7 ACT Writing Tips

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The ACT essay is not just part of your overall test score, it’s a writing sample that the colleges can look at. This writing sample can weigh heavily because unlike your entrance essay, you received no help and performed it in a testing environment. Your ACT essay shows how you perform under pressure and reflects your critical thinking skills. These seven strategies will help you up your ACT writing score. 

1. Organize your ideas. 

You will have 40 minutes to complete this part of the test. Make the best use of your time by staying organized. Underline, brainstorm, and make a simple outline for your paper. Plan out your points and what arguments you will be taking. This part of the test will show how you are able to argue from different perspectives. To score those 12 points, you must understand all of the perspectives that are given and write effectively. Make sure you comprehend what is going on before even choosing a perspective or writing your essay.

2. Write clearly.

All too often, students thinking writing long, wordy papers with big words will result in a higher score. Actually, it results in the opposite: a confusing, unclear, unpersuasive paper. Instead of using big words, which often are Latinate and have obscure meanings, try using shorter more specific words. This makes it easier to express yourself. Also, clean up your paper. Wordiness is not your friend. If you have trouble expressing a thought, stop overthinking and sum up the idea in basic language. State your perspective clearly and analyze how your perspective relates to at least one of the three perspectives given.

3. Pay special attention to how you start and end your paper.

First impressions matter. Make sure you focus on all parts of your essay, not just the middle. With a captivating introduction, you will wow them. Make sure your paper is well-written and logical. If you are pressed for time, make sure you start and end your paper well, because you will be penalized if you are without a thesis and conclusion! 

4. Don’t forget your transitions! 

 Remember to use transitions throughout your paper whenever you change topics or introduce a new idea.

5. Allow time to edit your paper.

This may sound like a common sense but in the race against time, it’s easy to let a few grammatical rules or spelling errors slip. Don’t let it happen! Allow yourself enough time to re-read your essay. Remember, if your essay is full of errors and grammatical drama- you will lose points. You don’t want that. 

6. Add length.

It’s important to write at least two pages. To add length to your essay, make sure you are specific and give lots of details. Remember that if you are doing an introduction/thesis, opposing perspective, multiple body paragraphs and a conclusion- you can easily write a three page essay. Make sure you follow a consistent format, use transitions and develop your ideas well. Push yourself and don’t be afraid to go long. That’s why they give you all of that paper! 

7. Avoid clichés and essay filler words.

Millions of high schoolers take the ACT every year. Stand out by avoiding clichés and “essay filler” words. It’s time to put your paper on a diet and clean up your vocabulary. Essay filler words are words that are either vague or add little to your argument. They are also words that are overused in general. These words are sometimes unnecessarily long or have too many definitions. Though some of these words may sound “smart”, ask yourself if they really mean anything. Are they helping you or hurting you?

Time is limited and these words can cost you time too. Examples of filler words are: principle, element (and we are not talking science here), approximately (instead of about), excellent (use of this word does not guarantee an excellent test score), and convoluted (unfortunately this word sounds just like its definition). Remember, you want to use easier to understand, shorter words. This way, you can be more specific and your paper will definitely stand out in a sea of wordy essays. The best way to do this is to know what you are talking about. The solution is as easy as that. 

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