Ace the ACT Writing Test

Do you know what it takes to ace the ACT writing test?

This Saturday (Oct. 22), college-bound high school juniors and seniors will take the ACT in multiple locations in Michigan, including Bloomfield Hills, Royal Oak, Clarkston, Commerce Township, Detroit, Ferndale, Farmington Hills and Novi.

The ACT writing test is designed to evaluate how quickly you can organize your thoughts and get a first draft down on paper. According to the official ACT website, taking the writing test provides students with two additional scores beyond what they receive if they take only the ACT multiple-choice tests. Students will receive a Writing Test subscore and a Combined English/Writing score.

While the writing test is optional, many schools, including U of M and Michigan State, require it for admission. It is a thinking test as much as a writing test. So you can prepare ahead of time by reading the newspaper, watching or listening to news shows, reading editorials and discussing hot topics of the day at the dinner table.

Here are some tips to help you do your best:

  • You will have 30 minutes to plan, write and check a first draft. It should be a coherent, concise, clear first draft. You will write it with a pencil on paper, so make sure it is legible.
  • Don’t just start writing! Plan your essay, and make sure you leave time (3 to 5 minutes) to review it. Is your point clear? Have you made your argument? Have you stated and defended your counter-argument? Does your essay have a clear beginning, middle and end? Have you spelled everything correctly? How is your grammar?
  • The instructions say “you may want to write more than one paragraph.” Do write more than one paragraph. Write at least three (intro, body, conclusion), and include at least one body paragraph per example.
  • Use an interesting opening (e.g., a quote, anecdote or statement.) Make the thesis the last sentence of your introduction. This is not the time and place to be clever.
  • For the body, use specific examples, one example at a time. Start a new paragraph for each new example.
  • Your points should be distinct. There should be a reason for every word on the page. Don’t repeat yourself.
  • Avoid, “I think,” “I believe,” “In my opinion.”
  • There is no right or wrong response. It doesn’t matter which perspective you choose, as long as you can support your position.
  • Make sure you restate your thesis in your conclusion. Summarize your main points. You can wrap up with something clever or insightful, but don’t add new evidence.
  • This is not the place for grammatical experimentation. If you know how to use a semicolon, then go for it. If you’re not sure, don’t try it here.

Above all, take time to practice, and take a deep breath! You can do this. And you can do it well.