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How to Succeed on the ACT Essay Prompt

When taking the ACT, some schools require or strongly recommend that you take the writing section (known as ACT Plus Writing). Even when they do not, it is still probably a good idea to write it and submit it with the rest of your application. Just remember that when you register for the ACT, specify that you are taking the writing section.

If you are feeling a bit anxious about the written essay, this article should put you at ease. First, you should know that the essay always follows the same, predictable format. This means it is a simple matter of preparing in advance and practicing by writing several essays. It is easy to find free samples online. Likewise, you will find them if you buy ACT study guides. Here are five important steps for writing an essay that will impress the college admissions committee.
After you are given a prompt, your essay needs to:

  1. examine and assess the various points of view given
  2. state and develop your own argument on the issue
  3. explain the relationship between your point of view and those given

How you feel about the topic could fall into three possibilities: you might completely agree with the others, partially agree, or have a completely different opinion. Regardless, you should find strong evidence to support your arguments.

Advice for Writing the ACT Essay

Your task is to write an essay in which you must argue for a point of view based on the prompt, all while examining three different ways of looking at it. If you can develop your own unique argument and support it with solid evidence, you stand a very good chance of getting a high score.

Step 1: Examine the Prompt.

Figure out and understand what the issue is. Determine why this issue is relevant and even controversial.

Step 2: Examine the Three Points of View.

In most cases, you will be given three points of view: one that supports a position, one that is in opposition, and one that leans in the middle. You should determine why these three positions are being made and explain at least one weakness in each. In particular, ask the following questions:

  • What does each point of view contend?
  • What is an important detail that each position neglects to mention?

Step 3: Think about Where You Stand.

At this stage, it is time to develop your own point of view. If you simply conclude that one of the points of view is the right one without offering any evidence, your score will suffer. While you should create an argument based on what you have read from each perspective (and you are welcome to agree with one of them), you should nonetheless expand upon it by coming up with some of your own ideas.

Step 4: Time to Write Your Essay.

At this point, you have organized your thoughts and ideas. Now you are ready to focus on the structure of the ACT essay. Note that since the essay format will always be the same (it's just that the topic will be different), the following will be effective regardless of the essay prompt.

Introduction

  • Start with a topic sentence the restates the main issue
  • Explain how you feel about the issue

Body Paragraph (1)

  • Begin with a topic sentence that discusses the side that opposes your own.
  • Discuss which point of view supports the opposing argument.
  • Provide a specific evidence that could be used to argue for the opposing perspective
  • Explain why you believe that point of view is flawed

Body Paragraph (2)

  • Begin with a topic sentence that discuss where you stand.
  • Explain your position including any of the given perspectives that

agree with your point of view

  • Provide arguments to support your point of view
  • Conclude the paragraph by restating where you stand

Conclusion

  • Summarize your discussion
  • Restate your point of view and arguments
  • Discuss the broader implications

Step 5: Proofread (if time permits).

If you have some spare time, take a few minutes to proofreading your paper. In particular, you would want to see if there are any major mistakes. This could really make a huge difference on your final score. If you find any mistakes, erase them or cross them out neatly. Although crossing it out neatly probably will not have any effect on your grade, it will certainly make it easier for the essay grader to read it.

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