Yes, You Can – and Should – Prepare for the ACT Writing Test

Hey juniors, how prepared are you for this weekend’s ACT? Many of you have taken prep classes, worked with tutors and read books full of tips.

But have you practiced writing?

In early 2011, Wow Writing Workshop will kick off a new course to help prepare high school students for the ACT writing test. In the meantime, we’ve compiled some tried and true tips for those signed up for this weekend’s test.

Understand the exam: The ACT writing test requires you to take a position and support it with examples in a clear, focused manner. This is not a creative writing exam; it is an opportunity to show that you can think and express yourself on paper.

Keep up with current events: Read the newspaper, listen to news analysis and discuss pertinent issues with family and friends. Debate both sides, regardless of your position.

Identify the thesis: Find the thesis in each article or analysis. Write it down. How would you defend that thesis? What is the counter-argument? How would you defend it?

Use your resources: There is no shortage of books, websites and other resources with information about the ACT. The official ACT website has great information about the writing test. Check it out.

Practice: Every day, take a sample prompt from the ACT website, a book or a friend, then practice dividing up the allotted time. Let’s say you’ve been asked to write about whether or not school dress codes are a good idea. Your 30 minutes should look something like this:

5 minutes: Write down two or three reasons why you would support or oppose a school dress code; note counter-arguments as well.

5 minutes: Clarify your thesis and supporting points. Jot down examples to back up those points.

15 minutes: Write the essay. Think of this as a first draft. It should be coherent and accurate, but it does not need to be the most creative or eloquent piece of writing you’ve completed this year.

5 minutes: Proofread your essay for spelling, grammar and syntax. Have you stayed focused? Is your thesis clear? Do you support your point with examples?

Write clearly: Use a variety of sentence styles – mix it up with simple, complex and compound sentences. Semicolons are great if you know how to use them correctly; improper use will cost you points. Write in first or third person, using words you can define and spell. If you are not sure how to use a word, don’t test it here!

Consider the big picture: Extrapolate from the essay topic to broader societal issues. (e.g., An open school lunch policy allows students to go home for lunch; it also teaches high school students to take responsibility for their actions.)

Practice, practice, practice. You can do this! The task may seem challenging, but with a bit of preparation, you will be ready for any prompt at all.

And if you are still concerned, give us a call. We’re always here to help.