideas for introducing and concluding your essay. Before writing, carefully consider the prompt and make sure you understand the question in the prompt; reread it if you aren't sure. Decide what point of view you will take on the issue in the prompt. Then jot down your ideas on the topic: this might simply be a list of ideas, reasons, and examples that you will use to explain your point of view on the issue. Write down what you think others might say in opposition to your point of view and think about how you would refute their argument. Think about how to organize your ideas. You will be instructed to do your prewriting in your Writing Test booklet. You can refer back to these notes as you write your essay on the lined pages of your answer folder.

Write

At the beginning of your essay, make sure your readers see that you understand the issue. Explain your point of view in a clear and logical way. If possible, discuss the issue in a broader context or evaluate the implications or complications of the issue. Address what others might say to refute your point of view and present a counterargument. Use specific examples. Vary the structure of your sentences, and use varied and precise word choices. Make logical relationships clear by using transitional words and phrases. Stay focused on the topic. End with a strong conclusion that summarizes or reinforces your position.

Is it advisable to organize your essay by using a formula, like "the five-paragraph essay"? Points are neither awarded nor deducted for following familiar formulas. The number of paragraphs in your essay is less important than the clarity and development of your ideas. Most writers find that their ideas have a way of sorting themselves out at reasonable length and in the right number of paragraphs.

Review your essay

Take a few minutes before time is called to read over your essay. Correct any mistakes in grammar, usage, punctuation, and spelling. If you find any words that are hard to read, recopy them so your readers can read them easily. Make any corrections and revisions neatly between the lines. Do not write in the margins. The readers who score your essay take into account that you had only 30 minutes to write your essay. Within that time limit, try to make your essay as polished as you can.

Practice...