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Published: Friday 25th of January 2013

ACT Writing Guidelines: 15 Strategies to apply for an Impressive Overall Score

If you’ve never heard about ACT essay writing or probably you profess to be good at it, there is always value in learning more about it. Getting to know how to write the essay itself and also some of the key points that graders look at can prove beneficial in the long run. This article will cover some vital ACT writing tips. It will also provide a conclusive template that can come in handy while practicing how to write the essay.

Tips for ACT Writing

At first, the ACT essay is largely a short write-up. Most of the time, students are given about forty minutes to write a full ACT. If you haven’t sharpened your ACT writing skills, then you might face a great challenge with that time limit. But it doesn’t take much to be good at it. All that is needed is a unique approach and method of tackling the essay. You’d have to realize that this is not your normal English class essay. The strategy that we are going to share has one ulterior motive; for you to grasp and put in all the desired components of an ACT essay as you can in just forty minutes! We’ll delve more into the four main elements that most ACTs require. Also, we’ll highlight three crucial aspects that they don’t disclose to you and a full proof template for you to emulate in your ACT writing.

4 Critical Aspects that ACT, Inc. Does Not Disclose

ACT, Inc. gives a comprehensive explanation of the main components that a successful ACT has in relation with its scoring criteria. Here’s a consideration:

1. Your Central Idea And Your Analysis

An essay that has a score of twelve has a central argument that critically assesses given issues with multiple perspectives. The thesis of the argument reflects clarity of thought and purpose. It should have as much insight that can be used as a basis for analysis of the subject matter and its associated perspectives. A good analysis critically examines that underlying assumptions, complexities, outcomes, and implications. It also examines the points of convergence and divergence. Essentially, you have to answer the question that’s fronted on the prompt. Your answer should be clear and should affirm your position. It should clearly state your perspective on the subject at hand at how it relates to, at minimum, one of the three perspectives given. Arguably, this is one of the difficult part to master. Forty minutes is quite minimal to do your utmost. However, you should demonstrate that you are well versed with multiple sides of the issue at hand. A good place to start would be to discuss those sides and show why people hold those views. Also, subject those views to a logical analysis to ascertain if they are logical or illogical. When writing your thesis statement, it is acceptable to use the exact wording of your prompt. It even serves you well in the eyes of the graders as it will make it conspicuously present. But, as you write this thesis, your position should be clearly seen. Make it apparent which side you are rooting for. If you can, develop the argument to a larger debate. We are going to show you how to do this.

2. Developing your Ideas and Offering Support

For you to score 12 in your essay, you inevitably have to develop your ideas offer support for all your claims. This helps you to widen the context and cultivate deep insight. To convey the central argument, an effective illustration coupled with deep reasoning is your best bet. Also, incorporate complications and qualifications to enhance the analysis. A lot of students encounter difficulties while trying to internalize this area. Even so, all that is required is a full explanation of every point that’s made. If you can’t do this in about two to four minutes, then, by all means, set it aside. Consider it, if, it is the only means by which you can bring in a comparison of your perspective with one of the other given perspectives. You can achieve this flawlessly by giving a clear explanation of your thoughts. Leverage on the use of examples and illustrations to drive your points home.

3. Organizing Your Work

An essay worthy of a 12 score embodies organization in its structure. Organizing your work is key for you to present an effective argument. It unifies your central points and logically expresses them in a skillful manner. For each idea that you would like to express, slot them for at least 1 to 2 paragraphs. Ensure that each point is well choreographed such that if say, point B is dependent on point A, mention point B first in your paragraph. For you transit smoothly, ensure that you reflect the logic that you want to express. Tying one point to another is ideal for you to have an effective organization. It doesn’t matter if you use basic wording such as, “The first idea…,” “Secondly…,” It is much better than having no transitions at all. The introduction and the conclusion should convey the same ideas. If your introduction has a wider context, reiterate it at the conclusion.

4. Proper Use of Language

An essay that’s set to score 12 is one that is mindful of language that it uses. The best language is that which culminates in enhancing the arguments in the essay. The choice of words is crucial and should be done with utmost precision. The sentence structures should also be varied but all should adhere to high standards of clarity. The stylistics should also be closely monitored such that the choice of style is uniform. Have a relevant choice of tone and voice in your essay to help convey the feelings and emotions attached to your words. Of course, a few grammatical errors are expected. Mechanics of wording may also be improperly applied; however, these should not affect the flow and comprehensiveness of your essay. The use of proper language has become one of the hardest areas for students to improve. This is true especially when the student is not a native English speaker. While we emphasize on precise and skillful word choice, we don’t mean that you use all the pompous vocabulary you know. Also, it is not a leeway to repeating yourself throughout the essay. While we suggest that you start all your sentences in the same way (e.g. “Machines are the impetus of the future of humans”, “Machines are also problematic” etc.), ensure that they are also clear. The sentences should act as the means of furthering your logic rather than making it difficult for people to understand it. Many authorities in the writing field agree that it is much better to focus on being clear in your writing than focusing on being fancy. You can fix issues to do with language as you revise your essay during the last 1 to 3 minutes of writing the essay.

3 Points that ACT, Inc. Keeps Hidden

The ACT has some clearly defined guidelines. However, there are a few undisclosed secrets that most students are unaware of. Knowing these secrets can prove to be a great advantage during the test. Well, ACT, Inc. hasn’t disclosed these facts so that they stay unknown for obvious reasons. They want to catch those who are unprepared for the ACT. They very well know that these facts are capable of giving leverage to a student over others.

1. Facts are Irrelevant; and No One Counterchecks Them

For as long as you are educated, you can always make up information that is logical. You can as well do this in your ACT. If the circumstances call for it, make-up information that you deem fit for supporting your point. If you already knew the fact surrounding a point, then that’s great on your part because the grader probably knows them too. However, it isn’t imperative to know them. We know this might sound absurd. But believe that you can write about the Agrarian Revolution and the ACT graders won't dare penalize you! Why so? ACT, Inc. lacks the capacity to do intensive fact-checking on every essay that is written. The number of students that take the test yearly is slightly over a million. Even the most zealous grader won’t have it in him/her to scrutinize each essay. At best, they may just put a score of 1 to 6 to each of the stipulated essay scoring domains. You’d be surprised that they won’t even confirm if George Bush S.R. was born in 1924 or 1928. Therefore, it can be deduced that ACT essay scoring uses the general rule that all statements are true. For as long as your evidence backs your thesis, then you’re all good. We hope that you can understand why ACT doesn’t disclose this secret. (It makes the ACT essay sound silly). So, if you’re blank and short of ideas, sit back, relax and make something up. Provided that it sounds realistic and you can back it up logically, place it in your essay. You can even use a popular figure, e.g. a politician and claim that the made-up information and assertions were from him/her. No one will dare question a public figure. Thus, use this secret to your advantage. You don’t have to struggle with coming up with vague information that has no clear backing.

2. Length is Key - Strive to Write More Than One Page

This is one of the crucial ACT essay writing tips. Your essay length and your essay score are related, strongly. The longer the length of your essay, the better scores you are poised to get. The rationale is simple. Short essays provide little room for you to develop your points well. Most of your points will not be fully developed thus, denying you the chance of having a decent score. At the very least, strive to write a page and a half. This is a much better length that allows you to develop your points while also shielding you from the ax of fewer scores. ACT, Inc. fails doesn’t disclose this but they check the length of the essay. In fact, length directly has a bearing on the overall score. This is not an argument for you to force words to meet the required length. But if you can write at least a page and a half without repeating yourself then you’ll surely ace your ACT essay.

3. Make Your First Paragraph and Conclusion Count- They are Your Selling Points

As mentioned earlier, the number of ACT essays that graders have to read are about one million on a yearly basis. This is a lot of work and thus they have to devise methods of reading the essays quickly. When grading, most of them give a score of 3 to 4 in each domain. One of the fastest ways that they have devised is to read the thesis statement (to ascertain if it’s there in the first place, if it answers the prompt, and if the essay supports it). After reading the thesis statement, they then scan through the first and last paragraphs. The reason behind these methods is simple. When a student is able to write an introductory and conclusion paragraph that is logical, well-organized and insightful, then he/she is more likely to have written the rest of the essay in like manner. A grader can confidently tell which score to give based on reading these two parts. They’ll again skim through the middle of the essay to make sure that it is sensible. Failure to write a fitting introduction or conclusion could cost you. In fact, when they don’t appear at all in your essay, your essay will be penalized heavily. If you don’t clearly state your thesis or opinion in the first paragraph, you have no hopes of getting a score above 8. We can authoritatively say that the introduction and conclusion are the most important aspects of your essay. One of the best strategies for writing an ACT essay is to start strong and finish strong! Make enough time for your introductions and conclusions as they ultimately give the bearing of your whole essay. Most importantly, ensure that you revise them before submitting.

Important Strategy: Writing an ACT Essay in a record 40 Minutes

As we earlier mentioned, ACT essays are normally slotted for forty minutes only. Hence, you need to be more than ready before starting the test. See the guide below which highlights the key steps to writing a winning ACT essay.

Overcoming the Main Challenge: Planning Your Arguments in a Methodical Manner

According to most students, the most difficult part of the ACT essay is coming up with a strong backing for the thesis. However, with strict adherence to tact and methodology, you can come up with support swiftly. Below is an example of how you can do so. See the illustration:

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.
Essay Task With the above perspectives, write an essay about the ever increasing use of intelligent machines. As you write:
  • State categorically your perspective on the subject and provide an analysis of the relationship between your perspective and at least one other perspective.
  • Develop your ideas well and provide support to your ideas using examples and sound reasoning.
  • Organize your ideas in a clear and logical way.
  • Use standard written English to clearly communicate your ideas.
Note that your perspective may either agree with the others, partly agree or be totally different. In the prompt above, they have deliberately given you three viewpoints. This is done so as to assist you to know what to mention while discussing various perspectives. The prompt has given the following viewpoints: Conservative: “Intelligent machines cause problems, which is undesirable.” Utilitarian: “Intelligent machines enhance the efficiency of matters, which is desirable.” Progressive: “Intelligent machines stimulate progress, which is desirable.” Giving support to each of the viewpoints will require you to be adequately prepared with valid reasons. You are at liberty to choose any side of the argument. But commonly, one argument is usually easier to tackle than another. In most cases, one perspective is diametrically opposed to the other two. In this prompt, it is better to argue against intelligent machines. You stand to come up with a good support. Putting an argument that is in favor of intelligent machines, that is, for their progress of efficiency might be a tall order. Thus, we’ll focus on the conservative argument. To put a good argument that is against change, we can mention its underlying assumptions and show how false they are; or the negative implications that arise:
  • It plainly assumes that machines stimulate progress (as shown in the third perspective).
  • It generally assumes that machines enhance efficiency (this is the assumption of the second perspective).
  • It assumes that the benefits that accrue while using machines outweigh the costs.
  • Progress can be realized in some areas but also new problems arise.
  • It can enhance efficiency in some tasks but could also culminate in creating more tasks.
  • It would bring more harm than good as people will lose their humanity as a result. People will end up being intolerant, discourteous and disrespectful to other people (first perspective).
The above method is bound to work for any argument. If you support the proposal in any prompt, for example, the right to self-determination is more important than the rule of a greater majority, you would just need to find positive ways to support it. It is much easier this way. However, the method of aligning assumptions and consequences can also be a viable way of addressing the perspectives.

The Best Essay Template

This is a proven structure that can earn you a great score on your ACT essay. By using the template together with the guidelines highlighted above, you are bound to score at least 6 or higher in a test that is out of 12. The equivalent is an 18 or higher score on a test that is out of 36 as per the guidelines of September 2015 - June test. If you work a little harder you might get an 8 or higher. Below are some real ACT essay prompts that we can consider as we progress. Intelligent machines: They can be good, they can be good and also have practicality or they can be good and stimulate people to achieve progress. Public health and individual freedom: Freedom is much more vital in society than physical health, society should seek the greatest good for the greatest majority, or the inherent right to avoid health risks is greater than individual freedom.


Lead Time: Roughly 8 and 10 minutes
  1. Determine your thesis. It should be based on one of the three perspectives. You can also form your own perspective. You can as well argue that for or against one of them to save time.
  2. Quickly come up with reasons and examples to support your thesis.
  3. Think of the counterarguments that can be admissible. Also, brainstorm on an effective analysis of at least one of the perspectives.
  4. Ensure that you organize your essay appropriately. Make your points flow in a coherent and consistent manner.
  5. Be time conscious. At this point, you should have at least 30 minutes left for you to write. If you have less time, then lessen your content by doing away with one of your supporting points.


Lead Time: 25 and 28 minutes
  • First Paragraph: Write your Introduction and Thesis Statement
    • Write your introductory sentence. Make it as interesting as possible so that you can captivate the mind of the reader. As a rule of thumb, most first sentences normally bring the thesis into a wider array. For example, you could say that intelligent machines have changed interpersonal interactions.
    • Move from the wider context of your response to the question to a narrow one. This should be at end of your first paragraph or just near the end.
    • You can give a preview of the reasons and examples that you will present in your essay in the introduction if it can fit harmoniously.
  • Second Paragraph : Make Effective Transitions and Present your Opposing Perspective
    • When writing the second paragraph, start with a sentence that draws a parallel to the first paragraph.
    • “In contrast to my perspective, the [X] perspective asserts that…” This is a much simpler way of making an effective transition into the second paragraph.
    • Thereafter, address one of the perspectives that are opposing yours. Posture the supporters of that perspective to be lost or misguided. If you chose to argue in favor of the first perspective, then you can argue against the second or third in this paragraph.
  • The Body Paragraphs (the remaining ones just before conclusion):
    • The first sentences of the body paragraph should introduce your reason for supporting the perspective that you want to discuss.
    • In the next 3 to 5 sentences, show how the perspective ties in with your own perspective with sound reasoning. You can use your own developed explanations and illustrations to offer support.
    • Connect your illustration with the thesis statement and thereby prove that it supports it.
    • Be time conscious. Use at least 7 minutes at this point.
  • Conclusion
    • (Optional). You can relate to two or three illustrations to back your thesis.
    • To conclude your essay, you can restate the first sentences or just restate your thesis.


Lead Time: 2 and 4 minutes We hope that at this point you have spared at least 2 to 4 minutes for revision. You can:
  • Correct mistakes
  • Enhance your vocabulary
  • Match the introduction and conclusion by stating the same thesis. You can put them in different words to avoid unnecessary repletion.
As you do all this, remember that time is of the essence. Allocate enough time for each activity and ensure that you stick to the stipulated time schedules. In some cases, you might be torn between writing a conclusion paragraph in your essay and explaining a certain perspective. In such cases, you are better off choosing the explanation. A short sentence is enough for your conclusion. It can be detrimental if you choose to ignore the analysis of the perspectives. It’ll cost you a lot of marks.

What next?

All that is remaining is consistent practice. You can use the template above. Print it out and use it to work. You can even refer to our ACT Essay Prompts Article for more insight. You’ll be surprised that many issues can be tackled with the same trail of thought and reasoning. For example, the notion that the accrued benefits of changes in the world are much less than the problems created can apply to a multitude of ACT prompts. Use resourceful materials such as journals or newspaper articles to research your supporting evidence.


If you practice well, you are bound to get used to writing ACT essays. Culture yourself to reusing information for various purposes and you will get accustomed to it.