Are you signed up for the ACT this weekend? There’s still time to prepare for the essay writing portion of the test.
In the past few weeks, many Wow Writing Workshop students practiced writing an essay from beginning to end. They learned how to time the essay, parse the prompt, and they discussed ways to insert a counterargument into the essay and proofread.
Whether you took Wow’s class, worked with a tutor, learned tips in English class or are going into the ACT without any professional preparation, here are some tips:
Tip 1: Understand the exam: The ACT essay test requires you to take a position and support it with examples in a clear, focused manner. This is not a creative writing exam; it is an opportunity to show that you can think and express yourself on paper.
Tip 2: Keep up with current events: It’s election season; this is a great time to start a debate with Mom and Dad at the dinner table about Mitt Romney or President Obama. Tell them you need to practice for the ACT test, and debate both sides, regardless of your position. Read the newspaper, listen to news analysis and discuss the pertinent issues with family and friends.
Tip 3: Identify the thesis: Find the thesis in each article or analysis. Write it down. How would you defend that thesis? What is the counter-argument? How would you defend it?
Tip 4: Use your resources: There is no shortage of books, websites and other resources with information about the ACT. The official ACT website has great information about the writing test. Check it out.
Tip 5: Practice: Every day, take a sample prompt from Wow Writing Workshop, the Internet, a book or a friend, then practice dividing up the allotted time. Include time to review the prompt, outline your thoughts, write your response and review your writing.
Tip 6: Write clearly: Use a variety of sentence styles – mix it up with simple, complex and compound sentences. Semicolons are great if you know how to use them correctly; improper use will cost you points. Write in first or third person, using words you can define and spell. If you are not sure how to use a word, don’t test it here!
Tip 7: Consider the big picture: Extrapolate from the essay topic to broader societal issues. (e.g., An open school lunch policy allows students to go home for lunch; it also teaches high school students to take responsibility for their actions.)
Tip 8: Practice, practice, practice: The more you practice, the more at ease you will feel. You can do this! The task may seem challenging, but with a bit of preparation, you will be ready for any prompt at all.
Now go ACE the ACT writing exam.
Kim Lifton is a co-founder of Wow Writing Workshop, a business that developed a 10-step process to teach high school and graduate students how to write admissions essays and personal statements that stand out. Wow also teaches ACT and SAT writing test prep classes.