The Compass test, by ACT, is designed to help determine what classes you should begin with in college. According to ACT, the essay prompt will provide you with a scenario that describes a problem and two possible solutions. Your job is to choose one of those solutions and argue why it should be implemented. You will be graded on how well you argue your position and for your writing style, not on which solution you choose.

Understanding the Requirements and Planning

Be aware of how much time you have to write your essay. The test is designed to take 60 minutes, but schools are allowed to set their own time limits. Carefully read the instructions and the scenario to understand exactly what you are being asked to do. Even if it seems obvious, read everything. Finally, decide how much time to dedicate to writing and revising based on your time limits. Your answer should be between 300 and 600 words, fully developed and address a specific person or group. ACT recommends that you keep that person or group's values in mind as you write.

Generating Ideas

Select one of the two proposed solutions and jot down some reasons to support it. Choose based on which solution you can support best. For example, a sample prompt on Austin Community College’s site asks you to support your position on whether service learning should be required of college students. Once you’ve chosen your reasons, determine your thesis statement, such as, “Service learning should be required in college, because it broadens students’ horizons, gets them engaged with the community and makes the community a better place.” Keep it simple and straightforward.

Putting It all Together

Your essay will need to have a short introduction that ends in a clear thesis statement. Each reason should have its own paragraph that begins by stating the reason like, “Service learning broadens students’ horizons.” Develop each paragraph with an example or two that proves that point. You might prove the point about broadening horizons by describing someone who learned life lessons from volunteering at a soup kitchen. Or, use hypothetical support if you don’t know anyone who’s performed service learning. End your essay with a short conclusion. Austin Community College recommends ending with a question, series of questions or a call to action.

Wrapping It Up

Allow yourself some time after you have finished writing to look back over your essay. Ensure that you have a clear thesis statement and topic sentences, and go back to check that your examples prove your points. When you reread the essay, pretend that you are the person or group you were asked to respond to and then, after every paragraph, ask yourself if those examples were convincing. You may need to add more to your paragraphs. Proofread your work before submitting it.