Create a Winning ACT Essay!

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As of September, the ACT has adopted a new essay format.* The old version asked students to write a persuasive essay on a straightforward, usually high-school related question, e.g. “Should schools establish a dress code?” The new version provides a prompt that presents a topic, then asks students to consider three different perspectives. In comparison to the old ACT essay, the new one certainly looks more complicated: rather than one single question, there are now three separate perspectives to contend with. Yet, if you prepare ahead of time, this essay can be even easier than the previous essay. Why? The ACT is now giving you the viewpoints you need to analyze! All you have to do is take a stance, incorporating the various perspectives into your argument. Here is how you do it:

1.Write a Main Idea for Each Perspective:

Perspective 1 – too expensive; not enough money (against)

Perspective 2 – student achievement low; falling behind other countries (for)

Perspective 3 – distance learning to maintain family time (for)

2.Be Creative:

List each perspective on a piece of paper and brainstorm. Think of as many arguments as possible for each perspective and list them in a neat chart. Be creative – the more ideas you write down, the more content you can include in your essay = higher score! Include details such as historical events, facts, statistics, and current events that can support each perspective. But…how can you know these details on test day? Easy…. prepare BEFORE the test. Familiarize yourself with and memorize information from the WilsonPrep Essay Fact Sheet, which contains information on education, global warming, health, American History, and World History. These facts can be used in MANY ACT essay prompts. E-mail us if you would like us to send you the WilsonPrep Essay Fact Sheet.

3.Choose a Side:

a. Organizing the essay is EASIER if you can side with the position that has two similar perspectives. Two body paragraphs should develop these similar perspectives and the 3rd body paragraph should present the OPPOSING perspective. You will “knock down/refute” the opposing argument by bringing up another argument that supports your position.

b. If you can’t side with the position that has two perspectives supporting it then you will need to bring up the opposition in two paragraphs. First develop your position, using the perspective that supports your viewpoint. Then, in the next two paragraphs present the opposing perspectives; however, you will refute these perspectives by providing a counterargument. Explain how each perspective is faulty or too limited and bring in specifics that support your viewpoint.

4.Plan, Plan, Plan: Spend FIVE full minutes organizing your ideas. Don’t just jump in! Create a small outline. Students have 40 minutes to write the essay – plenty of time to create a brainstorming chart AND a brief outline. Studies have shown that if you organize first, you will write faster. Looking at your Brainstorming Chart, you should arrange your ideas and compile a brief outline based on the points listed. Then, begin writing the essay!

5.Begin and End with a Core Topic: Begin by writing generally about what the prompt is asking. Is it an education prompt? Begin generally by discussing education…Is it a globalization prompt? Begin generally by discussing globalization… E-mail us if you would like us to send you a list of essay Core Topics.

*Many colleges do not look at the essay score. Rather, colleges are concerned with the composite of the English, Math, Reading, and Science scores. The essay DOES NOT factor into the composite. Therefore, students should prepare for the essay but should focus more on what counts – the overall composite score.

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