ACT Writing Test – Overview, Advantages and Tips


Writing in the ACT Test

The Writing Test on the ACT Test has one writing task the test taker must complete in 40 minutes. Unlike the other sections on the ACT, the Writing is optional. If the student skips the Reading test, he will not get any English, Math, or Science scores. However, if the student skips the essay, this doesn’t prevent them from getting the scores in the other section or their overall ACT score. This section evaluates the writing skills taught in high school.

ACT Writing Task

The ACT Writing Task will address an issue from three perspectives. The students must write a unified essay that addresses these two tasks:

  1. Enunciate their opinion on the topic
  2. Assess every perspective and connect their views with the perspectives.

What are the skills assessed in the ACT Writing?

  1. Ideas and Analysis – This assessment area evaluates the ability of the students to understand the issue, present their opinions on the problem, and analyze the other perspectives.
  2. Development and Support – This assessment includes discussing ideas, developing an argument, and supporting it with reasoning and examples.
  3. Organization – This assessment area tests the students’ abilities to organize the ideas with clarity and purpose. The opinion, reasoning, examples, and conclusion should be a cohesive link.
  4. Language Usage and Conventions – This assessment area evaluates the ability of the students to express their ideas in written English. The students should demonstrate their knowledge of grammar conventions and syntax while expressing their opinions.

Scoring in the ACT Test

The ACT Writing score comprises four domain scores and one holistic score. The domain scores pertain to the four domains discussed above. Each domain score ranges between 2-12. The holistic score is an average of the four domain scores. Two graders score the essays on a scale of 1 –6 on all four domains. The final domain scores are the sum of the individual scores given by the graders. The Writing score is a major component of the ELA score.

What are the advantages of taking the ACT Writing?

  1. The Writing score provides information about writing and analytical skills. Some admissions officers would like to get more ideas about the student and hence ACT writing score becomes relevant.
  2. Though the students have months to write the admission essays, ACT Writing offers a chance for the admissions committee to review your writing skills under time pressure.
  3. If you are taking Humanities courses, then a good score on the Writing test will give you a marginal advantage.

Why do colleges not require ACT Writing?

  1. Since SAT Essays have been scrapped, colleges have stopped asking for ACT writing scores to maintain consistency.
  2. Colleges require students to write multiple application essays. These along with the English scores from the transcripts are enough to judge the writing skills of the students. Hence the Writing score has become redundant.
  3. Some schools consider that the additional fee for the Writing section may be a deterrent for some of the students.
  4. STEM courses do not require ACT Writing scores.

Do I take the ACT Writing?

Take the ACT Writing

Whether one should take the ACT writing or not depends on these factors:

  • Whether or not the colleges require or recommend the ACT Writing score,

If one of the colleges you are going to apply to requires or recommends the writing score, you must take the Writing. If you do not take the Writing test and later realize you need it, you have to appear for the entire test. Even if the college considers the score optional, a good score on the ACT writing will make your profile look better.

  • Do you have enough time to prepare for the ACT Writing?

Preparing for the ACT Writing takes time and effort. If the score is marginally beneficial, one can rather spend time preparing for the other sections like English or Math.

Tips to conquer ACT Writing

  • Writing Process – Always brainstorm ideas and plan out your essay. Spend time on the issue and the perspectives. Address at least two perspectives. Give specific examples. Logically organize the perspectives.
  • Focus on the domain areas
  1. Ideas and Analysis – Spend time on the issue and the perspectives. Make sure you show the grader you have understood all the perspectives. Choose the perspective you can explain well. Make it very clear what side you are supporting.
  2. Development and Support – Explain your reasoning clearly. Use personal examples, trending issues, and examples from history or literature to enunciate your points. Y
  3. Organization – Include an Introduction and Conclusion. Logically organize the ideas, otherwise allot one paragraph per topic. Use transitions to show you are moving from one topic to another.
  4. Language Use and Conventions – Use proper grammar, punctuation, and spelling. Avoid using abbreviations and slang. Vary between long and short sentences.
  • You can make up statistics and stories to support your point. The graders have few minutes to grade your essay and may not resort to fact-checking. Make sure the examples you quote substantiate your views.
  • Read books and newspapers to get an idea about writing styles, paragraph length, and sentence structure.
  • Practice writing under pressure. Set a timer, plan out the essay, and write within the time limit. Get your essays reviewed by your tutor and work on the feedback.
  • Improve your handwriting. Messy handwriting may impede the grader’s ability to understand what you have written, and you might end up with lower scores.
  • Write long essays that may be over a page. Try to write four or five paragraphs. The graders will love this.
  • Spare 2 –3 minutes in the end to proofread what you have written. Correct if there are any mistakes and you can also replace dull phrases with fancier terms.
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What are the Colleges that require ACT writing?

As of 2023, only these colleges require ACT Writing scores – Martin Luther College (MN) Soka University of America (CA) United States Military Academy (West Point) (NY).

What is the fee for the ACT exam?

Without the Writing Test, the fee is $176.50. The writing test costs an additional $25.

Who can take the ACT?

Students from all grade levels and age groups can take the ACT. Students from 6th to 9th grades can also take the ACT.

How long is the ACT Test?

ACT is 2 hours and 55 minutes long along with the breaks. If the student chooses the Writing section too, then it is 3 hours and 40 minutes long. There is a five-minute break before the essay section.

How many times can I take the ACT test?

You can take the ACT up to 12 times. You can take the test multiple times as the colleges accept super scoring. You can present the best scores in all the sections.

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