Test day tips for the ACT Writing Test:
We love studying more than the average bear (a notorious procrastinator), but we would never leave our Shmoopers hanging on Test Day. These tips should help you write your way to ACT glory.
DON'T get hung up on brainstorming a perfect introduction before you even know what you want to say.
Read the prompt, reflect on the three perspectives, then start organizing your body paragraphs first. We can't make any promises, but hopefully as you start chipping away at the topic, a great introduction will reveal itself like Michelangelo's David emerging from the marble.
Create a rough outline.
Forty minutes isn't a ton of time, so you won't be able to draw up a perfectly detailed, color-coded outline—wait, are we the only ones who do that?
In any case, the ACT provides (optional, non-graded) planning questions to help students organize their thoughts. Take just a few of those precious minutes to jot down key phrases to help you stay on track. It'll pay off in the long run, we promise.
Find the middle ground.
The sample perspectives are included on this test because they're all valid, defensible views that somebody might have on the topic. Rather than fully agreeing with any single perspective, find a unique caveat or clarification somewhere in the middle—it'll make your essay stand out like a diamond in the rough and send your test graders cartwheeling down the hallways.
Address potential counterarguments.
Think about how others might disagree with your perspective—and leave space in your essay to respond to those potential disagreements. Commit this formula to memory: "While some people may believe (counterargument), (reason why the counterargument is not as strong as your own argument)." Addressing counterarguments is one of the most effective ways to show off your analytical skills.
At the end, read your entire essay to yourself (quietly) if you have time.
While the test proctors would frown upon doing this in a voice loud enough for anyone else to hear, we highly recommend whisper-reading your essay once it's finished. Sometimes our brains are just too amazing for their own good, so if you've accidentally repeated yourself or forgotten a word in the middle of a sentence while writing, your brain will actually adjust what it sees on the page to make more sense. It's a neat trick, but it could lead to careless errors. By speaking the words you've written, you force your brain to slow down and identify any awkward phrases or grammar no-nos.
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