How to Write an ACT Essay

Many colleges require students take the written portion of the ACT.

The ACT is a college entrance exam that can include an essay. Although the written portion of the ACT is optional, many colleges require students to take the ACT essay exam. Colleges use the essay scores for many purposes, including admission decisions and course placement. An excellent ACT essay may increase chances of admission or allow a student to skip a freshman composition class. If a student submits a poor essay, he may reduce his chances of admission, or he may have to take a remedial English course upon admission.

Restate the question and both points of view in your own words as part of your introduction. In the exam, you will receive a question for which you will need to state your opinion. The question will offer two or three possible viewpoints as part of the question. Restating the essay prompt shows that you understand what the question asks. As you will be required to take a position, understanding the topic and given viewpoint choices is essential to writing a good ACT essay.

Take a clear position on the topic. You can either choose one of the viewpoints discussed in the essay prompt or an alternate opinion. There is no correct answer. ACT readers do not score your essay based on whether or not they agree with your opinion. They only want to know that you are able to formulate and support a position on the topic.

Provide specific examples to support your position. Your essay will score lower if you only speak in general terms. No matter what your viewpoint is, examples strengthen and clarify your position. The evidence you provide should be relevant to the topic. If possible, discuss personal experiences that helped you form your opinion.

Address possible concerns from other viewpoints. Not only do you need to support your own opinion, but you also need to address the concerns of others with different viewpoints. For example, assume your opinion is that high schools should add a fifth year. One concern from those with the opposite position is that students will skip their fifth year of high school out of boredom. You can address this concern by suggesting high schools offer courses for college credit in the fifth year.

Stay on topic. Throughout your essay, you need to make sure each statement directly pertains to the essay topic. Every example should be appropriate. Do not discuss ideas that are not relevant to the question asked.

Conclude with a short summary of the ideas you presented. The conclusion should simply wrap up the essay. Do not introduce new information, opinions or examples in your conclusion.

  • Use good basic grammar.
  • Do not use large words unless it is necessary to make your point.
  • Write in the first person.
  • 1 The ACT: Preparing for the ACT
  • 2 "Barron's ACT 2009, 15th Edition"; George Ehrenhaft, Ed.D., Robert L. Lehrman, M.A., Allan Mundsack, M.A., Fred Obrecht, M.A.; 2008
  • 3 "McGraw-Hill's ACT 2010 Edition"; Steven W. Dulan; 2010

Genevieve Ritchie-Ewing began writing as a grad student in 2002. She is publishing her first professional pieces on eHow. She generally enjoys writing about culture, society, forensics and mediation. She has a Master of Arts in Anthropology and is working on her PhD at Ohio State University.