Writing an ACT Essay: Step-By-Step Guide

Writing essays is something most students struggle with, but while you can do an adequate job with most regular essay assignments, an ACT essay is particularly daunting for the majority of students. Writing an ACT essay is a crucial step in the college application process and can make or break your chances of getting into their dream school. With so much of your potential success depending on the quality of your writing, it’s not surprising to see many students struggling with the task.

Passing an ACT writing test is not an easy job, but there is a great way to approach this assignment and increase your chances of success. The most challenging aspect of writing an ACT essay is that this task is strictly time-limited. That is why you need to have a detailed approach to writing long before you sit down at the desk to create your essay.

Our 8-step writing guide will help you structure your work better without missing any key ingredients of a good piece of writing. Follow these steps to increase your chances of delivering a strong ACT essay.

Stage 1: Planning Your Work

If you are pressed for time as the deadline is approaching fast, you may think that you can get away without the planning stage of the writing process. However, the importance of this stage cannot be overrated, as it actually saves you time once you begin writing your ACT essay.

Step 1: Reading the prompt

Before writing the essay, you will be typically given an essay prompt and up to three perspectives. You do not necessarily need to agree with any of the perspectives, but it is important to have a deep understanding of the prompt and your relationship with all three perspectives. One of them must be closer to your own perspective than the rest of them, so make sure to choose wisely.

You can always include your own view as the fourth perspective, but if you are in a rush, ACT essay experts do not recommend it. Instead, you should use the remaining time to find the perspective you can relate to the most and will be able to support your arguments. Only then will you have a strong foundation for a good ACT essay.

Step 2: Brainstorming the evidence

Ultimately, the goal of your ACT essay is to demonstrate the link between your own perspective and at least one of the perspectives you are given in the assignment. The only way to do it is through convincing evidence, and you are going to need at least a few pieces of evidence for your essay.

At this stage, it is better to word your opinions into short phrases and notes rather than complete sentences. Since you are still able to change your perspective at this point, it is better not to invest too much into writing before you are set on the perspective. You can find strong evidence in the following sources:

●    Essay prompt. If you read the prompt carefully a few times, you may discover plenty of ideas and examples to support your perspective on the subject matter.

●    Personal experience. A good way to add strength to your perspective is to use an example from your own life or the life of someone you know. And the best news is that those examples don’t even need to be real to serve their purpose.

●    Statistics. Statistics always add credibility to the perspective of your essay. Again, the statistics don’t have to be real to add value to your essay perspective. Even made-up statistics can fit perfectly into the narrative.

●    History. If there have been any specific events from history that could support your perspective, you should always find a way to include them in your essay. The historical events and facts don’t need to be 100% correct, but they always need to be relevant.

Step 3: Brainstorming other perspectives

Once you have chosen the perspective you are going to defend in your essay, the remaining perspectives will also need to be covered in the writing, only this time, you need to argue against them. You don’t always need to cover both of the remaining perspectives to prove your point — in most cases, the graders of your essay will be more than satisfied if you offer enough arguments against just one perspective.

Step 4: Organizing your essay

As soon as you have decided on the main points you will cover in your essay, you can move on to organizing the paper and giving it the correct structure. You will use the classic essay structure for your ACT paper, which includes an introduction, body paragraphs (usually three), and a conclusion.

The introduction to your ACT essay should always contain the thesis statement at the end. You will then use the thesis statement to get your point across the paper. If you cannot word the thesis statement perfectly at the moment, you can make a rough draft of it and come back to this part later.

Stage 2: Writing The Essay

The first stage of the ACT essay writing process should not take you more than 10 minutes so that you have enough time to write the paper and follow the remaining stages. You will have about 30 minutes left for the next steps of the writing process, so make sure to use every minute wisely.

Step 5: Introduction

The introduction to your ACT essay will not be long, but since it’s the first experience the graders will have with your paper, it is very important for the introduction to make the right impression. The introduction should be on-point and extremely relevant to the rest of the paper.

A good way to start the introduction is to use a hook, or a strong introductory sentence that will instantly elevate the writing. However, it may not be easy to come up with something witty and relevant in a stressful environment of a test. You can always leave the introduction part blank in your paper and come back to it when you have better ideas.

The compulsory part of the introduction is the thesis statement. Your thesis statement should explain your perspective and how it relates to the other perspectives from the essay prompt. This part comes at the end of the introduction, but it is the most crucial part.

Step 6: Body paragraphs

In order to create a cohesive narrative in your essay, each body paragraph should contain a reference to the thesis statement. Each body paragraph should contain the arguments supporting the opposing point of view and then the counterarguments that further reinstate the perspective you chose earlier.

Depending on whether you compare your perspective to one or two of the perspectives given in the essay prompt, the content of your body paragraphs may differ. However, the general rules for writing each paragraph don’t change too much: they need to be closely connected to the thesis statement, the essay prompt, and each other. Strong evidence is necessary for successfully proving your point.

Step 7: Conclusion

The conclusion to an ACT essay does not have to be long: in most cases, you can get away with just a one-sentence conclusion. Still, it needs to be a convincing sentence that sums up everything you have written before and serves as a final reminder to the readers that your position has been successfully proven.

Step 8: Revision

By now, you have somewhere between 3 to 5 minutes to finish your ACT essay. The best way to use that time is to make sure your writing is absolutely spotless. You can carefully read your essay and correct any possible grammar and spelling mistakes. If you are not happy with some of the words you have chosen for your essay, there is still time to improve your vocabulary.

If you have done everything right, you will be rewarded with a strong ACT essay that will increase your chance of success. In case you still have plenty of time to prepare for the actual ACT writing test, we recommend practicing to successfully plan the writing process in under 8 minutes — then you will have enough time remaining to write and revise your essay before it’s due.

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