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ACT Essay: The Detailed Step-By-Step Writing Guide


If you are preparing yourself for the ACT essay, you absolutely must read this blog to the end. We will do our best to answer all your ACT essay questions. Moreover, we will show you how to write the essay from start to finish. Our comprehensive guide covers all the bases and works for any prompt you may think of. Remember that the ACT essay time is just 40 minutes. This means that you need to be very efficient to finish on time. As you already probably know, practice makes perfect. Use our guide and our tips to practice with several prompts. This way, you’ll be able to write the actual essay quickly and do an excellent job, even under pressure.

What Is the New ACT Essay?

The ACT essay is an optional part of the ACT exam that will increase your chances of getting admitted to one of the 27 colleges that require ACT essay. ACT with Writing follows a predictable format, so you can practice before the actual exam. This makes it much easier to get a top score. However, remember that you don’t need to take the ACT with Writing if you don’t want to apply to a college that requires it. However, some schools will take it into consideration when considering your application.

A Word on ACT Essay Scoring

Now, let’s talk a bit about ACT essay grading, because it’s very important for you to understand how your essay will be graded. Your essay will be scored by two different graders, on a scale of 1 to 6. There are 4 different domains that will be evaluated. Each domain can get a maximum of 12 points (6 from each grader). The average of the four domains is your ACT essay score. The domains are:

  1. Ideas and Analysis – the way you discuss the perspectives of the prompt.
  2. Development and Support – the way you develop your ideas, use logic, and provide examples.
  3. Organization – the way you organize your writing overall, as well as at the paragraph level.
  4. Language Use – the way you use English language and demonstrate a mastery of English vocabulary, grammar and punctuation.

What Do ACT Essay Prompts Contain?

How long is the ACT essay? Because you have only 40 minutes at your disposal for the ACT essay rubric, nobody expects you to write more than 600 words. Between 500 and 600 words, no reviewer will penalize you. Every ACT essay prompt contains a text and three perspectives. The perspectives are clearly stated and they are all different from each other. The requirement is to read the text and the perspectives, create your own perspective, and then compare your perspective to one of the perspectives presented in the prompt. You can find several ACT essay topics online if you wish to see how the prompt looks like.

Here Is How to Write the ACT Essay (Works for Any Prompt)

The best way to learn how to write ACT essay is to read the best ACT essay examples. And to make sure you are as prepared as possible to get a 12 score on the essay, we have created an easy-to-follow ACT essay example guide:

  1. Read the prompt carefully, twice. Make sure you understand the subject. It’s a good idea to write down the main ideas while you read the text.
  2. Read the three perspectives very carefully. This is very important if you want to learn how to write an ACT essay. In all cases, the perspectives are split. One is against, one is for, and one is in the middle. When reading the perspectives you must:
    • Figure out where each perspective stands (what does it consider?)
    • Figure out what each perspective misses (what did it overlook?)
  3. Create your own, unique perspective. It can be based on any of the perspectives presented in the prompt. You can use ideas from all three perspectives. Alternatively, you can rely heavily on just one of the perspectives. However, make sure your perspective comes up with something new that makes it unique.
  4. Start writing the introduction, making sure you stick to the ACT essay topic. Your intro should generally start with a sentence that reiterates the issue being discussed. The next couple of sentences will clearly state your position and present your unique perspective – or take – on the subject.
  5. Write the first body paragraph. Here, you will present the opposing side of your perspective.
    • The first sentence will clearly state the opposing side of your perspective.
    • In the next sentences, you will talk about how and why the other perspectives oppose your own.
    • Present a clear example (it can be made up, because factual accuracy is not mandatory in the ACT essay) that supports the opposing side of your perspective.
    • The last sentence should clearly show why you do not agree with the any of the opposing perspectives.
  6. Write the second body paragraph. Here, you will describe your position on the issue at hand.
    • The first sentence will clearly state your position on the topic.
    • The next sentences will provide comprehensive details on your position (why do you support it?). Also, you will mention how other, if any, perspectives in the prompt support your own.
    • Present a clear example (you can make it up, as stated above) that supports your perspective.
    • The last sentence should restate your perspective and, optionally, restate the most important idea that supports it.
  7. Write the conclusion. Reiterate the topic being discussed and then clearly restate your position and all the arguments that support it. Wrap everything up in the final phrase with a strong call to action. Alternative ways to end the conclusion include asking a provocative question, ending with a warning, or even using an appropriate quotation.

Tips for a Perfect 12 Score on the ACT Essay

Now that you know all the steps involved in writing the ACT Writing essay, let’s make sure you know all the best practices. These ACT essay tips are considered to be the best, but remember that you also need extensive ACT essay practice to get a perfect 12. Top tips include:

  • Factual accuracy is NOT important. We cannot stress this enough. Don’t waste time trying to come up with factually correct data.
  • Your perspective is the thesis of the paper and the paper is a persuasive essay. You need to persuade the audience that your perspective is the correct choice.
  • You must discuss the relation between your perspective and AT LEAST one of the others. This is mandatory.
  • For a top score, always discuss the positive AND negative aspects of the perspective you are comparing your own with. Give credit where credit is due, in other words. Do not be one-sided.
  • Your ideas must be organized in a logical manner (this is where the guide above will be incredibly helpful). Follow the structure we presented above and you’ll do great.
  • Write clearly, in perfect English, using a rich vocabulary. If you have time, proofread the essay at the end and make sure your grammar and punctuation are impeccable.

Finally, make sure you read each and every ACT essay sample you can find. Read all the prompts you can find online. The ACT with writing follows a predictable format, so you know exactly what to expect. Practice makes perfect, and you have absolutely no reason to not practice writing at least 5 different essays. Good luck!

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