If you get a strong score on the ACT Writing Test, it can really boost your college admissions chances, and get you one step closer to your dream college. The best schools want good ACT scores, but also students who are well-rounded. Lots of students have good grades and are good at taking tests – but not everyone can demonstrate impressive writing skills on college applications and on the ACT Writing Test. Here are 10 tips for to get your closer to a perfect score on the ACT Writing Test!
1. Write at least four practice tests. Practice makes perfect. You can study for the ACT online by looking up old ACT practice test prompts and practicing writing them within the 30 minute guidelines. The only way to get comfortable with the time constraints is to practice with them!
2. Choose one side of the issue only. Don’t try to “have it both ways.” Even if you don’t believe in the side you choose, you’ll only have time to argue one side effectively. If you take a middle-of-the-road approach you won’t sound as confident or clear.
3. Choose specific examples. Don’t be general! Every reader would like to see more specific examples: Barack Obama, Battle of the Somme, The Count of Monte Cristo, the economic crisis, etc. What are you an expert on?
4. Make sure your examples are relevant to the topic. You can absolutely choose examples from a wide range of subjects: personal experience, pop culture, history, sports, literature, current events, politics, etc. But make sure you explain HOW your example clearly supports your thesis.
5. Put your thesis as the final sentence in your introductory paragraph. Even if you’re an accomplished writer, remember that the test is graded “holistically” and that readers are only spending a couple minutes on each essay. Put your thesis where it’s easiest to spot.
6. Save 2-3 minutes at the end to Proofread. You won’t be marked down for each spelling or grammar error, but an essay that has 6 glaring errors could be marked down .5 or 1 points if it significantly affects the reader’s overall impression of you as a writer.
7. Don’t use “I think” or “I believe.” First-person pronouns should ONLY appear in a body paragraph if you are using personal experience as an example, and telling a story from your own life to support your thesis. Never use “I” in your introductory or concluding paragraph.
8. Make strong, declarative statements. Look for ways to add modifiers and “because” clauses to make your sentences sound more confident. EX: “Schools shouldn’t allow locker searches.” Or, “It is unacceptable for schools to authorize locker searches because it violates students’ rights.”
9. Take 5 minutes to plan your essay before you start writing. You wouldn’t get into a car without knowing your destination, so make sure you have pre-written your thesis and selected your 3 examples BEFORE you begin your intro. With 30 minutes to write, you can absolutely spare 5 minutes to carefully plan it out.
10. Refute the opposing side in your conclusion. Many students wonder what to do in their conclusion. Try introducing the opposing viewpoint, showing that you recognize that some people do not support your position. What is their main argument? Then refute their argument in 1-2 sentences, and restate your own thesis.
What to expect on ACT test day
The ACT test is just days away and knowing what to expect on your ACT test day is just as important as the many hours you have spent with your ACT test prep. You don’t want to treat the day of your ACT as a trial run. You should be aware of what to expect on the test and what items to bring. Showing up to your ACT prepared will help boost your confidence even if your trigonometry is leaving you a little shaky!
Let’s start out by covering what’s on the ACT. As you may be aware, there are 4 parts to the ACT test. The English section is 45 minutes long and has 75 questions. The Math section is 60 minutes long and has 60 multiple choice questions. The Reading section is 35 minutes long and has 4 passages, each with 10 multiple choice questions. The Science section is also 35 minutes long and has 40 multiple choice questions. Clearly, you need all the time you can get since you can only devote one minute or less to each question, so make sure you know exactly what to expect on the test day. This way, you won’t end up panicking because, say, you get to the test center at the wrong time, or you brought the wrong calculator or you did not have any breakfast because you thought you could bring food in.
The most important thing is to report no later than 8 a.m. to your test center. Double check where your test center is the day before and that you have ample time to get there given traffic. Before leaving the house, make sure that you have your admission ticket, your driver’s license or passport and a few sharpened #2 pencils and erasers. Make sure you do not bring in only mechanical pencils or pens because they are not allowed. If you have been practicing the math section with a calculator, take the same calculator along. Check ahead to be sure your calculator is an approved calculator for the ACT test.
You are not allowed to bring food or drink (and this includes water) into the test center so make sure you have a decent breakfast before you leave the house. Electronics are not allowed into the test center and you are not supposed to use your cellphones and other devices during the break either. The break falls in the middle, after the first two tests. The test will usually be over around 12:15 p.m. so, as impossible as it might seem, try to live without your ipods and blackberries for a few hours.
The ACT has an additional writing section that will be administered last. If you opted to take the writing section, you will be given a short break after the 4 compulsory sections. The writing test takes 30 minutes and the test should conclude by 1 p.m.
Other standard test behavior should be expected, such as not discussing the questions during the break or shading in ovals after time has been called on a certain section. Even if you have finished a section ahead of time, you are not supposed to flip back to an earlier section to work and change your answers. Neither can you look ahead to another section. Your scores will be canceled if the proctors notice you doing so.
Having said all that, I think that if you are prepared for the test, had a good night’s sleep, got to the test center with time to spare and remained calm and confident, you should be able to work through the test like it was just another practice test. I also find it very helpful to print out some questions and work through them outside the test center or in the car while I am waiting. That way, your brain will be all warmed up and ready to go on the actual test.