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Writing Sample Essays

Write a unified, coherent essay about the increasing presence of intelligent machines. In your essay, be sure to: 

  • clearly state your own perspective on the issue and analyze the relationship between your perspective and at least one other perspective
  • develop and support your ideas with reasoning and examples
  • organize your ideas clearly and logically
  • communicate your ideas effectively in standard written English

Your essay perspective may be in full agreement with any of those given, in partial agreement, or completely different.

Get more information about preparing for the writing test .

Sample Test Questions

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Dr. robert d. kohen, college admissions consulting & test prep, ten new act essay question prompts.

The ACT recently changed the format of the optional essay, debuting the new essay on the September 2015 exam. From September on, all essay prompts will require you to not only respond to a specific question, but to also read and address three unique perspectives on the question.

NewACTEssaySampleQuestionPrompts

While the new essay format is admittedly more complex than the earlier version, it’s still very predictable and you can do very well on it with the right preparation. For advice on how to approach the essay, check out my post  How To Write the New ACT Essay .

Unfortunately, the ACT has only released a meager two sample prompts for you to preview. The first one is available on the ACT’s website here . The second is included in the most recent practice ACT the test makers have released, available as a PDF  here .

In order to do your best on the essay, you’ll want to make sure you practice with more than just two essay question prompts. Here are ten additional new ACT sample essay question prompts I’ve written to help you prepare. You’ll have 40 minutes to complete each essay.

Accelerating Globalization (Sample Essay Prompt 1)

Only a few hundred years ago, communication between countries on opposite ends of the globe was painstakingly slow or non-existent. Most people knew little about distant lands, peoples and cultures. What they thought they knew was frequently erroneous or ill conceived. Within the past hundred years, however, the pace of globalization has accelerated rapidly. Today travel across the globe in less than 24 hours is a real possibility for many people. Individuals and nations can instantly communicate with one another across great distances. For better or worse, the world has become more connected than was ever imaginable before, and it continues to become more connected every day. Has globalization made the world a better or a worse place?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the effects of globalization.

Perspective 1

Globalization, despite its lustrous promises, has created more problems than it has solved. It has allowed rich countries to get richer at the expense of poorer countries, and it has increased, not decreased, the number of armed conflicts in the world.

Perspective 2

The world is undoubtedly a better place today because of globalization. It has allowed critical resources to be distributed to the governments and people that need them the most.

Perspective 3

While I celebrate the productive exchange of cultures globalization has facilitated, I worry about how globalization is homogenizing those cultures. Take languages—do we really want to live in a world where one day everyone only speaks only one global language?

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the impact of globalization on the world. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

Technology and Everyday Life (Sample Essay Prompt 2)

Technology has radically changed the way we interact with the world. Not long ago, individuals who wanted to get in touch had to do so either by meeting in person or sending messages through postal mail. In order to perform most types of research, people were forced to visit physical libraries, bookstores or archives. Over the past two decades, technology has rendered many of these time-consuming tasks obsolete. Messages can be sent anywhere in the world via email in only a matter of seconds. All sorts of information is available with the click of a smart phone button. People can not only call individuals anytime, but they can also access their geolocation on demand. It seems like everyone is on his or her smart phone every waking minute. Has this increase in the power and reach of technology bettered out lives?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the presence of technology in our lives.

Today’s technology has greatly bettered our lives. Individuals are more connected to the information and people they want to connect with, and the result is smarter, happier and more fulfilled human beings.

Technology promises to “connect” us with one another. But look around and you’ll see how disconnected it’s made us—individuals no longer interact with one another because they’ve become so consumed by their phones and devices.

Technology may have made the world a better place for those who have access to it, but its prohibitive costs have made it inaccessible, and consequently unhelpful, to too many people.

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the impact of technology on our lives. In your essay, be sure to:

College Sports (Sample Essay Prompt 3)

College sports have become incredibly popular in the United States. Big games air on the most coveted TV channels at the most coveted times. Teams are followed not only by loyal students and alumni but also by diverse fans from across the country. Major athletic programs bring millions of dollars to university coffers. Star coaches can often earn more than university presidents, making them the highest paid employees on campus. Full scholarships are awarded to star athletes because of their athletic prowess rather than their academic record. In some instances, athletes are even given fake grades to help them stay on the team. Given all of this, should colleges continue to support their sports teams?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the role of athletics at colleges.

Colleges should strongly support their sports teams. These teams not only generate millions of dollars for schools, but they also help sell prospective students on attending the college.

Sports have no official place in college. Colleges are institutions created for learning, not for athletics. College sports compromise academic standards and disadvantage students who don’t participate.

While college sports play a valuable role on university campuses, it is important for administrators to not lose perspective. That some football coaches earn more than university presidents, for example, is clearly wrong.

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on college support for sports teams. In your essay, be sure to:

College Curricula (Sample Essay Prompt 4)

For years, American colleges have emphasized the liberal arts over more narrow technical and professional training. College students have been required to study a broad range of academic disciplines, such as literature, philosophy, history and mathematics. Today, however, a growing number of colleges and students have rejected the liberal arts in favor of what some consider to be more practical subjects, such as accounting, finance and nutrition. Global economic hardship has led many to question the value of a liberal arts education that, in their eyes, fails to adequately prepare students for the realities they will face after graduation. Is it important for colleges to promote the study of the liberal arts, or should they emphasize professional and technical training in its place?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about college curricula.

The liberal arts are essential to a quality education because they teach students how to think critically about a broad range of topics, thus preparing them to tackle any issue that might arise in the workplace.

It is time to bury the liberal arts model at our colleges. Reading Shakespeare and studying pure mathematics will not help anyone be successful in any sort of business.

Colleges should closely integrate the liberal arts with professional studies, as each can benefit from the other. Business courses, for example, are enriched by the philosophical study of ethics.

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the relative importance of the liberal arts and professional studies. In your essay, be sure to:

Arts Funding (Sample Essay Prompt 5)

Government funding for the arts is commonplace in many countries today. In the United States, the government funds writers, musicians and visual artists through a variety of initiatives. Critics of this type of funding argue that the government has no place in the arts. Why should taxpayers, the majority of whom have no interest in the works being supported by such funding, be forced to pay for those works? Others, however, argue that government funding for the arts is critical to the wellness of our society. Given the dismal financial prospects in the arts, many artists would be unable to support themselves without the type of funding that the government provides. Should the government continue to fund the arts?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the government funding for the arts.

The government has no place in the arts because the government is not qualified to judge which projects should receive funding and which should not.

Without financial support from the government, many great works of art would never be created. Government funding is thus essential.

The free marketplace, not the government, is the best source of arts funding. If an artist can’t get any money, the reason is simple—her work is not very good!

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on government funding of the arts. In your essay, be sure to:

Corporate Responsibility (Sample Essay Prompt 6)

Large corporations make up some of the wealthiest entities in the world today. Some see these corporations as engines of economic development and progress, bringing better products at better prices to a wider range of people every day. Others, however, criticize corporations for their shortcomings when it comes to social responsibility: failing to assist the less fortunate in our society, including their workers, while focusing too narrowly on profits at the expense of social welfare. Should corporations do more than simply aim to improve their profit margins? Is it important for large corporations to set aside profits from time to time in order to donate to charities and to help the needy?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about corporate responsibility.

Corporations have only one responsibility: to make the greatest profit they possibly can. It is only by doing so that they can benefit their workers, shareholders, and society.

Profits often get in the way of doing the right thing. Large corporations should focus less on profits and more on developing meaningful ways of helping the disadvantaged.

It is important that corporations adhere to any and all laws that pertain to them. Beyond this, however, they are free to do as they please.

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on corporate responsibility. In your essay, be sure to:

The Federal Government (Sample Essay Prompt 7)

The United States government is made up of various national, state and local governing bodies. Certain responsibilities, like the building of interstate roadways, are looked after by the national, or federal, government, whereas more local issues are often overseen by local government bodies like state legislatures or city councils. Many argue that states and cities in the United States wield too much power, power that they believe should belong in the hands of the federal government. Others contend that the federal government is too large and is unresponsive to the particular needs of states and cities; they would like to see local government overtake many of the responsibilities now delegated to the federal government. Should the federal government or local governing bodies have more power?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the role of the federal government.

States and cities are ill-equipped to handle most of their own governing. The federal government can do not only a better job of governing them, but a faster and cheaper one.

The federal government is too big to adequately address the needs of individual states and cities. States and cities know what is best for them, not the federal government.

Local government fails only when it lacks the backing of the federal government. The federal government should provide logistical and financial support to states and cities in order to enable them to govern themselves effectively.

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the relative roles of local and federal government. In your essay, be sure to:

Religious Liberty (Sample Essay Prompt 8)

The relationship between religious liberty and individual rights has often been a problematic one throughout American history. Today, for example, many businesses feel compelled to refuse service to homosexuals because of the religious beliefs of the business owners. Some argue that this refusal of service constitutes unlawful discrimination. Public school boards are often uncertain which religious holidays to add to the academic calendar. Should a Christian student, for instance, have to miss school because of a Jewish holiday? How should the state balance the need to respect religious liberty with need to preserve the rights of all members of society?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about religious liberty and individual rights.

The state must accommodate all religions to the fullest extent possible. This means school days off for all major religious holidays and protecting the right of business owners to refuse service based on religious beliefs.

The government has no special obligation to protect religious liberties when they interfere with the freedoms and well-being of the public at large.

Government should seek, to the greatest extent possible, ways to accommodate both religious liberty and individual rights when the two find themselves in conflict.

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the state and religious liberty. In your essay, be sure to:

Solving Society’s Problems (Sample Prompt 9)

The world today faces a wide range of challenges. Despite the great economic and scientific progress mankind has made, many in the world are still struggling to survive. Even in developed nations, individuals and communities face problems like poverty, disease and violence. Individuals and private organizations have done much to help alleviate many of these problems. Government have also played a role in addressing issues like poverty and public health. In your opinion, who has a bigger role to play in solving today’s problems: governments or individuals?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the role of government and individuals in solving today’s problems.

Individuals could not possibly hope to solve problems as large as the ones we face today. Only large governments with sizable resources can help.

Governments are, by nature, composed of individuals working as a team. Governments can solve major problems because they harness the power of individuals.

The best solutions to society’s problems always come from individuals, not governments. Governments lack the creativity and drive necessary to tackle major problems successfully.

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the role of individuals and governments as problem solvers. In your essay, be sure to:

Avoiding Armed Conflicts (Sample Prompt 10)

Armed conflicts between nations have always been and remain, unfortunately, a constant fact of life. How politicians and governments seek to avoid of these conflicts, however, varies greatly. Many leaders and political thinkers insist on the importance of demonstrating military might in order to reduce the likelihood of such conflicts. Others argue that flexing military muscle is basically inviting armed conflict, and that the best way nations can avoid conflicts is simply by keeping an open line of communication with one another. When forced to choose between a strong showing of military might and diplomatic efforts, which should nations choose in order to avoid armed conflicts?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about how military might and diplomatic efforts can prevent armed conflicts.

Without a strong showing of military might, a nation will lead its enemies to believe that it is weak and vulnerable to attack. The result is, inevitably, such an attack.

International conflicts can quickly escalate into full-blown armed conflicts unless the nations involved talk to one another and learn to settle their differences through words rather than bombs.

Demonstrating military might is always a better way to prevent armed conflict than diplomacy, because whereas military might is a deterrent to conflict, diplomacy rarely succeeds in resolving international disagreements.

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the respective roles of diplomacy and military might. In your essay, be sure to:

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By submitting my email address. i certify that i am 13 years of age or older, agree to recieve marketing email messages from the princeton review, and agree to terms of use., sample act essay prompt (and how to tackle it).

Are you taking the ACT with Writing? No need to stress! The ACT essay follows a predictable format, which means you can practice and prepare beforehand. Take a look at a sample ACT writing prompt and learn five key steps to penning a high-scoring essay.

writing the ACT essay

Keep in mind: The ACT writing essay is optional. Currently, only 27 colleges and universities require the ACT with Writing. You can see the complete list  here . If there is any chance that you might apply to one of those schools, you should register for the ACT with Writing. Not sure where you will apply? You should strongly consider signing up for the essay and keep your options open.

ACT with Writing: Sample Prompt

This example writing prompt comes straight from our book ACT Prep :

Education and the Workplace

Many colleges and universities have cut their humanities departments, and high schools have started to shift their attention much more definitively toward STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) and away from ELA (English, Language Arts). Representatives from both school boards and government organizations suggest that the move toward STEM is necessary in helping students to participate in a meaningful way in the American workplace. Given the urgency of this debate for the future of education and society as a whole, it is worth examining the potential consequences of this shift in how students are educated in the United States.

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the shift in American education.

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the issue of how schools should balance STEM and ELA subjects. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

How to Write the ACT Essay

Your job is to write an essay in which you take some sort of position on the prompt, all while assessing the three perspectives provided in the boxes. Find a way to anchor your essay with a unique perspective of your own that can be defended and debated, and you are already in the upper echelon of scorers.

Step 1: Work the Prompt

What in the prompt requires you to weigh in? Why is this issue still the subject of debate and not a done deal?

Step 2: Work the Perspectives

Typically, the three perspectives will be split: one for , one against , and one in the middle . Your goal in Step 2 is to figure out where each perspective stands and then identify at least one shortcoming of each perspective. For the example above, ask yourself: 

  • What does each perspective consider?
  • What does each perspective overlook?

Read More: What's a Good ACT Score?

Step 3: Generate Your Own Perspective

Now it's time to come up with your own perspective! If you merely restate one of the three given perspectives, you won’t be able to get into the highest scoring ranges. You’ll draw from each of the perspectives, and you may side with one of them, but your perspective should have something unique about it.

Step 4: Put It All Together

Now that you have your ideas in order, here's a blueprint for how to organize the ACT essay. This blueprint works no matter what your prompt is.

Step 5: (If There's Time): Proofread

Spend one or two minutes on proofreading your essay if you have time. You’re looking for big, glaring errors. If you find one, erase it completely or cross it out neatly. Though neatness doesn’t necessarily affect your grade, it does make for a happy grader.

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2021-22 ACT Writing Practice Test Sample Essays

Welcome to Piqosity’s guide to the 2021-22 ACT writing practice test! Below are sample essays that illustrate how to (and how not to) answer the previously released 2021-22 ACT prompt, as found in the Writing section of the previously released 2021-2022 ACT exam (from “Preparing for the ACT Test” (form 2176CPRE)).

The full PDF of the previously 2021-22 ACT is available FREE from the ACT for download. The ACT Writing portion explained below begins on page 52.

You can find additional Piqosity guides with answer explanations for the previously released 2021-22 ACT Practice Test in this series of articles:

  • English Answer Explanations from 2021-2022 ACT Practice Test
  • Math Answer Explanations from 2021-2022 ACT Practice Test
  • Reading Answer Explanations from 2021-2022 ACT Practice Test
  • Science Answer Explanations from 2021-2022 ACT Practice Test
  • Writing Answer Explanations from 2021-2022 ACT Practice Test (this article)

When you’re finished reviewing the 2021-22 ACT Writing Practice Test PDF and guide, keep practicing for the ACT with Piqosity! We provide 10 additional full-length practice ACT tests , 70+ lessons and tutorials, personalized practice, and more!

The 2021-22 ACT Writing Prompt & Sample Essays

2021-22 ACT Writing Practice Test Sample Essays

Remember that you have only 40 minutes to familiarize yourself with the prompt, plan your essay, and write it out. It is recommended that you take no more than 10 minutes to plan your essay, so that you have the rest of the time to write and review it. The test booklet includes blank pages for you to use when planning your essay. These blank pages are not scored; only the lined pages on which you write your essay will be scored.

Well-Written Essay Sample

First, let’s look at a sample essay which would likely receive the highest possible score (a 6 in all categories, which results in a final ACT Writing score of 12). A top-scoring essay will align with the following ACT scoring rubric descriptions:

Many schools implement both academic and behavioral standards as prerequisites for joining an extracurricular activity. While this practice ensures that the students in a club remain accountable for their grades and behavior, it leaves out students who are unable to do so – particularly students who struggle with their grades. Students who struggle with their grades could still benefit from extracurricular activities, whereas students with unsatisfactory behavior would disrupt the activity and poorly represent the school. There should be behavioral standards for students that permit them to take part in extracurricular activities; however, academic excellence should not be a barrier between students and their participation in these activities. By withholding enriching opportunities from struggling students who don’t otherwise impede the experience of other students, schools actively inhibit their growth as individuals. Extracurricular programs, teams, and clubs are spaces where students can form relationships with other students, build skills that they wouldn’t have the capacity to otherwise, and develop responsibility, teamwork, and leadership – all skills that can enrich their future social lives, academic experiences, and employment opportunities. They also provide an avenue for students to develop their individuality; students must take generally the same courses during their K-12 years and often don’t have a voice in choosing those classes, so offering a way for students to decide their own path helps them develop their own agency. Naturally, many students have certain academic weaknesses; for example, while a student may thrive in History and English classes, they may struggle to grasp the concepts of Math or Physics, no matter how hard they try and how many hours of studying they pour into it. Thus, they may be unable to reach the academic standards for extracurriculars. To bar these students from thoroughly beneficial extracurricular activities is unnecessarily harmful, especially since unsatisfactory grades have no negative consequences for the activities themselves. By contrast, if school programs are open to students who disrupt the school environment, this would harm the success of the activity (such as distracted or irresponsible participants) and a negative representation of the school in off-campus events. Since it is very likely that disruptive students would behave similarly in a program outside of school hours, implementing behavioral standards for students and specifying that only students with good conduct are permitted to participate in extracurricular activities would improve student and school life. Encouraging excellent conduct by opening extracurricular activities to only well-behaved students also encourages the student body to improve their behavior as a whole – if a certain student has poor conduct of their own accord and wishes to join the debate club, for instance, they may work to improve their conduct in order to join the club. It is true that many students have behavioral issues at school due to circumstances outside of their control, such as issues at home or with their mental health. These students deserve the support of their school; however, allowing them to participate in extracurricular activities can disrupt and hinder the experiences of other participants and the success of the club. Alternatively, academic shortcomings have no effect on the club’s success nor the experience of other students. Some may argue that it is unfair to hold club participants to a higher standard than other students who are not interested in participating in extracurricular activities. But participation in extracurriculars is a privilege, and the disadvantages students with poor conduct are likely to bring to club activities and events justify a stricter standard of conduct that helps to protect this privilege. Extracurricular activities should be open to students that have good conduct, regardless of their grades. Holding students to a standard of excellent conduct in order to participate in these activities encourages the whole student body to improve their conduct and insulates the clubs from disruptive students, while including academically struggling students allows them to experience the many benefits of extracurricular activities and encourages their growth outside of the classroom.

Well-Written Sample Essay Score Explanation

Let’s look at how this essay aligns with the rubric descriptions for a score of 6 in each domain. Text in quotes comes from the rubric; italicized text comes from the student’s essay.

Ideas and Analysis

“The writer generates an argument that critically engages with multiple perspectives on the given issue. The argument’s thesis reflects nuance and precision in thought and purpose.”

The author’s thesis is easily located at the end of the first paragraph: There should be behavioral standards for students that permit them to take part in extracurricular activities; however, academic excellence should not be a barrier between students and their participation in these activities. This thesis – and the introductory paragraph on the whole – actively engages with the three perspectives laid out in the prompt, clearly states the central argument, and incorporates nuance by distinguishing between academic and behavioral standards.

“The argument establishes and employs an insightful context for analysis of the issue and its perspectives. The analysis examines implications, complexities and tensions, and/or underlying values and assumptions.”

The essay has a core idea that extracurricular activities are very beneficial (paragraph 2) and supports this idea with examples of how extracurriculars can enhance a student’s experience. It goes on to evaluate the potential reasons (bad behavior, poor academic behavior) for barring students from these experiences in light of which reasons have the potential to disrupt extracurricular activities for all involved. The writer supports the main idea further by evaluating counterarguments (paragraph 4). They address the idea that while both bad behavior and bad scholastic performance may be caused by issues outside of a student’s control, only bad behavior has the potential to disrupt extracurricular activities for others. The author clarifies that students with behavioral issues “ deserve the support of their school” but not at the expense of other students’ experiences.

Finally, the writer cinches their argument that participation in extracurricular activities should be open to all students, regardless of academic standing, by highlighting the importance of giving academically struggling students the opportunity to be well-rounded in an environment that is not disrupted by behavioral issues.

Development and Support

“Development of ideas and support for claims deepen insight and broaden context. An integrated line of skillful reasoning and illustration effectively conveys the significance of the argument. Qualifications and complications enrich and bolster ideas and analysis.”

One of the essay’s core ideas is that extracurricular activities are beneficial, and the author supports this idea by developing reasons why they are important: “ Extracurricular programs, teams, and clubs are spaces where students can [develop] skills that can enrich their future social lives, academic experiences, and employment opportunities… They also provide an avenue for students to develop their individuality… ”

The author also uses clear, intermittent examples of students engaging with school and extracurriculars to convey the real-life uses of their ideas: “… if a certain student has poor conduct of their own accord and wishes to join the debate club, for instance, they may work to improve their conduct in order to join the club. And, “… for example, while a student may thrive in History and English classes, they may be unable to grasp the concepts of Math or Physics, no matter how hard they try…”

Finally, the author draws a firm distinction between how academic issues and behavior issues might affect the success of students participating in extracurricular activities. They state that “ unsatisfactory grades don’t impact the activities…” but that “it is very likely that disruptive students would behave similarly in a program outside of school hours .”

Organization

“The response exhibits a skillful organizational strategy. The response is unified by a controlling idea or purpose, and a logical progression of ideas increases the effectiveness of the writer’s argument.”

The writer uses a five-paragraph essay structure, utilizing the first body paragraph to discuss academic standards, the second to discuss behavior standards, and the third to discuss counterarguments. The arguments logically build upon one another as the author develops support for their thesis, namely; extracurricular activities are important and should be available to all students who may benefit from them; implementing academic standards creates unnecessary barriers to well-behaved students who would become more well-rounded while participating in these programs; implementing behavioral standards protects said students from disruptive behavior and supports the continued success of the programs themselves. These ideas are then bolstered as the author refutes counterarguments.

“Transitions between and within paragraphs strengthen the relationships among ideas.”

By beginning with the phrase, “By contrast,” the topic sentence of the third paragraph simultaneously establishes a relationship between the ideas discussed in the second and third paragraph and while making it clear that the latter issue will differ in some way to the former. And this is, in fact, what occurs; the second paragraph concludes by stating that academic issues have “no negative consequences ” for extracurricular activities, while the third paragraph begins by stating that behavioral issues “ would harm the success of the activity…” The author also uses transitions within their paragraphs to help clarify their ideas, such as the use of “For example” in paragraph two to illustrate a point via a list of examples, and “Alternatively” in paragraph 4 to present a counter argument.

Language Use

“The use of language enhances the argument. Word choice is skillful and precise. Sentence structures are consistently varied and clear. Stylistic and register choices, including voice and tone, are strategic and effective.”

There are no significant language or grammar problems. The author uses a wide range of vocabulary ( enriching, withholding, unsatisfactory ) and precise language. Throughout, the student also uses appropriate academic language and a formal tone. Sentence length varies; a wide variety of punctuation is used correctly. All of this indicates a strong command of written English.

Mediocre Essay Sample

Now, let’s look at a sample essay which would likely receive middling scores (a 3 in all categories, which results in a final ACT Writing score of 6). A mid-scoring essay will align with the following ACT scoring rubric descriptions:

Extracurricular activities should be open to all students who want to do them because it is fair to everyone and it is unfair to keep students from doing it, no matter what your point of view is. Banning any students that don’t have the best conduct or grades from them would make school unbearable for them and it wouldn’t help them do any better in school. Plus schools would lose a lot of opportunities that good student athletes or actors would give them by limiting who could be in these programs. Some people have a lot of trouble focusing when they’re in school because of problems outside of school or because they are being taught things that won’t matter in their lives. Trouble focusing leads to bad grades and bad conduct. If they couldn’t participate in extracurricular activities, school would become a terrible place for them. Think of all the times an athlete helped there school team win a game, or student musicians who finally learned to play that difficult note. These students don’t have bad grades or conduct on purpose so they are punished for things out of their control. Extracurricular activities help students become who they want to be in life. They let kids try new things, and find what they like. For example someone may be interested in sports and try out for soccer. Next thing you know, they go to college on a soccer scholarship and get on a really good team after college! Or there’s a student who’s always liked movies and plays who tries out for the drama club. Turns out, they become an A-list celebrity and actor in tons of hit movies! Even if students don’t end up becoming what they do as an extracurricular activity, it’ll still help them in the future. Like a student on the debate team can become a lawyer, or someone in band keeps playing their instrument for the rest of their life. Limiting the number of students who can do extracurricular activities won’t only make the lives of students more miserable, but it would hurt the school. Schools can get a lot of money for really good sports teams or other clubs. And think about how much people like the schools that a bunch of famous athletes, successful writers, or CEOs came from. They may have been students on the basketball team, book club, or business club. Schools get prestige from these kinds of graduates, which make them more successful schools. The solution is to make school itself a better place for students. Stop punishing students for misbehaving and doing bad in class. Give longer time between classes and for lunch so that they can relax and get energized for class. And continue offering extracurricular activities so that the students can have better lives and the school can have more success.

Mediocre Sample Essay Score Explanation

Let’s look at how this essay aligns with the rubric descriptions for a score of 3 in each domain. Text in quotes comes from the rubric; italicized text comes from the student’s essay.

“The writer generates an argument that responds to multiple perspectives on the given issue. The argument’s thesis reflects some clarity in thought and purpose.”

The student’s thesis seems to be Extracurricular activities should be open to all students who want to do them because it is fair to everyone and it is unfair to keep students from doing it, no matter what your point of view is. This thesis acknowledges the presence of multiple perspectives and is clear, but it dismisses perspectives it does not share without providing a counterargument.

“The argument establishes a limited or tangential context for analysis of the issue and its perspectives. Analysis is simplistic or somewhat unclear.”

There are a few claims in the body of this essay without adequate support, such as If they couldn’t participate in extracurricular activities, school would become a terrible place for them. Why would school become a terrible place? The conclusion consists of clear solutions to this problem, without a clear explanation of the problem: Stop punishing students for misbehaving and doing bad in class. Give longer time between classes and for lunch so that they can relax and get energized for class. And continue offering extracurricular activities…

The student doesn’t engage with perspectives other than their own past the thesis, and the essay doesn’t present nor refute the reason students may be barred from extracurriculars based on academic or behavioral status.

“Development of ideas and support for claims are mostly relevant but are overly general or simplistic. Reasoning and illustration largely clarify the argument but may be somewhat repetitious or imprecise.”

Throughout the essay, the student gives many examples to illustrate their point; though, they are somewhat repetitive: Think of all the times an athlete helped there school team win a game, or student musicians who finally learned to play that difficult note… For example someone may be interested in sports and try out for soccer. Next thing you know, they go to college on a soccer scholarship and get on a really good team after college!… And think about how much people like the schools that a bunch of famous athletes, successful writers, or CEOs came from.

The examples do illustrate their ideas well to the reader, but their repetitiveness and simplicity weakens the argument. For example, see the second sentence in paragraph 4: Schools can get a lot of money for really good sports teams or other clubs. And think about how much people like the schools that a bunch of famous athletes, successful writers, or CEOs came from. There is no explanation of how schools “get a lot of money” for this. Naturally, the student isn’t expected to understand the intricacies of something like this, but, since they plan on using it as a supporting idea in their argument, they should understand the basics to strengthen their argument.

“The response exhibits a basic organizational structure. The response largely coheres, with most ideas logically grouped.”

The student organized their essay into a traditional five-paragraph structure, with each paragraph having a generally clear purpose. However, each paragraph seems to stand alone. They do not build upon each other to create a convincing argument, nor do they present counter arguments.

“Transitions between and within paragraphs sometimes clarify the relationships among ideas.”

A few paragraphs are straightforward enough with their ideas that a clear transition isn’t integral to the flow of the essay. For example, the second paragraph’s end discusses the joys of extracurriculars that students may miss out on and the third paragraph begins with the clear benefits of extracurriculars, which are two overlapping ideas. A clearer transition, however, would have been beneficial between the third and fourth paragraphs, which jump from the idea of how limiting extracurriculars hurts students to the idea of how schools need extracurriculars to boost funding.

“The use of language is basic and only somewhat clear. Word choice is general and occasionally imprecise. Sentence structures are usually clear but show little variety.”

The author uses a limited vocabulary, with language that could be more refined and precise. For example, Schools can get a lot of money could be made more precise into “Schools can receive more funding” or a similar phrase, conveying how/why schools can “get a lot of money” or who/where it is from.

Sentence structure is clear, but generally the same throughout. Many sentences start with “like”, “for example”, “plus”, or a coordinating conjunction before proceeding to list an argument or example. The lack of variation between sentences loses the reader’s attention and creates monotony in the writing.

“Stylistic and register choices, including voice and tone, are not always appropriate for the rhetorical purpose. Distracting errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics may be present.”

The author’s language choices are overly colloquial and should be presented more formally, with an academic tone. For example the sentence, “ Next thing you know, they go to college on a soccer scholarship and get on a really good team after college!” would be more appropriate as: “ Participation on a school soccer team could open doors and create opportunities, from an academic scholarship to college to a career in athletics, personal training, coaching, and beyond.”

Some of the more language choices come across as hyperbolic, as they are presented without sufficient evidence and may even be perceived by a reader as contrasting with the primarily casual tone. Limiting the number of students who can do extracurricular activities won’t only make the lives of students more miserable or Banning any students that don’t have the best conduct or grades from them would make school unbearable for them … are two places in which a very strong adjective is used to describe how school makes students feel without sufficient reasoning to warrant this word use.

There are spelling and grammar errors throughout, as well.

  • “There” in place of the correct “their”
  • Missing comma after “purpose” before the coordinating conjunction “so”
  • Extra comma after “things” before the coordinating conjunction – “find what they like” is a dependent clause so no comma is required
  • Missing comma after the introductory phrase “For example”

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act essay sample prompts

ACT Writing Sample Essay Topics

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*Please Note! This information relates to the old ACT Writing Test. For information on the Enhanced ACT Writing Test, which began in the fall of 2015, please see here!

The ACT Writing Test prompt will do two things:

  • Describe an issue that's relevant to a high schooler's life
  • Ask the writer to write about the issue from his or her own perspective

Typically, the sample prompts will give two perspectives on the issue. The writer can decide to prove one of the perspectives or create and support a new perspective on the issue.

ACT Writing Sample Essay Prompt 1

Educators debate extending high school to five years because of increasing demands on students from employers and colleges to participate in extracurricular activities and community service in addition to having high grades . Some educators support extending high school to five years because they think students need more time to achieve all that is expected of them. Other educators do not support extending high school to five years because they think students would lose interest in school and attendance would drop in the fifth year. In your opinion, should high school be extended to five years?

ACT Writing Sample Essay Prompt 2

In some high schools, many teachers and parents have encouraged the school to adopt a dress code. Some teachers and parents support a dress code because they think it will improve the learning environment in the school. Other teachers and parents do not support a dress code because they believe it inhibits a student's individual expression. In your opinion, should high schools adopt dress codes for students?

Source: The Real ACT Prep Guide, 2008

ACT Writing Sample Essay Prompt 3

A school board is concerned that the state’s requirements for core courses in mathematics, English, science, and social studies may prevent students from taking important elective courses like music, other languages, and vocational education. The school board would like to encourage more high school students to take elective courses and is considering two proposals. One proposal is to lengthen the school day to provide students with the opportunity to take elective courses. The other proposal is to offer elective courses in the summer. Write a letter to the school board in which you argue for lengthening the school day or for offering elective courses during the summer. Explain why you think your choice will encourage more students to take elective courses. Begin your letter: “Dear School Board:”

Source: www.act.org, 2009

ACT Writing Sample Essay Prompt 4

The Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires all school libraries receiving certain federal funds to install and use blocking software to prevent students from viewing material considered “harmful to minors.” However, some studies conclude that blocking software in schools damages educational opportunities for students, both by blocking access to Web pages that are directly related to the state-mandated curriculums and by restricting broader inquiries of both students and teachers. In your view, should the schools block access to certain Internet Web sites?

ACT Writing Sample Essay Prompt 5

Many communities are considering adopting curfews for high school students. Some educators and parents favor curfews because they believe it will encourage students to focus more on their homework and make them more responsible. Others feel curfews are up to families, not the community, and that students today need freedom to work and participate in social activities in order to mature properly. Do you think that communities should impose curfews on high school students? Source: The Princeton Review’s Cracking the ACT, 2008

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ACT Writing Prompts With Sample Essays & Tips

Act Essay

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The ACT essay is an optional portion of the ACT test that assesses a student's writing skills. It is a 40-minute timed writing task in which the student is given a prompt and asked to write an argumentative essay in response. ACT writing test is an excellent opportunity to demonstrate your writing skills and ability to look at any topic from different perspectives.

Our guide will outline how to write an ACT essay and how to do your best on it. We will discuss ACT writing prompts and possible approaches. Also, we have new ACT essay examples you can draw inspiration from. 

Let’s make this writing task a piece of cake for you! After reading this blog from our college essay services , we guarantee that you will become a rock star in ACT writing!

What Is ACT Writing?

First and foremost, let’s start with a definition of ACT writing and what you need to know about this test type. ACT writing portion is a 40-minute optional test that evaluates your ability to write and present 3 different perspectives on defined issues. 

But why should you consider taking this writing part of a test if this task is not mandatory? The answer is easy – many universities still require students to take an ACT with writing. It depends on your future major and academic plans. For some admission commissions, the test without writing part will make you a weaker competitor. 

This test assesses your skills in analytical thinking. In this essay, you must overview 3 sides of a debate topic, bring your approach, and point to reasonable evidence.

ACT Essay Example

ACT Writing Test Overview

If you find a university you will apply to that requires an ACT writing test, don’t panic and start preparing. Our guide will go through each step of your writing and help you understand its basic principles. But first, let’s have a brief overview of this task and how it will be scored. 

Critical points on your test:

  • You have 40 minutes to write.
  • You can use pen and paper only.
  • Essay structure should be strictly followed.

You will structure your work this way:

  • Evaluate 3 different angles of a prompt.
  • Present your view or indicate which one you support.
  • Explain the connection between your choice and other perspectives on a topic.

After you know what this essay includes, let’s discuss the scoring. What you should know about an ACT writing score? You will be evaluated based on 4 aspects:

  • Ideas and analysis of a prompt Does your writing sample demonstrate clarity and provide an overview of all perspectives?
  • Topic development How does your text develop and structure ideas in a coherent sample?
  • Logic Does your text have a strong and reasonable structure that follows a logical flow?
  • Language Does your essay contain grammar and spelling mistakes?

Two graders will evaluate your essay. Each one will grade your test on a score from 1 to 6. Finally, you will see the sum of those points from two graders, or in other words – a number from 2 to 12. An average score sum required by most universities is 8+. However, some Ivy League colleges may ask you to write your ACT essay with a 9+ score.

ACT Practice Writing Prompts

How to get the highest score on your test? Take any ACT writing practice test, understand your weaknesses, and continue training. 

We prepared ACT writing prompts to illustrate how your essay can be structured, what templates to use, and how to succeed in this task. While looking for the best prompts, consider that this test was changed in 2015 and became a little more complicated. But we focused on the latest tests to give you the best possible examples and prompts.

Sample ACT Essay Prompt 1 & Analysis

In the following paragraphs, we will focus on an ACT writing prompt and how to ensure a successful essay score on a real test. Let’s choose one of the popular topics for your essay – Climate Change . We will show this topic's ACT writing test prompt and two essay samples. 

We will also go through grading and explain why the first essay scored 1 and the second had the highest score - 6. These samples will undoubtedly inspire you and teach you how to write good texts.

Sample Prompt

Lately, a discussion around the urgency of action because of climate change has become one of the most popular. The data proves that governments of many countries failed to follow their agreement on reducing the negative influence on the environment. As a result, we all became affected by changing the weather, extreme heating, or heavy rain. Due to these changes, some countries, like Pakistan, have already lost territories and people. However, some scientists argue that climate change is a media topic that is not so urgent.  Read carefully three perspectives on how important and urgent are climate change issues. Each of them outlines a specific view of the human role in climate change.

Essay task Write a coherent essay addressing what urgent climate change is and who is responsible for this situation. In your essay: 1. State your perspective and analyze how it connects to perspectives defined in a prompt. 2.  Support your point with examples. 3. Structure your ideas.

❌ ACT Essay Example 1

The discussion around climate change has become very important in the last few years. However, the question is, how accurate is climate change? Maybe, it was fabricated by media and corporations to have an additional influence on governments. I believe that only people alone are responsible for climate change. This is our goal to make any changes. If we want to change this situation with climate change, we need to start with ourselves. And we need to start with an urgent alarm that will bring this topic to a higher level of discussion. My point is based on a few pieces of evidence. First, we know how many plastics are used by ordinary people. Even reducing plastic in everyday life can help to change something. Secondly, we can reduce the negative influence on the environment by changing our eating habits and moving to a vegetarian diet. My idea is mainly related to the first perspective described in the essay task. I believe climate change is the most urgent topic for now, but only humans can change something by doing even small steps. To conclude, I think that we need to bring more attention to the causes of climate change and focus on small things that every person can do.

Score Analysis

Let’s examine an  ACT essay score and analyze why the sample above will get the lowest score. We will go through each point for grading.

Here you can see that based on all 4 grading points, the essay sample will get the lowest score. However, the same topic can be developed much better, with real examples and more substantial argumentation. It is possible to score your essay with the highest grade even by choosing the same perspective.

✓ Essay Writing Sample 2

There is no shortage of opinions on how emergent the climate change issue is and what the way to solve it is. In the essay task, we found three different perspectives on this topic. The first one is to stand on the position that climate change is the most urgent topic for humanity, and even small steps by ordinary humans can change the situation. The second one pointed out that there is no such issue as climate change, and the media and marketers created it. And the last one, and most realistic in my opinion, is that climate change is a problem, but only governmental politics can make a difference in it. A bunch of facts and evidence support my point of view. First and foremost, we need to evaluate the number of considerable productions in each country. Manufacturers make up 75% of the pollution, which definitely relies on government regulations. It means we can not change the situation significantly only by ourselves. Secondly, we need to analyze the biggest causes of climate change. One of them is fossil fuel and deep ocean mining, which governments lead. I also believe no evidence proves climate change is a myth. We can see how devastating rain is in Pakistan - the first country heavily damaged by climate change. It is a real case, not just a conspiracy belief. To conclude, I would suggest activists put more effort into pushing governments to act to stop climate change.  

This essay is much more logical and well-structured and definitely will get the highest score. Let’s look at each ACT essay scoring section to understand what makes this text better and more effective.

The second essay is more robust and better for students who need high grades. However, the structure of each essay is the same. If you find the best structure for you, there will be no problem with any topic for such a task.

Sample ACT Essay Prompt 2 & Analysis

You may think that an essay topic can influence ACT essay prompts. However, we are talking about standardized tests. You can complete excellent writing on any topic if you learn how to structure your text and what will make your test better. But you need to practice! Here is another example with a detailed analysis to illustrate the possible development of a topic and underline essential tips to make your paper better graded. Let’s look at the essay on paid/free medicine.

There is a belief in a lot of countries that medicine should be free for anyone. The topic of paid medicine has become one of the most discussed in recent years. For example, the United States is a well-known country with paid and expensive medicine. However, in many European countries, like Germany and France, people can get quality medical help without any payment, as they have already paid taxes. Read carefully three perspectives on paid medicine. Each of them outlines a specific view on how much people should pay for medical support, and it is possible to make the medicine entirely accessible to anyone.

Essay task Write a coherent essay addressing the discussion of paid instead of free medicine. In your essay: 1. State your perspective and analyze how it connects to perspectives defined in a prompt. 2. Support your point with examples. 3. Structure your ideas.

❌ Writing Essay Sample 1

One of today's biggest discussions is about paid medicine and how it should be developed worldwide. While there is a lot of support for the third perspective, described in a task. People believe they should not pay for medicine, as this is a basic need for everyone. However, I disagree with this point, as I support a capitalistic point of view. I believe people need to pay for quality medicine help, which is the only way to build an effective medical system in any country. That is why I have this point of view. First, we need to learn from the best world examples. This is definitely the US. Doctors in the US are very prestigious professionals, and they need to put a lot of effort into working in a clinic. Also, the best surgeries and innovators live in the US. It became possible to launch complicated research only because of funding. This is why I believe we need to pay for quality help, as this is the only reason to develop the system.

Clearly, this essay is not bad, but not the best one you can create. Applying an ACT writing score range, we would say this one about medicine will be in the middle. Detailed analysis of its pros and cons will help you improve your writing piece.

In general, this is a good example of an essay for a score of 3. It is not too simple and unstructured to get 1 or 2. However, there are a lot of improvements that can make the text more readable.

✓  ACT Writing Sample 2

There is no single opinion on building the country's best medical system. While some people believe that the best way is to make medical help paid, others think that the government should cover all medical expenses for people. I personally stand on the position that medicine should be free for everyone. I believe paid and partly-paid medicine discussed in this task is not a way to achieve transparency and democracy. First and foremost, paid medicine will divide people into groups - those who can pay and get qualitative help and those who will die because of no money. Let’s look at death statistics in the US, the country with paid and costly medicine. Almost 40% of people died last year because they could not pay their doctor or ask for help. The idea of developing a medical system based on money clinics get from patients is dangerous. People pay taxes anyway, and these taxes should be invested into building a clinic of the future. For this reason, I believe the only way to make any nation healthy is to pay for medical help from taxes, not from additional citizen payments.

Essay Scoring Analysis

You can see that the second essay looks stronger. We will analyze it based on an ACT writing score scale to illustrate what makes the text better. Let’s discuss each of the four aspects of scaling the writing sample.

This essay will get the highest 6 scores from graders.

How to Write the ACT Essay

Next, we will learn how to write an ACT essay step-by-step. You can see different samples and understand how your work will be scored. But how to write an essay and get the highest grade? Let’s go through each stage of ACT writing essay creation and clarify the importance of each step. Finally, our goal is to make you a proficient writer who is ready to work on any task without worrying about any topic.

1. Brainstorm the ACT Writing Prompt

Research is an essential step in creating an advanced essay. First, you must analyze act writing prompts and find as many arguments for your text as possible. 

Look at the selected ACT essay prompt from various angles and try to understand why this topic became part of the discussion. Refrain from sticking with the first idea you will have. Analyze all three perspectives and understand which will be the most successful. Identify all viable arguments for each stand. 

It is better to spend more time brainstorming than re-write the whole essay when you understand you have limited argumentation for a selected position.

2. Carefully Consider the Perspectives

You will have three different perspectives in your ACT prompt, and you need to analyze each before defining your line. Choose the perspective that will help you to create an excellent ACT essay. 

Usually, one perspective will support a topic, one will be against it, and one will be in the middle. Which one to choose for your test? First, define what each perspective considers and how you can develop this line. Second, think about possible argumentation you can use. You need to choose the one you will feel confident about.

3. Come Up With Your Perspective

After analyzing three topic perspectives, choose one for your essay. Remember that your attitude should be unique. It means you should not select one angle from the given task and state it. Try to combine ideas, and include a brief analysis of them from your point of view. If you want the highest score, your line and argumentation should not copy the one from ACT essay prompts. 

Writing the ACT essay is simple if you use unique ideas for the structure. Reread the topic and define which line is not represented in given perspectives. 

If this task is challenging, consider to pay someone to write your essay at StudyCrumb .

4. Write Your ACT Essay

You analyzed all perspectives for discussion, chose a unique line for your argumentation, and are ready to start working on ACT writing. What is next? The next step is working with an ACT essay format and structure. 

Create an outline of an essay. It means you must define what you will discuss in each section. 

Your text structure will be simple:

  • Essay introduction : Identify your perspective and briefly point to each perspective from the task.
  • Body paragraphs : Start with a topic sentence followed by your argumentation to support and explain your position. Make 2-3 paragraphs.
  • Essay conclusion : Provide your final summary.

ACT Essay Template

Here, you can find a template that is applicable to any topic. You can memorize or save it for your test practice.

ACT Essay Template

5. Proofread Your Writing

Like any other type of writing work, an ACT essay should be proofread before submission. You will have only 40 minutes to write 300+ words using a paper and pen. You need to have sufficient time at the end of your test to check spelling and grammar mistakes. An ACT writing section can be stressful, as you have limited time and must clearly illustrate your ability to think and analyze. You may write your essay in a rush and make some mistakes in spelling words. Plan around 5 minutes for essay revision .

ACT Writing Tips

The best way to ensure a high score on your exam day is to write an ACT practice essay and analyze your text based on a scoring system. Clear structure, advanced essay template, and robust perspective analysis for your statement are critical for scoring. 

However, there are a few more ACT essay tips for your test day:

  • Start with research and analysis.
  • Create an outline before starting to write.
  • Mention all 3 perspectives, especially the one that opposes your statements.
  • Use a unique statement for your essay.
  • Always proofread – it is better to submit clean text without mistakes that write more words than needed.

Bottom Line on ACT Writing Prompts

You are at the end of a detailed guide sample ACT essay writing. In a few paragraphs, we shared with you a few ACT prompts and identified critical steps in creating advanced writing. Remember that this task is not mandatory for test takers. 

But if you are already here, your University may require it. Do not panic! This is a standard test, and you can do your best by learning from ACT writing examples and focusing on templates we prepared for you. Be clear with your idea, analyze other topic perspectives, be unique, and use advanced vocabulary for this test! And you will succeed! 

If you found our blog post on the ACT essay helpful, you may also need a guide on how to write an SAT essay .

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If you still struggle with your ACT essay, our professional academic writing platform can help. Our writers are experienced in academic writing and can deliver fantastic results within a short time. for quick and high-quality delivery. Order essays online to take this burden off your shoulders.

FAQ About ACT Writing Prompts

1. how long is the act with writing.

An ACT essay is only a 40-minute test, and it will present one writing prompt that describes a complex topic and provide three perspectives for analysis in your writing section. You won’t be able to write more than 250-300 words. Focus on test quality, not the number of words.

2. What is a good ACT writing score?

An average ACT writing score is 6.5 and above. It will work for a lot of Universities. However, you may need 8 or more on this test for highly competitive schools. If you apply to a top university or Ivy League, a good score is 10, 11, or 12.

3. Does the ACT essay affect your score?

No, this section does not affect your subject area scores or Composite scores. ACT essay scoring is essential only for a few Universities. And if you are unsure if you need it, it's better to take it. It won’t change your general test scores. Do not be worried about this section a lot!

4. What is an average ACT writing score?

Two graders will grade your work, and each one can grade you in four categories from 1 to 6. This is how you can get from 2 to 12 points in each category. In sum, you will have a score between 2 and 12, which is your average ACT writing score.

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act essay sample prompts

3 ACT Writing Prompts to Improve Your Score

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What’s Covered:

Overview of the act writing test, act practice writing prompts, tips for writing a strong act essay, how does the act impact your college chances.

Preparing for the ACT is a task that many high school students dread, as it requires hours of study and lots of practice before entering that testing room. One of the parts of the ACT that students have to practice for is the writing portion. Keep in mind, the ACT writing portion is actually optional, so you may only have to take it if your intended university requires it. Make sure to verify with your school. 

Learn more about this portion of the ACT, how it can affect your score, and what elements you should include in your writing to achieve the best score you possibly can.

When you sit down to take the ACT writing test, know that it will be important to use your time wisely. You have 40 minutes to read through a prompt and three different perspectives of an issue. Typically, the three perspectives have a conservative view, a moderate view, and a progressive view. Note that this doesn’t mean they’re necessarily political in nature, but more of a view of how change may be positive or negative.

You’ll then assess the prompt, present your own perspective of the issue, and address at least one of the perspectives given to you in the essay. You must write your essay with a No. 2 pencil, so make sure you’re prepared. 

The writing test is combined with your reading and English tests, and you must take the multiple choice portions before proceeding to the writing part of the exam. The test is graded on a score from 1-6, six being the best and one needing the most improvement. Your essay is graded by two separate people and they will combine those scores. So, you can reach a maximum score of 12.

When you get your prompt, it will be centered around an important societal issue. A great way to prepare for these types of prompts is to stay informed. That may mean watching the news, following news updates on social media, or even debating your viewpoints with others to practice. 

Intelligent Machines  

Prompt: Many of the goods and services we depend on daily are now supplied by intelligent, automated machines rather than human beings. Robots build cars and other goods on assembly lines, where once there were human workers. Many of our phone conversations are now conducted not with people but with sophisticated technologies. We can now buy goods at a variety of stores without the help of a human cashier. Automation is generally seen as a sign of progress, but what is lost when we replace humans with machines? Given the accelerating variety and prevalence of intelligent machines, it is worth examining the implications and meaning of their presence in our lives.

Perspective 1: What we lose with the replacement of people by machines is some part of our own humanity. Even our mundane daily encounters no longer require from us basic courtesy, respect, and tolerance for other people. 

Perspective 2: Machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs, and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases they work better than humans. This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone.

Perspective 3: Intelligent machines challenge our long-standing ideas about what humans are or can be. This is good because it pushes both humans and machines toward new, unimagined possibilities.

How to Approach this Prompt

First, read through the prompt carefully to ensure you understand all aspects of the issue. After that, you need to read all three perspectives. Each will offer a different viewpoint of the situation or issue. Think about each one, decide your own perspective, and then determine which perspective or perspectives from the prompt that you’ll address in your writing. 

After that, try to create a basic outline. Remember, you only have 40 minutes, so make sure to maximize your time. Your outline should have a thesis statement as well as some evidence to back up your viewpoint. 

An essay with the top score of 6 would have insight, cautioning people to move slowly with adopting this kind of technology and addressing the potential economic and cultural implications. It would flow well, use advanced vocabulary, and display knowledge of proper grammar and spelling. 

Public Health and Individual Freedom  

Most people want to be healthy, and most people want as much freedom as possible to do the things they want. Unfortunately, these two desires sometimes conflict. For example, smoking is prohibited from most public places, which restricts the freedom of some individuals for the sake of the health of others. Likewise, car emissions are regulated in many areas in order to reduce pollution and its health risks to others, which in turn restricts some people’s freedom to drive the vehicles they want. In a society that values both health and freedom, how do we best balance the two? How should we think about conflicts between public health and individual freedom?

Perspective One : Our society should strive to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people. When the freedom of the individual interferes with that principle, freedom must be restricted.

Perspective Two : Nothing in society is more valuable than freedom. Perhaps physical health is sometimes improved by restricting freedom, but the cost to the health of our free society is far too great to justify it.

Perspective Three : The right to avoid health risks is a freedom, too. When we allow individual behavior to endanger others, we’ve damaged both freedom and health.

How to Approach This Prompt

Remember, any essay you write needs to present your individual viewpoint and address at least one of the perspectives. Likely, this prompt was written before the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, but if you were to get this prompt, you could address that in the essay and talk about how that has affected the concept of public health vs. freedom. This is a good example of why you need to stay informed in order to give the best argument possible in your essay, as you won’t know the prompt until you get there. That background knowledge could help you get a higher score.

Toys are for children, right? Not anymore. In recent years, things that used to be considered “kids stuff” have grown into popularity among grownups. Nowadays, adults regularly play video games, watch animated movies and television shows, purchase dolls and other collectible figures, and read comic books for their own enjoyment. Is adult enjoyment of children’s entertainment merely a sign of immaturity? In what ways can playing with kid stuff change the way adults understand today’s youth? Given that toys, games, and publications that used to be exclusively for children are growing in popularity among adults, it is worth considering the effects and implications of this trend. 

Perspective one: It’s good for adults to be familiar with kid stuff. They’ll understand the lives of children better and be more responsive to their needs, interests, and problems.

Perspective two: Adults need to be models of maturity and responsibility. When they act and think like children, kids have no one to look to for guidance.

Perspective three: Children need their own cultural space—their own books, their own toys, their own movies—in which to explore their ideas. When adults start to take over that space, kids lose out. 

This prompt asks you to contemplate whether adults should engage with kid’s toys and if the effects of engagement are positive or negative. Since there isn’t much robust data out there (that the wide public is aware of) the “data” you use to back up your opinion can come from your own experience as a kid, or as an adult playing with “kid’s toys.” To write a strong essay, remember to consider all three perspectives and anticipate arguments in favor of all three so you can pick the strongest one. If you are able to refute or acknowledge opposing or differing viewpoints, your essays will likely receive a higher score. Remember to organize your thoughts clearly, in paragraphs that flow from one to the next. 

act essay sample prompts

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While it is impossible to prepare for the exact prompt you’ll get once you’re seated in the testing room, it is possible to prepare yourself for writing an essay in a pretty short amount of time. The most important thing is to practice.

1. Practice, practice, practice.

Use the sample prompts above to draft essays and time yourself to see how long it takes. You’ll need to manage your time wisely, so practice is key to knowing how long you need on each step. Allot yourself some time to create a basic outline before you start. You want to ensure that your essay is as cohesive as possible. 

2. Get organized now.

While you practice your essay, you may find that you tend to align with one perspective over the others. Use that to your advantage on testing day. The one you agree with will be the easiest to write about, and then you can combine the other two into one paragraph where you address why you don’t agree with them. If you head in with a strategy in place, it will make it a lot less difficult to construct your essay in the allotted 40 minutes.

3. Don’t spend too much time on grammar.

Yes, grammar is important. But, it’s not the end-all-be-all of your ACT writing test grade. Your time is precious, and you need to focus on getting your writing done in time. Instead, make sure you address all the key points and present a cohesive, strong essay with critical thinking demonstrated throughout. The same goes for vocabulary. Don’t spend time trying to think of a fancy word for “big.” Only focus on elevating your vocabulary after you have finished writing a cohesive essay. 

4. Stay informed.

Stay up to date on current news events—and don’t just get your information from social media. According to Pew Research , people who get their news from social media are not as engaged and not as knowledgeable. You need to try and follow current events so that you can form an educated opinion for your essay. Those types of opinions, especially if you can back them up with facts, are the ones that are more likely to get you the top score of 5 or 6. 

Along with that, you need to know basic history, too. The prompt may address how the world has changed or is changing in some way. You may need to mention events that have happened in the past, such as World War I, the Civil War, the industrial revolution, the civil rights movement, and others. 

You may also need to use an example from your own life if your background knowledge ends up not applying to the prompt that you get. For example, think about what’s happened in your lifetime—when you were born, likely only a few people had smartphones. Today, almost everyone has one in their pocket with access to all of the information on the internet just a touch away. Sweeping changes that have occurred in your life could help you answer the prompt with substance and background. 

Just like the SAT, your ACT score is influential in your college application. However, remember that not all universities require the ACT writing portion . If you’d like to find out your chances of getting into your dream school, CollegeVine offers a free chancing engine where you can input all of your information like GPA, AP classes, SAT/ACT scores, extracurriculars and more, to get an estimation of your chances. We even share tips on how to improve your odds. 

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ACT Essay Samples | Good vs Bad Examples

Prep Expert

The ACT Essay option is a great way to impress college admissions officers with your writing ability. But what does a good essay look like vs a bad one? Thankfully, ACT has provided some helpful ACT essay samples that you can study based on good vs not-so-good examples.

In addition, here are 10 helpful ACT Essay prep tips to practice before test day.

ACT Essay Samples Prompt

This provided prompt, Intelligent Machines, is a good representation of how prompts are provided to you on the actual test.

“The test describes an issue and provides three different perspectives on the issue. You are asked to read and consider the issue and perspectives, state your own perspective on the issue, and analyze the relationship between your perspective and at least one other perspective on the issue. Your score will not be affected by the perspective you take on the issue.”

ACT Essay Samples Passage

Here is the actual passage that students drew from when writing the sample essays below.

Intelligent Machines

“Many of the goods and services we depend on daily are now supplied by intelligent, automated machines rather than human beings. Robots build cars and other goods on assembly lines, where once there were human workers. Many of our phone conversations are now conducted not with people but with sophisticated technologies. We can now buy goods at a variety of stores without the help of a human cashier. Automation is generally seen as a sign of progress, but what is lost when we replace humans with machines? Given the accelerating variety and prevalence of intelligent machines, it is worth examining the implications and meaning of their presence in our lives.

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the increasing presence of intelligent machines.”

ACT Essay Samples Perspective Choices

  • Perspective One : What we lose with the replacement of people by machines is some part of our own humanity. Even our mundane daily encounters no longer require from us basic courtesy, respect, and tolerance for other people. “
  • Perspective Two : Machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs, and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases, they work better than humans. This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone.”
  • Perspective Three : Intelligent machines challenge our long-standing ideas about what humans are or can be. This is good because it pushes both humans and machines toward new, unimagined possibilities.”

ACT Essay Sample 1 (Low-Scoring)

“Well Machines are good but they take people jobs like if they don’t know how to use it they get fired and they’ll find someone else and it’s more easyer with machines but sometimes they don’t need people because of this machines do there own job and there be many people that lack on there job but the intelligent machines sometimes may not work or they’ll brake easy and it’s waste of money on this machines and there really expensive to buy but they help alot at the same time it help alot but at the same time this intelligent machines work and some don’t work but many store buy them and end up broken or not working but many stores gets them and end up wasting money on this intelligent machines’ but how does it help us and the comunity because some people get fired because they do not need him because of this machines many people are losing job’s because of this machines.”

Sample Essay 2 (High-Scoring)

“Should machines be used to do good and services instead of humans? I believe they should not for many reasons. Machines can not be smart unless a human is controlling it. So it would not matter if it’s an intelligent machine or not a human is still controlling it to do everything.

When using a machine it could easily malfunction and it could be hard to fix the problem or it will just take a while to fix it. If a human is taking over instead of the machine there may be fewer problems. Machines have so many problems that it would not be worth having.

Also, the more machines you have the fewer jobs there are for people because everyone thinks it would be better to have machines instead of people. When fewer people are out of work that means less money for those people and sometimes they will lose their homes or cars because they can not afford anything.

Sometimes working with machines can be very stressful because they may not work at times or they could be running extremely slow and won’t get anything done. Machines are not smart at all, only when people are controlling them they are but not all the time. It may seem smart but it’s really not.

In conclusion, I think machines should not be used to take over a human job because machines can not think only humans can think and make right or wrong decisions. Machines do not have brains, they’re not wired to think so why have them do stuff that we can do ourselves.”

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act essay sample prompts

Sample ACT Essays

Prompt 1: the value of sports.

Students are introduced to a variety of sports during their childhood. A source of fun, sports are often credited with shaping a child’s all-round personality. However, a growing school of thought is challenging this assumption. Are sports just a waste of time? Or worse, do they take away from important aspects such as education? Given the predominance of sports in students’ schedules, it is worth considering whether sports are beneficial for students.

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the value of tech-free time.

act essay sample prompts

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the value of tech-free time. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

Sample Essay: Prompt 1

Sports and general athletics in education present a unique set of psychological and social benefits to students that are simply unattainable otherwise. The development of a student is a complex, multifaceted process for which science cannot fully comprehend. Promulgating a more holistic approach to education through sports will serve our students, sports, and society. A well-intentioned, yet ultimately myopic consideration of athletics in education argues that a sense of community may be developed in this way. The fundamental misunderstanding which proponents of this stance succumb to is that these activities that allow for this sense of community are multitudinous and pervasive. Take something as essential and organic as family relations, for instance. Within one’s own family, a sense of community and goodwill may be easily fostered. Moreover, academic extracurriculars and interest clubs both offer much of the same. It is naive to assert that sports are the ubiquitous way to achieve this sense of community. This is not to say that sports are detrimental, however, as there are other, more valuable ways in which students may benefit from engaging in sports, namely through the development of otherwise difficult to learn skills.

Another flawed perspective addressing this issue belligerently accuses athletics of is detracting from education itself. This is clearly untrue and represents yet another complete mischaracterization of sports’ role in education. To say that athletics threatens the purpose of education is to assume that the purpose of education is to unilaterally infuse students with information, rather than to foster the overall development of society’s future leaders. Arguing this ignores the overarching purpose and function of education; education is not a zero-sum game. That is, it is possible to both allow for a strong intellectual development in tandem with promoting sports as a psychological benefactor. One emphatic example comes to mind: a New York teenager who had played soccer all her life had the sport banned from her school for safety reasons. Thereafter, her grades dropped and she became less engaged overall. She later documented this in a Huffington Post editorial, citing the inability to play soccer as the root cause for her weakened grades. Thus, it is clear that sports do indeed provide tangible benefits, both for an individual’s grades and or the individual himself/herself. It follows, then, that a middle ground may be ascertained between sports and education; this being the acknowledgement of the quantitative and qualitative benefits that athletics do provide. First, the difficult to measure, yet no less crucial, development of such qualities as leadership, teamwork, and overcoming adversity are imperative to holistic growth. Having these skills leads to greater monetary gain, a more sociable personality, and more overall life opportunities. It is inherent to our psychology, and thereby to any potential employer, to prefer these characteristics. Sports allow for these traits to grow, presenting each student with distinct, dynamic challenges of leadership, vitality, and especially teamwork. Furthermore, quantitative studies suggest an overall boost to academic performance through athletics.

The Economist magazine, in their special report “Generation Uphill,” concluded that a 1-2 hour engagement in athletics for young adults and teens resulted in an overall GPA boost of 28%. Coupled with the more intangible benefits, athletics presents itself as not only a boon to the individual student but also as a vital component of creating future adults. The final analysis shows that sports create a myriad of benefits for both students and society. It is not attributable to a sense of community, as some suggest, nor do sports present a systemic threat to the educational system. Instead, sports broaden the scope of the athlete, subsequently resulting in both psychological and education benefit. As it commonly is, a moderate perspective in this dichotomy of sports and athletics is correct; therefore, let us not lose sight of this, our society and children stand to gain. Hence, sports teach specific important lessons to children while simultaneously providing an educational benefit and should thus be preserved.

Prompt 2: Public Health and Individual Freedom

Most people want to be healthy, and most people want as much freedom as possible to do the things they want. Unfortunately, these two desires sometimes conflict. For example, smoking is prohibited from most public places, which restricts the freedom of some individuals for the sake of the health of others. Likewise, car emissions arc regulated in many areas in order to reduce pollution and its health risks to others, which in turn restricts some people’ s freedom to drive the vehicles they want. In a society that values both health and freedom, how do we best balance the two? How should we think about conflicts between public health and individual freedom?

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the conflict between public health and individual freedom.

act essay sample prompts

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the conflict between public health and individual freedom. In your essay, be sure to:

Sample Essay: Prompt 2

The popular adage “Health is wealth ‘’ rings true in today’s day and age. As society progresses into the 21st century, there are some pundits who create a false two-sided fight between individual liberty and complete dependence on the government. The question arises: can good health be enjoyed if there is no freedom? On the other hand, will unrestricted freedom result in a healthy society? In order to truly enjoy wealth and health, a delicate balance needs to be struck between these two seemingly conflicting viewpoints.

While health is of paramount importance, Perspective 1 is too extreme as it espouses the curbing of freedom for a healthy society. Regardless of how perfect these ideals sound, such utopian ideas are not always practical. For example, the state of Gujarat in India is a dry state (alcohol is banned in this state). Yet, statistics show that the consumption of alcohol is alarmingly high as people resort to illegal ways to get what they desire. Reports also show that every year about 1/3 of the male population succumbs to cirrhosis, a liver disease, allegedly caused due to over consumption of alcohol. These reports successfully refute the implausible view that restricting freedoms leads to better public health.

On the other hand, Perspective 2 is also extreme as it states freedom is more important than health. Such thinking can be dangerous. Living in a country where one person’s freedom can cost another his/her health would be disastrous. Newspapers these days are replete with shootings at US campuses. A number of studies have linked these to the minimal restrictions in place to buy guns. This embodies the view that having too much freedom is not only scary but also disastrous for one’s health. Perspective 3 accurately draws a fine line between freedom and public health.

This perspective mentions that autonomy or limitations cannot outweigh the other as both are two sides of the same coin: both are equally essential for the health of society. For instance, the High court of India has passed a rule that during the festivals, music on loudspeakers cannot be played after 10:30pm. This gives individuals the freedom to enjoy music till 10:30 while allowing senior citizens and children to have peaceful sleep. Likewise, smoking rooms is another concept promoted and accepted in many countries as it protects passive smokers while giving freedom to those who want to smoke.

The final analysis shows that robust public health is a complex, multifaceted goal that cannot be realized by eliminating individual liberties. The correct approach takes a moderate stand in this dichotomy of public health and individual health: they are both pillars of a salubrious society and compromising on either one would result in jeopardizing society.

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The ACT essay is optional. You are given 40 minutes to write the essay. It is graded out of 12 points. Your score will show up next to your “36” score, but it won’t actually affect it in any way.

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Your Magical Guide to Scoring a Perfect 12 on the ACT Essay

Hand writing ACT essay with pen on paper -magoosh

Look, I know that you might not be super excited to write the ACT Essay . In fact, your dread of the ACT Writing section may mean that you’re not even that excited about taking the ACT test .

But how would you feel if I told you that I’ve totally figured out how to change that?

Yup. Today, instead of talking about how to get a perfect 12 on the ACT Essay, we’re actually going to talk about how you can succeed at the universe’s all-time greatest school: Hogwarts .

Little-known fact: the 12 things you need to do to succeed at Hogwarts are exactly the 12 things you need to do to get a perfect 12 on the ACT Writing section .

Spooky, right?

Let’s take a quick look at them before diving in deeper:

  • Know what you’re getting into.
  • Take a look around the Hogwarts Express.
  • Be assured that you CAN be 1 in 10,000.
  • Get yourself a time-turner (but only if necessary!).
  • Make sure you give the Sorting Hat options.
  • Be a Gryffindor and take a risk!
  • Be a Ravenclaw and be clever.
  • Be a Hufflepuff and keep going.
  • Be a Slytherin and be crafty.
  • Know that the way you say something is just as important as what you say.
  • Go into your O.W.L.s with a plan.
  • Take a page from J.K. Rowling’s book and refuse to give up!

  Read on, future Griffindors, Ravenclaws, and Hufflepuffs! (Slytherins, I think we all know your deal. Go talk to a snake or something.)

How to Use This Post

So what can you expect from this post? We’ll look at an overview of the ACT Writing section, then go into how it’s scored and the skills it tests. We’ll compare the ACT Essay to the SAT Essay and help you decide whether you should take the ACT with Writing or without. If you do decide to take it, we have prompts and grading advice for you to use, as well as point-by-point guides to raising your score 2, 3, or 4 points. Finally, we’ll finish off by looking at a template for a 12-scoring essay.

If you’re new to the essay, you’ll want to start at the beginning with the overview of ACT Writing and possibly even try your first practice essay today with one of the prompts here.

On the other hand, if you already have some experience with the ACT Essay, you may want to start with the guide to improving your score, or even with the template for a high-scoring essay.

Just to make it easier on you, here are links to some of the exciting places in this post where you can start your journey to the perfect ACT Essay!

  • Quiz: Should You Take the ACT with Writing?
  • Template for a Perfect 12 on the ACT Essay
  • The Step-by-Step Guide to Getting a Perfect Score

Table of Contents

The least you should know about act writing, how is the act essay scored, skills tested in the act writing section, act vs sat essays, giving the sorting hat options: should i take act writing, act writing prompts, for studious ravenclaws: how can you grade your practice act essay, act writing test struggles: be a hufflepuff and keep going, be as crafty as a slytherin: the ultimate guide to improving your act writing score by 2, 3, or 4 points, how to get a perfect 12 on the act essay, act essay template: guide to the perfect essay (aka go into your o.w.l.s with a plan).

Before you sit down with your quill and parchment, there are a few things that you definitely need to know about ACT Writing, even if you’re taking the exam tomorrow.

First of all, it’s the last section on the ACT (okay, that phrasing might be a little confusing). This means that after you show off your skills reading and interpreting passages, calculating the square root of x, correcting dangling modifiers, and proving your aptitude for Potions in the Science section , you’re going to sit down and write an essay, just to cap it all off.

The ACT Essay is not required; however, it’s a good idea to take it, for reasons we’ll look at a little later on. It’s important to realize this in any case, because you’ll need to register for the ACT with Writing to make sure you have the chance to take it on the official exam.

Once you’re facing the ACT Essay, what will you see? One prompt in your test booklet, which you’ll respond to on a provided answer sheet, in No. 2 pencil (no mechanical pencils here).

The essay is an exercise in both persuasion and analysis. Students are given three perspectives on an issue and asked to “evaluate and analyze” the three perspectives, “state and develop” their own perspective, and “explain the relationship” between their perspective and the given perspectives. They can choose to agree with one of the provided viewpoints or may come up with their own.

Timing for the ACT Essay

From the time you turn the page in your test booklet to the ACT Essay prompt, you’ll have exactly 40 minutes to write your essay. In this time, you’ll have a variety of tasks to accomplish: read the instructions, the prompt, the sample opinions (we’ll get to this a little later), brainstorm, outline and write your essay, and proofread it.

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Unlike other sections on the ACT, the Essay is scored between 2 and 12, rather than between 1 and 36. Two graders will individually score students from 1-6 on the four domains: Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions. These scores will be added together between the two graders, and the final ACT essay score from 2-12 is an AVERAGE of all the domain scores . Students will still receive an ELA score, which combines the essay score with their score on the ACT English multiple-choice section.

ACT Writing Subscores

Your ACT Writing score is made up of 4 subscores, in Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions. Each of two graders will give you a score from 1-6 in each domain (giving you the opportunity to obtain a total score from 2-12 in each domain). Your four scores are then averaged to give you an overall score from 2-12. Your score report will reveal each of your domain scores, so you will get to see how much of an impact your grammar had on your composite score versus your ideas. You’re going to get a fair amount of feedback on why your essay received the score it did.

Who Does the ACT Writing Scoring?

Professors McGonagall and Flitwick, of course! No, sorry. In all seriousness: teachers trying to make the big bucks during their copious free time; retired teachers who want another income stream/to help humanity; experts in test prep who don’t have conflicting interests…you get the idea.

What if One of the Graders Doesn’t Like Me?

Well, first of all, I think you mean, “What if one of them doesn’t like your essay?”, but I get it. We take critiques of our writing rather personally. However, the ACT has a safety net in place for such a situation. If the graders disagree on your essay by more than one point on any domain score, a third grader (don’t worry, not a third-grader) will be brought in to settle the dispute.

How Is My Essay Graded?

Since, as we’ve seen, the ACT Essay is not graded on how much your graders like you, how is it graded? Using this very specific ACT Essay rubric . Again, you’ll be scored from 1-6 in each of the four categories (Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions) by two graders, whose scores are then averaged.

Looking Around the Hogwarts Express: What Does my Score Mean Compared to Other Students’?

What is a good ACT Writing score ?

Well. It’s hard to quantify exactly what a “good” score on the ACT Writing section is, just as it’s hard to quantify exactly what a good ACT score is, as many factors can influence what you consider “good.”

With that said.

One of the best ways to see how you well you’ve scored objectively is to look at your ACT Writing percentiles. Your percentile score describes the percentage of students who scored lower than you on the essay. For example, if you’re in the 99th percentile, congrats! You scored better than 99 out of every 100 students taking the exam.

ACT Writing section - magoosh

A quick note on decimals in percentiles: obviously, there is no such thing as .37 of a person (or if there was, I don’t think he/she/they would be taking the ACT). What this means is that you have to look at your score in a broader pool. For example, if you scored an 11 on ACT Writing, you scored better than 9,937 out of every 1,000 students taking the test.

Can You Be “The Chosen One”?

I know that a score of 12 = 100th percentile is confusing. You can’t score better than 100 out of every 100 students, right? You are one of those 100 students, after all.

All this means is that the decimal is so close to 1 that the ACT has rounded up. It’s likely that the actual situation is that those students scoring a 12 on the ACT Essay scored better than 9,999 out of every 10,000 students.

That alone should show you how tough it is to get a 12 on ACT Writing.

But can it be done? Well, someone has to be that 1 person in 10,000, right?

Why can’t it be you?

Let’s take a look at how you can get there, after we finish covering ACT Writing 101.

Ordering a Time-Turner: ACT Essay Rescores

Sometimes you’ll take a test, look at your score, and think “this can’t be right.” If this happens to you on the ACT Essay, you can request a rescore.

ACT essay magoosh

ACT scores for essays are graded by two professional scorers. Both of them use the ACT’s official Writing Test Rubric . The rescore follows the exact same procedure, but with two new scorers. If the two new people who score your ACT Essay get a different score than the original examiners, your ACT score will be updated. If your score changes, the new scorers can choose to raise your score from the original score you received, or lower it. There’s also a chance that the new scoring session could get the same result a second time. In that case, your ACT Essay score won’t change.

How Do You Request an ACT Essay Rescore, and How Much Does It Cost?

To get your ACT Essay rescored, submit a request for a rescore in writing. Your request will need to include the following: your name, as it appeared on your ACT exam registration forms, the ID on your ACT registration account, and the month, day, year, and location of your exam. You’ll also need to include a check for $50 made out to ACT Student Services. All rescore requests must be sent no later than three months after you received your initial ACT scores.

Written requests should be mailed to:

The ACT’s scoring team will notify you of any score changes within 3-5 weeks of the request.

Things to Consider Before Requesting a Rescore

Rescores are expensive and time-consuming. If you’re thinking of getting your ACT Essay rescored (or getting a rescore on the rest of the test), you want to be sure that it’s worth it. There’s a chance your score could go down. And if it does, the new, lower score will become your official score. Your score could also stay the same, which would mean you wasted $50 per rescore request.

As we’ve seen, your essay will be scored in four different categories: Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions. But what does that mean for you in terms of preparation? After all, few (if any) of us have taken classes on “Ideas and Analysis.”

What Are the Goals of the ACT Essay?

We can infer the “goals” of the ACT Essay (or rather, the skills it’s asking you to demonstrate) from the four ACT Essay rubric categories we’ve already gone over. Ideas and Analysis means that the scorers are looking for you to demonstrate critical thinking at a reasonably high level; rather than just being able to understand a series of opinions, the ACT Writing section wants you to interpret them and come up with your own thesis.

The Development and Support aspect tells us that the ACT Essay is evaluating your ability to craft a whole argument, rather than just a thesis statement. Again, it’s testing your critical reasoning skills: can you determine, in a limited timeframe, what makes for convincing evidence for your argument? The Organization category indicates that the ACT is also testing how clearly you can present this information in a short essay, in a way that makes sense not just to you, but also to the reader.

Finally, you can look on Language Use and Conventions as ACT English in practice. How’s your vocabulary and grammar? Can you write in an efficient and readable way? How eloquent (to an extent) can you be?

Or, in other words, your ACT essay has four major goals:

  • Make judgments : the graders evaluate how well you understand the perspectives, and their implications, values and assumptions. Did you understand the question they presented to you? Did you pick a side? Did you understand the strengths and weaknesses of different perspectives on an issue?
  • Develop a position : the graders evaluate how well you supported the argument you made in your essay. Did you give clear facts and relevant details that really helped your argument be more persuasive? Did you vary the types of evidence you used? Did you show the graders that you know the difference between assertion (just saying something) and evidence (showing why that assertion is true)? The more specific you can be, the more you show the graders how well you understood the topic and its controversy, which helps out your ‘make judgments’ criterion as well.
  • Organization and focus : the graders evaluate how logically you present your ideas. Did you have a clear introduction, body, and conclusion? Are your body paragraphs ordered in a way that makes sense? Can the graders follow your train of thought clearly from beginning to end? Did you use transitions between and among your paragraphs to show the readers how they all link together? Did you stay on topic?
  • Communicate clearly : the graders also look at how well you express yourself, in accordance with the rules of Standard Written English, a.k.a. “School, Work, and Business English,” as far as you’re concerned. Did you vary your sentence structure so that some sentences are short and others are long? Is your word choice effective? How is your grammar? If there are errors, are they particularly distracting? Can the readers still get your point or can they not understand what you’re saying?

Why Do Colleges Care About the ACT Essay?

Admissions officers are interested in your ACT Essay scores precisely because they demonstrate, to a certain extent, your skills in the above areas. No matter what you end up majoring in, critical reasoning skills, as well as writing skills, will end up being important. While it can be difficult to judge these skills based on one 40-minute essay, the four categories of the rubric and corresponding scores give admissions officers at least some sense of your experience and skill in these areas.

Where’s That Ideas and Analysis Class Again?

I know it seems like your education might not have prepared you for the ACT Essay. However, you’d be surprised at how much you already know. Your English classes will have taught you a lot about all four categories, while essays you’ve written for History, Social Studies, and even Science classes will have helped you develop skills in the areas of Development and Support and Organization. All the better if you’ve taken a class on persuasive writing or speeches.

How to Study for the ACT Essay Without Studying

I mean…you should do some specific studying for the ACT Essay! But know that you’re already preparing for the essay in your everyday life, even if you don’t know it. Every time you listen to someone’s opinion and evaluate it, every time you respond with your own opinion, you’re using the exact critical reasoning skills that the ACT Writing section tests.

If you’re still on the fence about whether or not to take the ACT at all, and take the SAT instead , comparing the two essays might help. While there are a lot of factors to take into consideration when making this decision, knowing the differences in the essays may just prove to be the tipping factor that helps you decide in favor of one test .

Both the ACT and the SAT each have one essay. The ACT gives you 40 minutes to write it, while the SAT gives you 50 minutes to write it. The essay is optional on both tests. Furthermore, the essay is always the last section on each exam (this hasn’t always been the case with the SAT, but it is now!).

So what is the difference between the two essays? Well, it’s the type of assignment you’ll get.

On the ACT, as we’ve seen, you’ll see three different opinions on a debatable topic; the essay prompt will ask you to evaluate them and come up with your own opinion.

On the other hand, the SAT gives you a rather long (650-700 word) passage to read, then asks you to evaluate how the author develops his or her argument. Unlike the ACT, you do not include your own opinion or arguments on the SAT Essay.

So how to choose?

If you’re good at coming up with an opinion and developing strong examples quickly, the ACT Essay’s the one for on you. But

if you’re better at analyzing other people’s writing (the kind of work you do for most literature essays, for example), the SAT’s the better way to go.

If you’ve decided to take the ACT: awesome! I get it, though—you have enough decisions to make without throwing one more on top of the pile!

ACT writing test - magoosh

Still, you will have to decide whether or not to take the ACT with Writing.

While we don’t have Madame Trelawney’s crystal ball (which, let’s face it, was pretty useless for the most part), we DO have a way to help you decide whether or not to take the ACT Essay section or not: our very own, expertly written quiz!  

“Should I Take the ACT Writing Test?” Test

Liam got a 35 on the ACT. Get a higher ACT score with Magoosh.

Question 1 of 5

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The Final Word: Be a Gryffindor and Take a Risk

ACT writing section - magoosh

The final answer is, you should probably take the test.   The vast majority of colleges don’t require writing, but the majority of highly competitive colleges do, which means if you aren’t 100% sure where you want to apply yet (and most juniors taking the ACT are not), you might be limiting your options if you don’t take the optional essay.

If you can spare the fee and feel you can get a good score, a decent ACT Writing score opens a lot of doors to you. It certainly doesn’t hurt your odds of being accepted into any school, but of course, every test-taker has different needs and realistically there are some situations where taking the ACT Writing Test may not be practical.

But if you are very uncomfortable with writing or don’t plan to apply to schools that require the essay, well, there’s no need to put yourself through another 40 minutes of agony.

Let’s get into a little more detail. By now, you already know that you’re going to be evaluating three different perspectives on a debatable issue.

But what does that look like in practice?

Glad you asked! Here’s a Magoosh example of an ACT Essay prompt and stimulus.

ACT Essay Prompt: Censorship

Almost since human beings began sharing ideas, the issue of censorship (officially suppressing ideas or writing) has been debated. Proponents of censorship argue, for example, that offensive material might morally corrupt children or that governments have the right to protect their national secrets. Opponents argue that censorship infringes on individual freedom and hinders progress. Censorship has long been an issue regarding books and papers; now, it has become a critical issue concerning the great amount of information on the Internet. Given the continued impact of censorship on various aspects of our lives, it is an issue worth examining.

Read and carefully consider these perspectives. Each suggests a particular way of thinking about the impact of censorship.

Perspective One

Selective censorship prevents children from being exposed to offensive material. It allows parents and caretakers to determine what material children are ready for and when they are ready based on their maturity level.

Perspective Two

Censorship intrudes upon freedom of the press and freedom of speech. Individuals have the right to learn about their world, both its positive and negative aspects, and express their ideas on it.

Perspective Three

Censorship should not be condoned because it places too much power in the hands of a few: no government or leadership system should be allowed to decide what information should reach the public.

Write a unified, coherent essay in which you evaluate multiple perspectives on the impact of censorship on society. In your essay, be sure to:

  • analyze and evaluate the perspectives given
  • state and develop your own perspective on the issue
  • explain the relationship between your perspective and those given

Your perspective may be in full agreement with any of the others, in partial agreement, or wholly different. Whatever the case, support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed, persuasive examples.

…And that’s what an ACT Essay prompt looks like!

Want More ACT Essay Prompts?

ACT Essay section - magoosh

If you went the extra mile and used one of the above prompts for practice, fantastic! What now, though? What do you do with this beautiful practice ACT essay you’ve just written?

The first thing to do is to edit it, particularly if you wrote it under timed conditions (remember: ACT Essay time = 40 minutes). Without the constraints of time, you may see points you wish you’d developed, examples that could have been better, or even ways in which you could have improved your thesis statement.

However, if you’re going to improve significantly, it’s best to get a helping hand for editing. English teachers are a great resource; guidance counselors may also have enough familiarity with the ACT to help edit your essays. In most high schools, one teacher or staff member is usually the point person for standardized tests, and they’re a good place to start.

They can also be useful when it comes to grading your essay. Of course, you can and should use the rubric to grade your essay yourself; however, on the official ACT exam, you’ll have two graders—neither of whom will be as hard (or as easy) on you as, well, you are!

ACT Writing Section magoosh

After you’ve written a few practice essays (you can find even more prompts on full-length practice tests , which are a good idea to take regularly anyway!) and worked through scoring and edits with your designated ACT Writing expert, you may notice that you’re struggling in an area or two (or three, or four). That’s only natural—this is a new task for you, after all! And you may be relieved to find that several problems in particular crop up for students facing the ACT Writing test.

Where Most Students Struggle on the ACT Essay

In my experience, students struggle the most to:

  • Pick an opinion to side with…
  • …and to come up with creative examples to support it.

Notice that these are the first two categories of that good ol’ rubric, “Ideas and Analysis” and “Development and Support.” There are strategies you can use to work on your organization and language usage (and we’ll look at those in a little bit), but a lot of students just don’t trust their own ideas.

Choosing a Side

To help you with #1, Magoosh’s ACT expert David Recine did a little digging. Okay, a lot of digging. He called the ACT. Here’s what he found out:

There is a weird apparent contradiction between the ACT Essay requirements in the official ACT Essay score guide, and the requirements that appear in the ACT Essay examples on the official ACT website.

Remember how the ACT Essay prompt presents an issue and three opinions on the issue? Well, in the instructions for the sample ACT Essay prompt on the ACT website , it says you need to “analyze the relationship between your perspective and at least one other perspective .” Therein lies the contradiction. The official ACT Essay score guide emphasizes the importance of analyzing “multiple perspectives.”

So which is it? To find out, I contacted ACT customer service. The representative I spoke with said that the online essay prompt mentions “at least one perspective” because you need to analyze at least one of the three perspectives to have a chance at a score of more than 2. She then informed me that you need to analyze two or three of the given perspectives to have any chance at a score of 10 or higher. From there, ACT Customer service emphasized that including all three perspectives gives you the best possible chance at the full 12 points.

The customer service rep’s argument in favor of analyzing all three perspectives is supported in The Official ACT Prep Guide . Interestingly, the ACT Prep Guide’s prompts do not indicate that one perspective may be enough. Unlike the essay prompt on the ACT website, the writing instructions in the ACT OG tell you “evaluate multiple perspectives” and “evaluate perspectives given.”

So, if you want the best possible score (and who doesn’t?), you should include all three given perspectives — along with your own — in the new ACT Essay.

So that’s definitely something to keep in mind when you’re shaping your thesis statement.

Here’s some more food for thought, particularly if you’re aiming for that perfect 12 . Choose the option to provide your own perspective on the ACT essay, but only switch it up slightly.   Now, this is tricky. You can get a perfect score simply by completely agreeing with one of the three presented perspectives, and for the vast majority of students, this is the best course of action to make sure you don’t go completely off track and end up hurting your score. However, if you consider yourself to be a very strong writer, you might be able to truly impress by adding your own twist on the prompt. In most cases, the easiest way to do this is to narrow the scope of one of the perspectives. For example, if you look at ACT’s official sample essay #5 , you’ll see that the graders applauded the student for evaluating the perspectives through the “lens of a particular ideology”: capitalism.

The prompt is about a larger issue–the positive or negative impact of “intelligent machines” in our society–but this student has narrowed the scope, and in doing so, was able to provide a specific compelling argument that didn’t try to address all of life in a five-paragraph essay.

So for you ACT Writing superstars out there who are looking for a score in the 11 to 12 range, take these key tips to heart and get practicing with ACT Writing prompts. The new ACT essay prompt is tough, but practicing with sample prompts and coming up with arguments on the fly will help!

Examples on the ACT Essay

In terms of examples, thinking outside the box is always better. So if something kooky (but relevant) occurs to you, go ahead and use it!   On the first new essay on one ACT, a whole lot of students wrote about the Civil Rights movement. It really just was an obvious example that a lot of students had studied, and it was certainly the first thing that jumped to my mind as well. Now, technically, graders are not supposed to be punishing you for an unoriginal example as long as you do it well. But remember the golden rule: they are only human! If a grader reads 50 essays about the Civil Rights movement in a row, and then they get to yours, and you are writing about something totally different, they are going to sit up and pay attention. Not only that, but it will be more difficult to compare your essay to others. If you write about the same topic as everyone else, it is likely that some people won’t do it as well as you, but that others will do it better. So try not to open yourself to these comparisons. Be original.

This doesn’t mean that you can’t write about a common topic, but if you are going to do it, make sure you pick very specific examples within that topic to demonstrate your knowledge. But if you can think of something that would be less obvious—well, I would go that route.

Where Most Students Lose Points on the ACT Essay—and What to Do About It

Those are some common struggles students face when approaching the essay. But what causes them to lose the most points? Well…

  • Unclear structure. To avoid this pitfall, know your essay structure in advance . We’ll get into the best organizational strategies a little later on.
  • Vague examples . Give VERY specific examples.For each of the three perspectives, make sure you give specific examples. And the more specific they are, the better. You don’t need a lot–two or three good ones do the trick. Examples from historical and contemporary events and circumstances tend to go over best. Personal examples can also work, but graders seem to be biased towards outside examples they seem to carry more weight.

As with everything on the ACT, practice makes perfect ! That’s one reason why…

ACT Essay - magoosh

Now you know how not to lose points—let’s talk about how you can gain them. More specifically, let’s take a look at how you can bring your ACT Writing score up 2, 3, or 4 points.

What Does it Mean to Go up 2, 3, 4 Points on the ACT Essay?

To do this, let’s start by returning to that all-important official ACT Writing Test Rubric . Remember, because the ACT combines two graders’ evaluations for your final score, going up 2 points really means going up one category on the rubric (i.e. from a 5 to a 6); going up 3 points means going up between 1 and 2 categories (i.e. from a 4 to a 6); and going up 4 points means going up 2 categories (i.e. from a 3 to a 6).

So with that in mind, let’s quickly review what the ACT graders are looking for from a perfect 6 ACT essay:

ACT Writing: What You Need for a 12 Essay

Now, a few things to keep in mind. No essay is perfect, nor do the ACT graders expect it to be. The graders know you only have 40 minutes to respond to the prompt. They’re just looking for a good first draft.

Your essay does not have to DO ALL THE THINGS in each category in order to be given that score. If an essay meets most or almost all of the criteria for a 6, then it’s given a 6.

But remember, the ACT readers don’t expect perfection. If your grammar isn’t perfect, or if your essay doesn’t have paragraphs, it isn’t a deal-breaker. Your essay has to meet most or almost all of the criteria for each category to be given that score, not every single one .

Bringing Your ACT Essay Score Up 2 Points

You can gain 2 points on the ACT Essay with some adjustments to the way you think about the prompt and craft your argument. Generally, these adjustments are pretty minor. How minor, you may wonder? Let’s take a look at how a test-taker could move from a 5 to a 6 (and thus move from a 10 to a perfect 12) on the ACT Essay.

ACT Writing: What You Need to Go From a 10 to a 12

I’ll be the first one to admit that the differences between many of these criteria are subtle (if not, as in the case of the last, nonexistent!) However, if you examine them carefully, you’ll see that the main difference between an ACT essay that receives a 5 and an ACT essay that receives a 6 is that the 5 essay is competent and works well with the material that’s provided, while the 6 essay expands the ideas in thoughtful and nuanced ways. This principle goes for everything from the thesis itself to the word choice.

Bringing Your ACT Essay Score Up 3 Points

Bringing your ACT Essay score up by 3 points is a tricky goal. Why? Because raising your score by 3 points means that you’ll be attempting to move up by 2 points from one grader and 1 from the other.

Because you’ll need to bring your score up 2 points (for example, from a 4 to a 6) with one of your graders, it’s actually a good idea to aim for this 2-point raise in your score from both for an increase of 4 points. You may only end up getting a 3-point bump, but it’s better to aim too high than too low!

With that in mind, read on to learn more about…

Bringing Your ACT Essay Score Up 4 Points

While the 2-point jump may seem relatively easy (though it does definitely require both a perspective shift and practice!) a 4-point increase on the ACT Essay may seem more intimidating. Going from a 10 to a 12 on the essay sounds a lot easier than going from an 8 to a 12, after all.

But the biggest difference between an 8 essay and a 12 essay is the same difference that we can see between a 10 essay and a 12 essay, just of a different order of magnitude. While a 12 essay, as we just saw, is nuanced and the 10 essay is competent, the 8 essay is basically pretty good. An 8 essay does what the prompt asks, but that’s pretty much all it does.

To get those extra four points on the ACT Essay, you’ll need to consider exactly how you’re addressing each criterion. So let’s take a look at the precise differences between an 8 and a 12 essay:

ACT Writing: What You Need to Go From an 8 to a 12

Bringing your act essay score up generally.

That’s all well and good, I can hear you saying, but what if I’m not aiming for a perfect score on the ACT Essay? What if I’m currently writing 4 essays and I want to bring my score up to 8? Is that possible?

Oh, it’s possible. It’ll take practice and commitment, but you can get there in the end.

Here’s what you’ll need to do: look at the above shifts between a 10 and 12 essay, then between an 8 and a 12 essay. Notice that the lower the ACT essay scores get, the less precise and clear aspects of the writing are.

This is all the more true for an essay scoring 6 or below. If you’re scoring in this range, you need to think about specifics in every aspect of your essay. Make your thesis statement much more specific. Make your examples much more specific. Make your language choices much more specific (“violet” instead of “purple” or “colorful” or even “interesting,” depending on the context).  

We’ve seen how to boost your score to the perfect 12—but what if you’re just starting out? Or what if you’re current essay is a 6 or below, and you know that you’ll need to overhaul your approach to the essay to end up with that elite, perfect score?

In this section, we’ll take a look at exactly how you can start from scratch and build the perfect ACT essay (that gets that perfect ACT score)!  

ACT Writing: Breaking Down the Steps

First of all, perfect scorers on the ACT Essay are systematic in their approach to the Writing section. By that, I mean that they don’t rely on their existing writing skills and hope they can just wing it on test day. Instead, they plan ahead as much as possible, focusing not only on what they should be doing during each minute (yup!) of the writing section, but also on how they should be doing it.

In case you were wondering what you can do to become part of this elite group, I’ve got you covered. Here are the steps to writing the perfect ACT Essay!

Step 1: Break Down the Prompt (5 Minutes)

As you read the prompt and three opinions, two questions should be at the front of your mind:

  • What is the prompt’s main idea?
  • How can I summarize each of the three opinions?

Take a minute to write (or scribble) your answers to these two questions on the prompt itself. For the prompt’s main idea, you shouldn’t need to write more than three sentences . For the three opinions, one sentence each should do .

The reason it’s a good idea to take notes at this stage is so that you won’t forget these main ideas later. After all, these ideas will most likely show up (just with better handwriting and in your own words) in your actual essay.

Step 2: Develop Your Opinion (5 Minutes)

Okay, so you’ve broken down all the information. Now it’s time to come up with some opinion(s) of your own.

Take a moment to reread your summary of the prompt. It’s time to decide what you believe (or what’s easiest for you to argue). When you’ve come up with your opinion, write it on the prompt. Using arrows, point to the parts of the prompt that support your idea. The arrows will help you find this information (and save time) as you write your essay.

Step 3: Make Connections (5 Minutes)

You have your opinion and supporting information from the prompt. Now it’s time to make connections between your ideas and those in the three opinions. That’s right, we’re going to be drawing more arrows! Review the opinions for ideas/beliefs that are either close to your own opinion are dramatically opposite. These are the ideas you’re either going to be agreeing with or disproving in your essay, so you should know where they are.

Step 4: Put it all Together (20 Minutes)

Fortunately, the exam doesn’t have a set ACT Essay format for your essay. You get some freedom, but trust me, I’ve seen how freedom can become a double-edged sword. It’s easy to think “I’ve got this” and then go all over the place. Scores suffer, and I don’t want that to happen to you.

Step 5: Proofread—Don’t Edit! (5 Minutes)

Since “Language Use” is its own separate grading category, it is worth your time to catch any errors you may have inadvertently made while writing quickly. However, don’t be tempted to use this time to rewrite your essay! Accept the fact that you’re going to have to stick with the thesis and examples you chose, and focus on correcting spelling and grammar, and making your language choices more precise.

What Should the Introduction Do?

You want to make sure your introductory paragraph introduces the perspectives provided in the prompt and ends with a thesis statement that states your own perspective and why you believe it.

For example, based on the released ACT example prompt on Intelligent Machines here , this could potentially be your introduction:

Although intelligent machines might cause us to question what makes us human, it is too extreme to say that they cause us to either to lose our humanity or push us to become super-human. Humans and machines can work in concert: machines can be employed to take on tasks that are menial, tedious, and time-consuming, leaving humans free to work on tasks that require a human mind and spirit.

Notice that the first sentence summarizes the first and third perspectives in the prompt and the thesis statement agrees with the second. This sets up a structure for your essay in which you will evaluate the three perspectives and explain why you agree with one of them.

Okay…What About My Examples?

You have a certain level of “creative liberty” when it comes to your evidence. You can make up evidence and details if you need to, as long as they’re plausible. As far as the ACT is concerned, you can make up a book, survey, study, etc. that supports your argument. Just don’t give the author of your fictional study the name “Dr. J. Jacob Jingleheimer-Schmidt.”

Why is this okay on the ACT? Well, you’ve only got 40 minutes to come up with a clear, reasoned, well-supported, cogent, persuasive essay on the topic given to you. You don’t have the time or resources for research, but you have to make the argument somehow. If you had the ability to do even a quick Google search, you would. Since you can’t, make up something that sounds plausible if you have to. Just support your argument. That’s what the graders care about.

Writing Rules You Must Know to Get That Perfect Score

A girl playing with a magic wand

How can you do this? Get organized early and check out Magoosh’s guides to the finer points of English grammar, punctuation, and vocabulary that the ACT graders will be looking for. Here are the ACT writing tips you need before test day:

ACT English Writing Skills: Everything You Need to Know

  • 19 ACT Grammar Rules You Need to Know to Get a Great Score
  • ACT English Punctuation
  • Writing Style

ACT English Vocabulary: Everything You Need to Know

  • ACT Vocabulary
  • Top Tips for ACT Vocabulary
  • Boost Your Vocabulary, Boost Your ACT Score

ACT Test Day: Essay Timing

You know how you’re going to come up with your thesis. You know how you’re going to organize your essay. You even know how you’re going to use your vocab and grammar to your advantage…

…but can you do it in 40 minutes?

Timed practice is the key to mastering this, but even masters of the ACT essay will occasionally find that they’re running out of time.

It happens. You look at the clock, and you realize that time’s almost up. Don’t panic—there are ways to save your essay… and your score!

Here are some steps you can take to adjust your pace and writing when the clock is running down.

If you are running out of ACT writing time, stay focused. Running out of time can be very distracting. You may feel the urge to stop, take a deep breath, and think about what you should do. Any pause you make to just think should be minimal. Focus on continuing to write, while adjusting your pace and approach.

Adjust Your Pace

Write faster . If you’d been writing at a more careful pace to avoid errors and make good word choices, focus less on these minor aspects of writing. Speed up and just aim for getting the essay done. Word choice and errors do affect your score in some ways, but an incomplete essay will get a much lower score than an essay that just has a few mistakes.

When you speed up, you will naturally change your approach a little, because you won’t have time to check your writing for the smaller details, as I mentioned above. But there are other more substantial changes you can make as you approach the rest of your essay.

One thing you can do is develop your ideas less for the remainder of the essay. Suppose you have two paragraphs left to write. Maybe your previous paragraphs has three supporting ideas for each topic sentence. To save time, include just one or two supporting details in your remaining paragraphs.

The same goes for the remaining structure of your essay overall. If you used transitional phrases and sentences earlier in the essay, skip them for the rest of the essay. And even if your introductory paragraph was three, four, or even five sentences long, your concluding paragraph can be just one good sentence– or maybe two.

Quickly select your most important ideas. Look at the original passage in the ACT essay prompt. What are the main ideas in the introduction and the three perspectives given. How simply can you put those ideas? And which ideas can you ignore and leave out of your essay, while still making your essay as complete as possible?

Worry about completion, not perfection. If you try maintain top quality while rushing to beat the clock, you will fail. And as you feel yourself failing to write a perfect essay, you’ll start to feel upset and distracted, and you’ll slow down.

Instead focus on completing the essay, ensuring it contains every important key idea, some support for each of the key ideas, and a clear conclusion. With your eyes on that prize, distractions will melt away, and you’ll speed up instead of slowing down. In the best of scenarios, you may speed up enough that you still have at least a little time to go back and make a few last minute (or last second) improvements before your time is cut off.

A Note on the 5-Paragraph Essay

Should the ACT Essay be five paragraphs?   The short answer? Not necessarily. In theory, if you can make a coherent, persuasive argument within the time limit, it doesn’t matter how many or how few paragraphs you have (as long as you have some paragraphs–writing all in one big blob is no good).

The more practical answer, though, is ALL HAIL THE FIVE-PARAGRAPH ESSAY . And if you’re aiming for that perfect score, just make slight adjustments to the standard format; we’ll take a look at how to do this in the next section.

What is the Five Paragraph Essay Format?

In case you’re unfamiliar with it, the five-paragraph essay is a standard essay format that is taught in many, many schools. It’s essentially a framework that you can drape almost any topic over and still have a solid structure at the end. It also makes sense on an essay question that presents you with three different perspectives to analyze. You can devote one paragraph to each perspective and end on the one that most agrees with your own perspective, so you can develop it a little further.

Your basic five-paragraph essay starts with the introduction . Here, you introduce the debatable topic and state your thesis .

Your next three paragraphs are the body of your essay. On the old essay (and on many essays you write in school) this is where you put your examples, reasons, and evidence for your thesis. Since you’re provided with three perspectives to analyze, this actually makes your life quite a bit easier. You don’t even have to decide what each paragraph should be about! Each paragraph can be devoted to analyzing one of the three perspectives using solid, specific evidence and reasoning .

I suggest that you order the perspectives in the way that will best support your overall argument. This typically means putting the perspective you agree with most in the third body paragraph. Then you can further develop your own perspective within that paragraph or include it as a separate fourth body paragraph if appropriate. It also helps a lot to have a clear transition between each paragraph.

The final paragraph is the conclusion. You do not have to restate every argument you’ve made in the body, but you should summarize your argument and restate your thesis in different words. If you can, try to end with something that sounds like it ties everything together. For example, if you use a quote in the introduction, reference it in the conclusion. Little things like that make the essay feel more cohesive.

How to Use the 5-Paragraph Essay Format to Your Advantage

This may sound terribly boring. And, admittedly, it isn’t the most exciting way to write. But can you imagine walking into your ACT with the pre-write for your essay already half written ? All you have to do is get the specific topic and decide what your perspective is. You’re already ahead of the game!

ACT Writing Test - magoosh

What does this look like in practice? Here’s one organization strategy that should work well if you choose to agree with one of the perspectives.

  • Brief intro paragraph (2-3 sentences)
  • Evaluation of the first perspective you did not choose with specific examples
  • Evaluation of other perspective you did not choose with specific examples
  • Evaluation of the perspective you agree with and further development on why you agree with it using specific examples (this should be a longer paragraph than the first two, or it could be split into two paragraphs)
  • Brief conclusion (approx 2 sentences): make a final case for your argument

This structure ensures that you answer all three parts of the question: evaluating the three perspectives, developing your own, and explaining the relationship between your perspective and the others.

And if you’re dying to see what this looks like in actual practice, wonder no more! Kristin will show you exactly how she’s going to write a great ACT essay from start to finish. In the video, Kristin is taking on the role of a student seeing an ACT essay question for the first time, evaluating the perspectives, brainstorming, outlining, and finally writing each paragraph of the essay. And she’ll give you all of her most important tips along the way, so stick it out :).

Remember, this is just one essay, and it is not necessarily perfect. But, hey, no one is perfect in 40 minutes! There are thousands of successful ways to approach this essay.

What differentiates a “perfect 12” essay? Primarily specificity and precision. However, those two qualities have to run deep, affecting everything from your thesis statement to your organization, from your choice (and explanation) of your examples to the mechanics and vocabulary you use.

But even if you don’t think of yourself as a great writer, remember that you can still get a perfect score on the ACT Essay: you just need to learn the conventions, practice a ton, and constantly evaluate your work so you can keep improving. Is it easy? No. But is it impossible? Also no.

On test day, let all thoughts of perfection fall away. Just focus on what you’ve learned in your practice, and on writing the best essay you possibly can. And be proud of yourself—you’ve earned it!

After all, some of the best ACT moments come after the test. As mega-scorer Magoosh student Ori C. tells us, “I’d say the best part [of the experience] was when I was sitting on the bus and got a Magoosh notification saying that my ACT scores had probably been posted. I went on the ACT website and screenshotted my scores to text to my parents. Finally seeing the scores verified that all my hard work had paid off.”

So the major takeaway here? If you want to get that perfect 12 on your ACT Essay…be like J.K. Rowling (who had the first Harry Potter book rejected by 12 publishers!) and refuse to give up!

Want to ace all sections of the ACT? Check out our posts:

  • How to Get a Perfect 36 on ACT Reading: An Intergalactic Guide
  • How to Get a Perfect 36 on ACT Math: The Jurassic Guide
  • How to Get a Perfect 36 on ACT Science: The Dark Knight’s Guide
  • How to Get a Perfect 36 on the ACT Reading Test: A Tropical Guide

With many thanks to Kristin Fracchia, Catrina Coffey, David Recine, and Thomas Broderick for their contributions to this post.

Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Rachel is a Magoosh Content Creator. She writes and updates content on our High School and GRE Blogs to ensure students are equipped with the best information during their test prep journey. As a test-prep instructor for more than five years in there different countries, Rachel has helped students around the world prepare for various standardized tests, including the SAT, ACT, TOEFL, GRE, and GMAT, and she is one of the authors of our Magoosh ACT Prep Book . Rachel has a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature from Brown University, an MA in Cinematography from the Université de Paris VII, and a Ph.D. in Film Studies from University College London. For over a decade, Rachel has honed her craft as a fiction and memoir writer and public speaker. Her novel, THE BALLERINAS , is forthcoming in December 2021 from St. Martin’s Press , while her memoir, GRADUATES IN WONDERLAND , co-written with Jessica Pan, was published in 2014 by Penguin Random House. Her work has appeared in over a dozen online and print publications, including Vanity Fair Hollywood. When she isn’t strategically stringing words together at Magoosh, you can find Rachel riding horses or with her nose in a book. Join her on Twitter , Instagram , or Facebook !

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  • Overview of ACT Essay
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Tides of Change: Revisiting the Dawes Severalty Act and its Impact on Indigenous Lands

This essay about the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 examines its impact on Native American land ownership and cultural identity. It delves into how the act aimed to assimilate indigenous peoples into mainstream American society through individual land allotments but ultimately led to the dispossession and fragmentation of tribal lands. The summary highlights the Act’s unintended consequences, including the erosion of communal bonds, cultural heritage, and economic independence within Native communities. It emphasizes the ongoing struggle for justice and sovereignty faced by indigenous peoples in the aftermath of this landmark legislation.

How it works

The Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 looms large in the annals of American history, a watershed moment that forever altered the trajectory of Native American land tenure. While touted as a measure of progress and assimilation, its legacy is a tapestry woven with complexities, where noble intentions collided with harsh realities, leaving a lasting imprint on the indigenous landscape.

At its core, the Dawes Act sought to dismantle communal landholding practices prevalent among Native American tribes, replacing them with a system of individual allotments.

This grand experiment in assimilation aimed to cultivate a sense of ownership and self-sufficiency among indigenous peoples, while simultaneously opening up vast tracts of land for non-Native settlement and development. Yet, the path to progress proved treacherous, fraught with unforeseen consequences that would reshape the fortunes of indigenous communities for generations to come.

The implementation of the Dawes Act precipitated a seismic shift in the ownership and control of indigenous lands, as millions of acres were partitioned and parceled out to individual tribal members. What began as a well-intentioned effort to promote economic independence soon devolved into a land rush of epic proportions, as speculators and opportunists descended upon Native territories, eager to lay claim to the spoils of manifest destiny. The once-vast expanses of tribal homelands were swiftly transformed into a patchwork of fragmented allotments, eroding the collective stewardship and cultural significance of indigenous lands.

Yet, the impact of the Dawes Act extended far beyond the realm of land ownership, permeating the very fabric of indigenous communities and reshaping the contours of Native identity. The forced division of tribal lands disrupted age-old kinship networks and communal bonds, fracturing the social cohesion that had sustained indigenous societies for centuries. Families found themselves torn from their ancestral homelands, relegated to isolated allotments far removed from the communal life they had known, as the tendrils of assimilation reached ever deeper into the heart of Native culture.

Moreover, the Dawes Act precipitated a crisis of cultural erasure and loss within indigenous communities, as traditional lifeways and spiritual practices came under assault from forces of assimilation and acculturation. Sacred sites were desecrated, traditional knowledge was suppressed, and indigenous languages teetered on the brink of extinction as Native peoples struggled to maintain a tenuous foothold in a rapidly changing world. The resilience of indigenous cultures was put to the test as they grappled with the twin specters of dispossession and displacement, striving to preserve their heritage in the face of relentless pressure to conform to Eurocentric norms.

Despite its lofty aspirations, the Dawes Act ultimately failed to deliver on its promises of prosperity and progress for Native Americans. Instead, it left a legacy of dispossession, displacement, and cultural upheaval that continues to reverberate through indigenous communities to this day. The scars of this dark chapter in American history serve as a sobering reminder of the enduring legacy of colonialism and conquest, and the ongoing struggle for justice and self-determination in the face of systemic oppression.

As we reckon with the legacy of the Dawes Act, it is incumbent upon us to confront the uncomfortable truths of our shared history and to honor the resilience and resistance of indigenous peoples in the face of adversity. Only by acknowledging the full extent of the harm inflicted by this legislation can we begin to chart a path towards genuine reconciliation and justice for Native communities. In doing so, we honor not only the struggles of the past but also the enduring spirit of resilience and resistance that continues to animate indigenous peoples to this day.

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Tides of Change: Revisiting the Dawes Severalty Act and its Impact on Indigenous Lands. (2024, May 28). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/tides-of-change-revisiting-the-dawes-severalty-act-and-its-impact-on-indigenous-lands/

"Tides of Change: Revisiting the Dawes Severalty Act and its Impact on Indigenous Lands." PapersOwl.com , 28 May 2024, https://papersowl.com/examples/tides-of-change-revisiting-the-dawes-severalty-act-and-its-impact-on-indigenous-lands/

PapersOwl.com. (2024). Tides of Change: Revisiting the Dawes Severalty Act and its Impact on Indigenous Lands . [Online]. Available at: https://papersowl.com/examples/tides-of-change-revisiting-the-dawes-severalty-act-and-its-impact-on-indigenous-lands/ [Accessed: 29 May. 2024]

"Tides of Change: Revisiting the Dawes Severalty Act and its Impact on Indigenous Lands." PapersOwl.com, May 28, 2024. Accessed May 29, 2024. https://papersowl.com/examples/tides-of-change-revisiting-the-dawes-severalty-act-and-its-impact-on-indigenous-lands/

"Tides of Change: Revisiting the Dawes Severalty Act and its Impact on Indigenous Lands," PapersOwl.com , 28-May-2024. [Online]. Available: https://papersowl.com/examples/tides-of-change-revisiting-the-dawes-severalty-act-and-its-impact-on-indigenous-lands/. [Accessed: 29-May-2024]

PapersOwl.com. (2024). Tides of Change: Revisiting the Dawes Severalty Act and its Impact on Indigenous Lands . [Online]. Available at: https://papersowl.com/examples/tides-of-change-revisiting-the-dawes-severalty-act-and-its-impact-on-indigenous-lands/ [Accessed: 29-May-2024]

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LSAC - Law School Admission Council

A New Approach to LSAT Writing Will Debut on July 30, 2024

By Susan Krinsky

As legal education curricula and the practice of law continue to change with the times, LSAC is innovating to provide a new writing assessment that responds to the evolving needs of the profession.

On July 30, a redesigned approach to the LSAT Writing section of the LSAT will make its debut as we open the 2024-2025 testing cycle, which begins with the August administration of the LSAT.

This new approach to the writing assessment will help law schools continue to make holistic admission decisions and help prospective law students better prepare for the writing they will do in law school and beyond – still without the need for any specialized skills, knowledge, or experience with legal concepts.

Since 1982, LSAT Writing prompts have been designed to assess logical reasoning in the context of argumentative writing. But legal education curricula, the legal profession, and the demands of legal practice continue to evolve. In our ongoing conversations with law schools and the legal profession, we hear consistently about the importance of strong analytical and argumentative writing skills and the need to better assess a student’s potential earlier in their academic journey.

Based on input from our member schools and other stakeholders in the legal profession, the new LSAT Writing section of the LSAT will be an even more effective tool for assessing the writing skills of individuals prior to law school. These changes will help schools better understand the writing capabilities of applicants for the purposes of their admission decisions. It will also enable law schools to better provide writing support for their students who need to strengthen their writing skills so they are better prepared for bar passage, finding employment, and practice.

This new approach aims to assess a test taker’s ability to construct a cogent argument based on a variety of evidentiary sources. Test takers will be presented with a debatable issue along with different perspectives that provide additional context. These perspectives, each of which is conveyed in a few sentences, are representative of a system of beliefs or values. Together, the perspectives illustrate competing ideologies and arguments around a particular issue. The test taker will then draft an argumentative essay in which they take a position, while addressing some of the arguments and ideas presented by the other perspectives.

The new argumentative writing task is designed to give test takers a clearer, more authentic writing purpose than the former “decision based” LSAT Writing prompt, which was more narrowly focused on pure logical reasoning. When test takers have an opportunity to construct an original thesis and defend it based on their own judgment and analytical evaluation, rather than following pre-ordained lines of reasoning, we can better assess a broader and more complex range of decision-making skills that writers engage in.

By adopting this design, we’re not only enabling individuals to have a more authentic voice in their argument, but we are also better positioned to evaluate the writer’s ability to employ various rhetorical techniques, evidentiary strategies, and other important aspects of argumentative writing.  

Given the additional reading required, we will be adding a short preparatory period to the LSAT Writing test, which test takers can use to organize their thoughts using guided prewriting analysis questions and to take notes using the digital notetaking tool provided in the testing environment. The questions are designed to help test takers analyze the various perspectives and generate productive ideas for their essay. Most test takers will have a total of 50 minutes – 15 minutes for prewriting analysis and 35 minutes for essay writing. Test takers with approved accommodations for additional time will have their time allocations adjusted accordingly.

To give test takers the opportunity to prepare, we have published a sample prompt as part of the free Official LSAT PrepTest library available in LawHub . Test takers can begin to familiarize themselves with the new approach and take practice LSAT Writing sessions in the official LSAT Writing environment.

We are also providing a sample of the new LSAT Writing prompt on LSAC.org . It should be noted that this LSAC.org sample is a “text only” version and that test functionality, including the timing function, is included in the practice environment in LawHub .

LSAT Writing has always been a part of the LSAT. Over the years, law schools have expressed the desire to make greater use of the writing portion in their holistic evaluations, so we moved to a digital assessment (instead of handwritten) so that schools could receive, read, and evaluate the students’ work. The changes we are announcing today will make the writing sample even more useful to schools in their evaluation and admission processes.

For the 2024-2025 testing cycle, LSAT Writing will remain an unscored part of the LSAT. Over the course of the 2024-2025 testing cycle, we will be analyzing data of the new LSAT Writing prompt to assess its validity and reliability with a long-term goal of providing a scored LSAT Writing assessment that schools may use in their holistic admission process.

We are excited to offer this new approach to LSAT Writing, starting August 1. We believe this new approach will allow test takers to demonstrate their writing skills even more effectively and will provide schools with even more insight into the strengths and potential of applicants.

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Susan L. Krinsky

Susan L. Krinsky

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  13. ACT Writing Prompts

    The ACT Writing is a section of the ACT that is optional. Students who decide to take this portion of the exam will be tasked with writing an essay within 40 minutes. Each student will receive the same writing prompt that describes a complex issue and contains three different perspectives. Participants should write their essay on the issue and ...

  14. 3 ACT Writing Prompts to Improve Your Score

    1. Practice, practice, practice. Use the sample prompts above to draft essays and time yourself to see how long it takes. You'll need to manage your time wisely, so practice is key to knowing how long you need on each step. Allot yourself some time to create a basic outline before you start.

  15. ACT Essay Samples

    ACT Essay Samples Prompt. This provided prompt, Intelligent Machines, is a good representation of how prompts are provided to you on the actual test. "The test describes an issue and provides three different perspectives on the issue. You are asked to read and consider the issue and perspectives, state your own perspective on the issue, and ...

  16. ACT Essay Format and Templates You Can Use

    ACT Essay Outline. The 5-paragraph structure might seem boring, but it is a good way to keep your points organized when writing an essay. For the ACT essay, you'll need an introduction, two to three body paragraphs (at least one paragraph for each perspective), and a conclusion.You should state your thesis in your introduction and conclusion (using different words in your conclusion so that ...

  17. Sample ACT Essays || Free ACT Training from AP Guru

    Sample Essay: Prompt 1. Sports and general athletics in education present a unique set of psychological and social benefits to students that are simply unattainable otherwise. The development of a student is a complex, multifaceted process for which science cannot fully comprehend. Promulgating a more holistic approach to education through ...

  18. Your Magical Guide to Scoring a Perfect 12 on the ACT Essay

    Here's what you'll need to do: look at the above shifts between a 10 and 12 essay, then between an 8 and a 12 essay. Notice that the lower the ACT essay scores get, the less precise and clear aspects of the writing are. This is all the more true for an essay scoring 6 or below.

  19. Winning Strategies For ACT Essay Writing: With 15 Sample Prompts (Test

    Winning Strategies for ACT Essay Writing (2023 Edition) contains 15 Sample Prompts and Essays on a wide variety of topics to give you deep insights into how impressive essays are written. The book also includes tips on how to deconstruct the argument, weigh its pros and cons, and make an outline of the essay before actually writing it.

  20. Winning Strategies For ACT Essay Writing: With 15 Sample Prompts

    15 sample prompts written in the latest ACT format; Prompts on different subjects to prepare you for every challenge; Overview of the ACT essay section ; Scoring rubric; Inside are 15 sample prompts, carefully picked from a variety of subjects, which will prepare you to craft ACT-worthy essays. These prompts are presented in the same format as ...

  21. A New Dawn: the Impact of the Wagner Act on American Labor

    This essay about the Wagner Act of 1935 explores its transformative impact on American labor relations. It outlines how the act, born from the economic turmoil of the Great Depression, empowered workers to organize and bargain collectively, thereby addressing longstanding inequalities in the workplace.

  22. How to Get a Perfect 12 on the ACT Writing Essay

    Part II: The Difference Between a 10 and a 12. If we asked the ACT what the difference is between a 10 and a 12 ACT essay, they would direct us to their scoring criteria (replicated in the table below) that describes the difference between the 5 and 6 essay scores in each domain. As you may already know, a total domain score of 12 comes from ...

  23. Tides of Change: Revisiting the Dawes Severalty Act and its Impact on

    This essay about the Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 examines its impact on Native American land ownership and cultural identity. It delves into how the act aimed to assimilate indigenous peoples into mainstream American society through individual land allotments but ultimately led to the dispossession and fragmentation of tribal lands.

  24. A New Approach to LSAT Writing Will Debut on July 30, 2024

    March 4, 2024. By Susan Krinsky. As legal education curricula and the practice of law continue to change with the times, LSAC is innovating to provide a new writing assessment that responds to the evolving needs of the profession. On July 30, a redesigned approach to the LSAT Writing section of the LSAT will make its debut as we open the 2024 ...