How to Write an ACT Essay

How to Write an ACT Essay

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Writing can sometimes be viewed in a black and white light. You either know it or you don’t know it. This makes it quite difficult for one to explain or teach it. It even gets worse when one is given the task to teach and there is a time limit. And this is just basic writing. Writing for standardized tests get even harder and one may despair. ACT tests are just most of the common standardized test that students take. At just the mention of it, virtually every one of them gets chills. However, when approached in the right way, and with a positive mindset, you can write the essay almost flawlessly.

This article will highlight some of the best approaches you can use to write an ACT essay. We’ve broken them down into easily digestible tips which we know you’ll understand easily. The key to perfecting it, just like any other skill, is through practice and learning. You just need to get a good model and study it extensively. We are going to cover one of the best models you can use.

Tackling ACT Writing, Step by Step Guide

We are going to demonstrate ACT writing through a viable essay plan that has been modified to fit into most ACT writing tests. The plan includes a template that consists of three sections, namely, planning, writing, and revising. We believe that if you use this template, you will get to learn much faster and with more precision. Your ACT essays will greatly improve in quality and form.

Below is a sample prompt that we will respond to:

Intelligent Machines

A significant amount of products that we rely on daily are heavily automated and intelligent. They have replaced the human effort that was previously applied. A practical case could be of assembly lines. Robots are being used to build cars and other products on assembly lines. Conversations are also largely conducted by sophisticated machines as opposed to people. Retail stores are also getting automated. Nowadays, shopping can be done easily without much help from human cashiers.

The worldwide shift to automation can be regarded as an indicator of progress. It makes work easier and complements human efforts in undertaking tasks. Even so, there is an implication. When machines are used, human effort is considered obsolete. The effort that humans were used to applying in various tasks has no bearing at all. This raises fundamental questions such as, what is lost when human effort is not used; what does this loss mean? Let’s consider some perspectives.

  • First Perspective: When a machine or some other form of technology is used in place of a human, there is one thing that is fundamentally lost; humanity. Some part of our own humanity is lost and replaced. This even makes our daily social interactions suffer as our humanity goes down the drain. Values such as courtesy, tolerance, and respect, no longer have a place in daily encounters.
  • Second Perspective: Machines work better than humans. They have ultimate precision when working at high speeds and are also good at repetitive low skill jobs. Thus, machines are efficient in a sense; by virtue of using low resources while achieving maximum output. They hence lead to better outcomes and more prosperity in the contemporary world.
  • Third Perspective: Humans have always sought things that they can perceive with their senses. Thus, they can be said to have a limited perception that revolves around any aspect that they can hear, see, touch, taste or feel. However, with the advent of machines, these perceptions are changing. The ideas, thoughts, and positions that were previously held are being challenged. New ideas are forthcoming and even the nature of humanity is being put into question. Questions revolving around what humanity entails or it can be are surfacing. This has stimulated humans to accept new ideas and seek new possibilities. Humans have even motivated to push machines to reach new unimagined heights.

With the above perspectives, write an essay about the ever increasing use of intelligent machines.

Stage 1: Planning

Approximate time: 10 to 12 minutes

Planning is an essential tool that is often overlooked when writing ACT essays. From our experience, it is something that should be done at the onset of writing. It becomes cumbersome to plan as you write; making you take even longer to write your work. It may seem unnecessary at the mention of it, however, the impact it has is immense. Planning helps you to organize thoughts, ideas, and opinions before putting them to paper. It gives you the rationale and outline to be used when writing.

Step 1: Read the Question and the Perspectives Provided, Then Choose (Tentatively) a Position

A vital part of writing your essay will involve forming relationships between your perspective and another one out of the provided. This requires you to have an in-depth understanding of each prompt. Most prompts come in a general format, where an assertion is made followed by an opinion that broadens the subject. In our example about intelligent machines, each of the prompts has a general assertion that is quickly followed by a statement that gives a wider perspective on the prompt. This makes it even easier for you to come up with your own opinion and perspective.

Many students would want to add another perspective. Even as it is not wrong to do so, we wouldn’t recommend it. Coming with a fourth perspective would take much of your time which would have been dedicated to other activities. You are better off using that time coming up with a good comparison of your perspective and the other three perspectives.

There’s a scenario where your perspective is a blend of other perspectives. In this case, it is good to present it. However, as you present it, ensure that the comparison with the each of the three perspectives mentioned is made. Emphasis is placed on these comparisons since they help you meet the requirements of the essay. The essay requires you to write an analysis of your perspective and at least one other. Thus, the bottom line is to always choose the perspective that you know you can support well.

For this sample, we are going to choose the third perspective since we are confident that we’ll come up with sufficient support for it.

Step 2: Brainstorm Evidence and Support for Each Perspective

As part of writing your ACT essay involves highlighting the relationships between your perspective and one of the other perspectives given, solid evidence is needed. You ought to research extensively to determine which perspective allows you to table as much evidence as possible. This ought to be done while still planning so as to enable you to switch comfortably to the perspective that has more material.

While tabling your evidence, be flexible. It is not imperative for you to write whole sentences and phrases. This is one of the perks of writing an Act essay. Save the long sentences for other types of writing.

Sources of Evidence

Opening Paragraph of the prompt:

To enable you to embark on serious fact-finding, read the opening paragraph of the essay prompt. It will help you come up with sufficient examples that could be of vital use in your essay. It will stimulate and direct your thoughts on specific ideas that can form the substance of your essay.

Personal Experience

To support your points, you can narrate a personalized story. It could be real or fictitious. Ensure that it is highly personal. It could either be a narration of your own ordeals or that of another person.

Statistics

Numbers are of the essence when trying to prove an important point. You could invent your own research study that has all the relevant statistics of your subject. Again, they could be real or fictitious. Just ensure that they are consistent and believable. For example, you can write about a study that involves automated call menus. You could then present some statistics such as; about 80 % of people who use automated call menus end up dissatisfied. This can be a great support for the first perspective.

On the second perspective, you could present statistics that show that automated cashiers are more efficient than human cashiers. For example, automated cashiers are 5 times better at performing check-outs as compared to human cashiers. You could also claim that their volumes of sales that are processed by automated cashiers are 3 times more than those processed by human cashiers.

You can play around with figures as much as you want for as much you are supporting one of the three perspectives.

Specifics from Sources

When seeking support for your perspectives, utilize various sources. They could be historical sources or facts obtained from current events. Get the correct details so as to present a valid and sound argument. But don’t overwork yourself while trying to get sources. Your grade won’t be affected if you present information that is not factual.

Let’s consider the evidence we gathered for our essay:

First Perspective:

When a machine or some other form of technology is used in place of a human, there is one thing that is fundamentally lost; humanity. Some part of our own humanity is lost and replaced. This even makes our daily social interactions suffer as our humanity goes down the drain. Values such as courtesy, tolerance, and respect, no longer have a place in daily encounters.

Evidence: A significant number of phone conversations are conducted with top-notch technology. Human interactions over the phone have greatly diminished. However, as much as there is this shift, it is not a guarantee that technology works 100%.

Explanation: People tend to get frustrated with technology at times. In most instances, people hit the ‘0’ dial to speak with an actual person due to this frustration. And since the frustration is still present, the conversation is always heated and characterized by sharp outbursts of anger.

Second Perspective:

Machines work better than humans. They have ultimate precision when working at high speeds and are also good at repetitive low skill jobs. Thus, machines are efficient in a sense; by virtue of using low resources while achieving maximum output. They hence lead to better outcomes and more prosperity in the contemporary world.

Evidence: There are robots that actually build cars on modern-day assembly lines.

Explanation: It is much efficient, has lower costs and eliminates and greatly decreases the risk of injury to human workers.

Third Perspective:

Humans have always sought things that they can perceive with their senses. Thus, they can be said to have a limited perception that revolves around any aspect that they can hear, see, touch, taste or feel. However, with the advent of machines, these perceptions are changing. The ideas, thoughts, and positions that were previously held are being challenged. New ideas are forthcoming and even the nature of humanity is being put into question. Questions revolving around what humanity entails or it can be are surfacing. This has stimulated humans to accept new ideas and seek new possibilities. Humans have even motivated to push machines to reach new unimagined heights.

Evidence: There are strides in technology that have been made with regard to brain-computer interfaces. People are able to control the functions and capabilities of computers with their brains.

Explanation: The motivation of this cutting-edge technology is to stimulate people to overcome their human inclinations and limitations. It also offers inspiration to people to undertake research to expand their knowledge on matters on a continuous basis.

Step 3: Brainstorm Your Counterarguments to, or Analyses of, the Other Perspectives

ACT responses are universal. There are neither rules nor standard procedures as to how you should answer the perspectives.

To illustrate: Let’s say we agreed with the first perspective, which has a negative connotation of the effects that intelligent machines have on humans. For a start, we may describe in detail the perspectives that hold positive views, in just one paragraph.

After presenting the two positive perspectives, we then can provide an antithesis in the second paragraph. This will pave way for a nice support of the first perspective. If we are rooting for the third perspective (machines stimulating humans to reach new heights), we will present arguments against the first and second perspectives. We have strong evidence to enable us to provide a thorough analysis of both.

First Perspective:

When a machine or some other form of technology is used in place of a human, there is one thing that is fundamentally lost; humanity. Some part of our own humanity is lost and replaced. This even makes our daily social interactions suffer as our humanity goes down the drain. Values such as courtesy, tolerance, and respect, no longer have a place in daily encounters.

Evidence: A significant number of phone conversations are conducted with top-notch technology. Human interactions over the phone have greatly diminished. However, as much as there is this shift, it is not a guarantee that technology works 100%.

Explanation: People tend to get frustrated with technology at times. In most instances, people hit the ‘0’ dial to speak with an actual person due to this frustration. And since the frustration is still present, the conversation is always heated and characterized by sharp outbursts of anger.

Counterargument: The benefits that accrue are much than the costs incurred. When people are provided with the option of submitting their prescriptions or ask about basic stuff through an automated system, there are great savings in time for the customer care officials. These officials will have more time to focus on crucial matters. Recorded calls can also be used to improve service delivery based on the different reactions of customers at the time of calling.

Second Perspective:

Machines work better than humans. They have ultimate precision when working at high speeds and are also good at repetitive low skill jobs. Thus, machines are efficient in a sense; by virtue of using low resources while achieving maximum output. They hence lead to better outcomes and more prosperity in the contemporary world.

Evidence: There are robots that actually build cars on modern-day assembly lines.

Explanation: It is much efficient, has lower costs and eliminates and greatly decreases the risk of injury to human workers

Counterargument: This perspective presents the true scenario of machines. However, it is limited in the sense that it does not consider the implications in an objective way. As much as robots can perform some actions in place of humans, they can also work alongside humans. Take an example of medical surgeries. Robots can complement the work of surgeons thereby increasing the precision of surgeries. When robots work with humans, the result is a better outcome in the specific undertaking.

Step 4: Organize Your Essay

At this point, you have the central points of your essay. The only remaining part is organizing them in a coherent way. As for the introduction, ensure that it has a thesis statement. This statement should be your individual view on the subject, of which you are trying to prove in your essay.

A succinct conclusion should also be included as part your organization. Transitions are also important your essay. They should be added to aid the flow of your work. However, these can be added as you are writing, no need for you to plan them in advance.

Introduction

The advent of machines was thought to be a great breakthrough for the world. However, the increasing use and complexity of these machines have presented a challenge for humans to get better or get shaped out, etc.

The above is a great introduction to the essay.

Body Paragraph 1

  • The first perspective argues that when a machine or some other form of technology is used in place of a human, there is one thing that is fundamentally lost; humanity. Some part of our own humanity is lost and replaced. This even makes our daily social interactions suffer as our humanity goes down the drain. Values such as courtesy, tolerance, and respect, no longer have a place in daily encounters.
  • We can authoritatively say that this assertion is true. We have all witnessed this phenomenon in our daily lives. We all that one friend who acts up when having a phone conversation using automated machines. This is mostly caused by the frustration that comes when a machine refuses to do as they please. By the time this friend gets to speak with a human, they are already livid with rage. Their sense of courtesy and decorum had already left and the human just has to contend with their discourtesy.
  • In as much as frustration tags along, the benefits are much weightier than the costs. When people are able to submit their prescription or possibly ask about basic stuff, the customer care representatives can have more time to focus on pressing matters. The recordings of calls can also be used for quality purposes.

Body Paragraph 2

  • The second perspective can be contrasted to the first one. The premise of the second perspective revolves around the ability of machines to perform repetitive tasks much more efficiently and precisely than humans.
  • Various auto plants the world over are filled with robots. They are used in assembly lines to build cars. They do work with utmost precision. The overall costs are also less than having employees around. In fact, it makes more economic sense to have machines work than humans. For these machines, there is a one-off cost whereas maintaining a workforce means recurrent expenditures on salaries all year round. Also, there are more risks associated with having a workforce working on assembly plants. They are susceptible to injury and health hazards which raises liability issues for the employer.
  • Although the argument presented in this perspective is sound, it doesn’t give an objective and wholesome view of the implications. As much as a robot can do things that humans can do, they can be used to work alongside humans. They could be used to better the outcome of human work, such as surgery.

Body Paragraph 3

  • The advent of intelligent machines in human life has stimulated the re-thinking of our pre-conceived perceptions of human ability in the present and in the future.
  • Of recent origin is the brain-computer interfaces. Technology has advanced such that people are able to control computers with their brains.
  • The brain interface technology has enabled people to overcome some of their physical limitations. It has also promoted diversity as it captures the interests of people from various backgrounds. These interests are applied in non-scientific fields to create new inventions that were previously unthought-of. The world is now being viewed in a whole new light and interactions are being made on whole new level.

Conclusion Sentence

In conclusion, it is much better for humans to embrace machines in a collaborative way. They should not be viewed as a threat to humanity, but rather as a means through which humanity can transform to greatness.

At this juncture, you are set for your writing. It should take you about 25 minutes.

Stage 2: Writing

Approximate Time: 20 to 23 minutes

After structuring your arguments, all that is left is to write them down.

Step 5: Introduction Paragraph & Thesis

Begin by writing your introduction. Make it as interesting as possible. Ensure that your thesis is brought to a broad light. If you have any difficulty in coming up with an effective introduction, then leave some space and attend to it later.

From the horse-pulled cart of ancient royalties to the electric train of the modern age, machines have had a tremendous influence on human development…

Your thesis should be adequately presented. Half of your essay should have your say on the subject and the correlation to at least one perspective that is in the prompt.

While some people hold the position that the coming of machines was a spell of doom for humanity, the increasing use of intelligent machines has challenged the same people to question their perceptions and beliefs. Human limitations are being countered and advanced possibilities are in the offing.

Step 6: Body Paragraphs

While writing your body paragraphs, ensure that your sentences draw parallels to your first paragraph. The first paragraph should always refer to your thesis statement to present a conclusive argument.

The linguistics surrounding the advent of machines and their presence in daily life (as shown in the first perspective) revolves around machines removing basic humanity.

After presenting this sentence, follow up with an antithesis to your own argument (from the first perspective). Go further and support this perspective with valid arguments and sound evidence in the subsequent three to six sentences.

We can authoritatively say that this assertion is true. We have all witnessed this phenomenon in our daily lives. A friend acting up when having a phone conversation using automated machines is a perfect example. This is mostly caused by the frustration that comes when a machine refuses to do as they please. By the time our friend gets to speak with a human, they are already livid with rage. This outburst of anger continues such that when the automated system routes to the human customer care representative, our friend can no longer hold their anger. The sense of courtesy and decorum had already left and the human just has to contend with our friend’s discourtesy.

Follow with your counterargument and try to relate it to your thesis.

Despite the frustration experiences at the hands of the automated system, the benefits are much weightier than the costs. When people are able to submit their prescription or possibly ask about basic stuff, the customer care representatives can have more time to focus on pressing matters. Also, the recordings of such outbursts in calls can also be used for quality purposes. It can lead to the improvement of the whole automated service to make them more responsive to the needs of the people who call. It can avail options of recourse whenever a customer’s problem is complex. Thus, we can deduce that the frustration that is caused by these machines are only short term as the benefits that accrue after are much better and weightier.

Body Paragraph 2

The second paragraph should divulge more information of your analysis of the relationship between the two perspectives. You can as well introduce your opinion on the second perspective if you are comparing your perspective to one of the perspectives in the prompt.

In another light, as elaborated in the second perspective, machines can be used to undertake tasks more precisely and efficiently.

Elaborate the argument presented in the second perspective in about three to six sentences.

They are used in assembly lines to build cars. They do work with utmost precision. The overall costs are also less than having employees around. In fact, it makes more economic sense to have machines work than humans. For these machines, there is a one-off cost whereas maintaining a workforce means recurrent expenditures on salaries all year round. The risks and negative implications of having a workforce working on assembly plants are minimized or eliminated. Thus, the employer can be free of any liability issues. Manufacturers and production plants are now able to realize the benefits of having an efficient and effective system. The overhead costs will be greatly reduced. The returns will be much higher and the quality of products will also improve.

Ensure that you make draw a parallel to your perspective while explaining the above perspective.

Although the argument presented in this perspective is sound, it doesn’t give an objective and wholesome view of the implications. As much as a robot can do things that humans can do, they can be used to work alongside humans. They can complement the work of humans to achieve an almost perfect outcome; which could never be realized when humans are working alone. They could be used to control delicate procedures, such as surgical operations. This would never have been imagined decades ago but is now a reality.

Body Paragraph 3

Present your central perspective and link it back to the counterarguments that you have already presented on either of the perspectives given.

The advent of intelligent machines in human life has stimulated the re-thinking of our pre-conceived perceptions of human ability in the present and in the future.

Present a final elaboration that supports your perspective.

Of recent origin is the brain-computer interfaces. Technology has advanced such that people are able to control computers with their brains. By simply attaching electrodes to their heads, humans can manipulate these computers. The brain interface technology has enabled people to overcome some of their physical limitations. Take an example of people suffering from paralysis. They have overcome their paralysis which previously rendered them unable to communicate. They can communicate by forming words on computer screens. Also, brain-computer interfaces have promoted diversity as they capture the interests of people from various backgrounds. These interests are applied in non-scientific fields to create new inventions that were previously unthought-of. The world is now being viewed in a whole new light and interactions are being made on whole new level. A case of music, brain-computer interfaces have integrated people’s thoughts and preferences to create music that relates to them.

For sure, apart from the utility that they bring in efficiency, intelligent machines have paved the way for humans to achieve great heights in their development.

Step 7: Conclusion

Stay abreast of time. At this point, you should strive to have about 3-5 minutes.

Develop a sentence that restates your thesis statement. This should summarize your essay.

In conclusion, it is much better for humans to embrace machines in a collaborative way as a means through which humanity can transform to greatness.

Stage 3: Revising

Time: 1 to 3 minutes

Step 8: Reread and Revise

Let’s examine our complete ACT essay example.

From the horse-pulled cart of ancient royalties to the electric train of the modern age, machines have had a tremendous influence on human development. While some people hold the position that the coming of machines was a spell of doom for humanity, the increasing use of intelligent machines has challenged the same people to question their perceptions and beliefs. Human limitations are being countered and advanced possibilities are in the offing.

The linguistics surrounding the advent of machines and their presence in daily life (as shown in the first perspective) revolves around machines removing basic humanity. We can authoritatively say that this assertion is true. We have all witnessed this phenomenon in our daily lives. A friend acting up when having a phone conversation using automated machines is a perfect example. This is mostly caused by the frustration that comes when a machine refuses to do as they please. By the time our friend gets to speak with a human, they are already livid with rage. This outburst of anger continues such that when the automated system routes to the human customer care representative, our friend can no longer hold their anger. The sense of courtesy and decorum had already left and the customer care representative just has to contend with our friend’s discourtesy.

Despite the frustration experiences at the hands of the automated system, the benefits are much weightier than the costs. When people are able to submit their prescription or possibly ask about basic stuff, the customer care representatives can have more time to focus on pressing matters. Also, the recordings of such outbursts in calls can also be used for quality purposes. It can lead to the improvement of the whole automated service to make them more responsive to the needs of the people who call. It can avail options of recourse whenever a customer’s problem is complex. Thus, we can deduce that the frustration that is caused by these machines are only short term as the benefits that accrue after are much better and weightier.

In another light, as elaborated in the second perspective, machines can be used to undertake tasks more precisely and efficiently. They are used in assembly lines to build cars. They do work with utmost precision. The overall costs are also less than having employees around. In fact, it makes more economic sense to have machines work than humans. For these machines, there is a one-off cost whereas maintaining a workforce means recurrent expenditures on salaries all year round. The risks and negative implications of having a workforce working on assembly plants are minimized or eliminated. Thus, the employer can be free of any liability issues. Manufacturers and production plants are now able to realize the benefits of having an efficient and effective system. The overhead costs will be greatly reduced. The returns will be much higher and the quality of products will also improve.

Although the argument presented in this perspective is sound, it doesn’t give an objective and wholesome view of the implications. As much as a robot can do things that humans can do, they can be used to work alongside humans. They can complement the work of humans to achieve an almost perfect outcome; which could never be realized when humans are working alone. They could be used to control delicate procedures, such as surgical operations. This would never have been imagined decades ago but is now a reality.

The advent of intelligent machines in human life has stimulated the re-thinking of our pre-conceived perceptions of human ability in the present and in the future. Of recent origin is the brain-computer interfaces. Technology has advanced such that people are able to control computers with their brains. By simply attaching electrodes to their heads, humans can manipulate these computers. The brain interface technology has enabled people to overcome some of their physical limitations. Take an example of people suffering from paralysis. They have overcome their paralysis which previously rendered them unable to communicate. They can communicate by forming words on computer screens. Also, brain-computer interfaces have promoted diversity as they capture the interests of people from various backgrounds. These interests are applied in non-scientific fields to create new inventions that were previously unthought-of. The world is now being viewed in a whole new light and interactions are being made on whole new level. A case of music, brain-computer interfaces have integrated people’s thoughts and preferences to create music that relates to them. For sure, apart from the utility that they bring in efficiency, intelligent machines have paved the way for humans to achieve great heights in their development.

In conclusion, it is much better for humans to embrace machines in a collaborative way as a means through which humanity can transform to greatness.

Use the remaining one to three minutes to go through your essay to revise any point that needs revision. While at it also correct any mistakes. Replace un-matching words and problematic phrases.

At long last, you now know how to write an impressive ACT essay. If any of these explanations were not clear, re-read it for more clarity. Thereafter, you can go ahead and try to write an ACT essay by yourself given a sample prompt.

How Can You Hack It by Yourself?

Have a habit of planning your essays before you start writing. This should take about 10 minutes. Have a goal of observing the time limits; but before you can get used to it, slot yourself more time. As you get better, reduce the time limits.

Conclusion

For sample essay prompts, you can use our sample ACT essay prompts or questions. You can also view our enhanced writing tips if you are seeking to polish up your ACT essay writing skills.

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