Tips for Succeeding on the Writing Section of the ACT

The ACT Writing section is optional, but, if you sign up for it, that doesn’t mean you should wing it! Colleges and universities will see you’re taking the extra step to take this portion of the exam, but they’ll also want to see you score well. So succeeding on the writing section of the ACT is a must. We recommend practicing, know what to expect, and understand how the scoring works.

4 Tips for Succeeding on writing section of the ACT

1. Practice

With any test, the ACT, the SAT, you need to study. The ACT Writing section isn’t an exception. Practice will absolutely help here. Just like you set up timers for the practice sections of the test , you should be taking the ACT Writing portion under “ideal” conditions. This means no distractions and only 40 minutes from reading the question to finishing your conclusion essay.

Have Someone Read Over Your Practice Essays

Avoid these mistakes on the ACT writing section

Flickr user Kiran Foster

However, that doesn’t mean you should be writing essay after essay. In fact, that could prove detrimental. You should pay attention to the tips below before you sit down to write that first practice essay, but you need to also have someone read over your work.

This could be a parent, a teacher, a trusted adult, or even a friend who maybe already took the ACT Writing section and did well on it. Let them know the prompt, what it’s scored on, and ask them what could be improved.

Write More

Tired of taking practice ACT tests? There are other ways to practice than sitting for the nearly four hour ‘exam.’ Simply write! Writing in your own time is absolutely beneficial to improving your skills. You could choose to write an essay on a topic you find fascinating, you could craft a fiction story, or even write a play. They will help you with organization as well as your command over the English language.

Read More

Reading can also help you with your ACT, and not just the Writing section. It could prove to be quite helpful in the English and Reading portions, of course! But reading – fiction or nonfiction, your choice – can help with reading comprehension, reading speed, and vocabulary. It also gives you a better understanding of the world around you.

2. Know the Types of Questions Asked

Knowing (and understanding) the type of questions asked by the ACT is essential to doing well on this portion of the exam. The has some great sample prompts available right on their website, along with essays for each of the prompts. You can use other resources, too, that help you with ACT prep to get an idea of the questions asked.

Knowing what to expect here will make it easier to formulate your response, and your essay, quickly. Make sure you’re using these sample prompts and others

3. Understand How it is Scored 

Your essay will be read by two trained readers on ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use and conventions. This means you should clearly present your idea, develop (and support) your ideas, organize your ideas clearly and in the right order, and use correct English.

The highest you can score on the ACT Writing is a 12.

4. Use the Right Structure

As stated in the previous section, organization plays a part in your final score. While stream of consciousness writing can work in fiction (though it is difficult!), it does not have a place in the ACT Writing section. In fact, you’ll lose points if you choose that route.

Instead, you need to follow a basic essay structure. This means starting with an intro and a thesis. A thesis is generally the final sentence of your introduction essay that talks about your central ideas.

Next come the three body paragraphs that back up your thesis and reasoning. They should present the meat of your “argument.”

And finally, is the conclusion. This paragraph should sum up your thoughts and presentation in a clear and concise manner.

Start with a Layout

Sometimes, diving straight into an essay is difficult, and you might find halfway through that paragraph two might have worked better as paragraph one. With handwriting you can’t change it like you would with a computer!

We highly recommend taking a couple of minutes of the ACT Writing section to create a layout of your essay on a scrap piece of paper. This means writing the thesis and a few words for each of the body paragraphs. You can then think over those body paragraphs, their organization, and how they will flow together.

And if you’re struggling to get started with your introduction? Simply skip it for now. Leave a few lines blank at the top, write the thesis, and continue on with the essay. Once you finish the conclusion, you might find it super easy to go fill in the rest of that intro.

Taking the ACT Writing test is absolutely optional, but it could actually give you a better chance of admission into those difficult-to-get-into schools, especially in the event of a tiebreaker. So, preparting and succeeding on writing section of the ACT is important. It also gives you the opportunity to show off your writing skills. Who knows – you may come home with a 12! If you do decide to take this exam, you should be taking steps to prepare yourself.

Colleges and universities are looking for certain percentiles from their prospective students. Do you know what your dream college is looking for? Using our College Search tool, you can find out exactly what a school is looking for in a student when it comes to ACT and SAT scores.