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Get 12 Act Essay Questions

 

There is no question that the ACT is important for high school students who are thinking about applying to college. While the multiple choice sections are designed to assess students’ knowledge in math, English, science and reading, there is also a writing section that assesses students’ abilities to write an essay. Doing well on this section of the ACT can help distinguish you as an accomplished writer to colleges.

 

Though you can easily understand your score a multiple choice test, you might be left wondering what will earn you a good score on the ACT essay. If you’re aiming for a 12 on the ACT essay, read on for some tips and tricks!

 

What is the ACT Essay?

While the multiple choice sections of the ACT might be more unforgiving, the ACT essay is a great opportunity to show off your writing skills. According the ACT website, you should aim to write a “unified, coherent essay” in which you:

 

  • clearly state your own perspective on the issue and analyze the relationship between your perspective and at least one other perspective
  • develop and support your ideas with reasoning and examples
  • organize your ideas clearly and logically
  • communicate your ideas effectively in Standard written English.

 

To see these ideas in motion, you can take a look at a sample ACT prompt and essay here.

 

How is the ACT Essay scored?

 

The ACT essay is scored on a scale of 1 to 12. Your essay will be read and scored by two different grades on a scale of 1 to 6 in four different domains, for a total score out of 12 in each of these four domains. These four scores will then be averaged for a total score out of 12.

 

For more information about how this section of the test is scored, you can look at the official ACT Writing Test Scoring Rubric.

Tip 1: Know what a 12 looks like

 

In general, if you are aiming to do well in something, you should know what  exemplary work looks like and try to emulate it. This is certainly the case for the ACT Essay, so before you walk into the testing center to write your essay, make sure you know know what essays that scored a 12 in this section look like!

 

Be sure to read as many sample essays as you can find—these should be available online through a quick Google search. Keep in mind, though, that the structure of the writing section changed in Fall 2015, so make sure that the examples you are looking at are current and align with the structure of the current essay prompt.

 

As you’re looking at essays that scored a 12, be sure to also look at essays that scored in the middle and essays that received a poor score. Try to understand what went wrong in the poorly scored essays as well as what could be improved in the middle-scoring ones. Take note of what was successful in the high-scoring sample essays that you read—what makes these essays stand out from the middle-scoring ones?

 

If there are notes from graders that justify the scores of the essays, be sure to pay attention to these as well. Aiming for a high score on the ACT essay section means that you need to try to understand exactly what the graders are looking for. Study the rubric once more and remember what you’ll need to accomplish in each category.

 

Tip 2: Pick a perspective and stick to it

 

When it comes to the writing prompt, the ACT website says “The test describes an issue and provides three different perspectives on the issue. You are asked to read and consider the issue and perspectives, state your own perspective on the issue, and analyze the relationship between your perspective and at least one other perspective on the issue. Your score will not be affected by the perspective you take on the issue.”

 

In order to write a strong essay, you can choose whatever perspective you like—just make sure it’s one that you can support and defend effectively throughout your essay. Scorers are looking for a strong, well-organized point of view, and like it says above, it doesn’t matter whether you agree, disagree, or are somewhere in the middle; what matters is the writing.

 

It is important to remember that even if you don’t agree with the perspective that you’re writing from on a personal level, your essay needs to show that you can effectively argue a point. In addition, make sure to remember to relate your perspective to one of the perspectives provided in the prompt. Be sure to address the counter arguments as well in one of your body paragraphs, using the perspective opposite to your personal perspective to demonstrate your understanding of opposing views.

 

Tip 3: Use concrete examples

 

Grounding your writing in concrete examples is one extremely important element of writing effective ACT essay. You could use this as an opportunity to show off your historical knowledge by relating your argument to a relevant fact or event in history or current events, or you could come up with a rhetorical scenario or example. Including examples might even mean including a personal anecdote (although if you do end up doing this, you should make sure that your story is short and relates directly to your argument).

 

Take a look at the ways in which the writers of sample essays that scored a 12 managed to seamlessly incorporate examples into their writing. While you don’t have to be an expert on the essay topic, nor are you expected to be able to list off obscure facts and trivia about it, you need to make sure that your essay draws from real concrete examples rather that just vague abstract arguments.

 

Tip 4: Don’t be afraid to show off your language skills

 

One of the markers of a successful ACT essay is its use of language. This is a great opportunity to show off some of your ACT/SAT vocabulary words that you might have been studying for the English section of the test. Opt for higher-level vocabulary words when given the chance—as a general rule of thumb, you should aim to use about 1-2 higher level vocab words per paragraph.

 

Scorers want to see that you can navigate the English language skillfully, and so you should also take the chance to vary your sentence structure when you get the chance. Consider, also, utilizing devices such as rhetorical questions and complex sentences.

 

If you are going to use more complicated vocabulary and grammar structures, however, make sure you fully understand how to use them. It will reflect poorly upon your writing skills if you include a complicated word that doesn’t make sense in the context of a sentence, or if a grammatical structure that you try to use isn’t quite right. If you’re going to use a semicolon to combine two sentences, for example, make sure you understand that a semicolon is not the same thing as a comma. When in doubt, stick to what you know! It is better to have a less complicated structure that is used correctly versus an attempt at a more advanced grammatical concept that is actually wrong.

 

Lastly, be sure to keep it real in your writing. While scorers want to see students who are skilled in their use of the english language, it is easy to tell when someone is simply trying to electrify their vocabulary in order to titillate the reader for the written examination. Your writing and tone should reflect who you are as a writer, so remember to keep it down to earth.

 

Tip 5: Pay attention to timing & your energy level

 

For the essay section, you will get 40 minutes. This includes time for planning, writing, and editing, so make sure you dole out the appropriate amount of time for each part of the process. You can practice this by timing yourself to write an essay from a sample prompt at home. Start by giving yourself an hour, and gradually work it down to 40 minutes so that you are prepared by the time the testing date rolls around. If you find that you need more time for planning than you do writing, or if you come to learn that you need a particularly large chunk of time to edit, keep these things in mind when it comes time to write your essay for the exam.

 

The essay will be the last section on the test, so keep this in mind while you complete the multiple choice sections of the ACT. While you should be devoting your full attention and energy to each multiple choice section of the test, keep in mind that once you are finished with all of the multiple choice sections, you will still have to write the essay.

 

When you get breaks between sections, be sure to eat a snack, drink some water, and use the restroom so that you are not uncomfortable or distracted by the end of the test. While you might be tempted to just breeze through the essay section so that you can finish the ACT, know that you will not be allowed to leave the testing center until everyone has finished the test—so be sure to use up all of the allotted time!

 

For more information about the ACT and essay writing, check out these blog posts:

 

What to Bring (And Not Bring) to the ACT

10 Tips to Improve Your ACT Score

Ultimate Guide to the New SAT Essay

A Guide to the Optional ACT Writing Section

Devin Barricklow

Senior Blogger at CollegeVine

Devin Barricklow is a Political Science and Creative Writing double major at Columbia University. She’s really excited to be able to share her expertise about the college process with students who need advice. When she isn’t writing for CollegeVine, she enjoys reading the poems of Mary Oliver, going to concerts in the city, or cooking (preferably something with lots of bok choy and ginger).

Latest posts by Devin Barricklow (see all)

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The ACT® essay is a great way to wow universities with your college-ready writing skills. While you can’t be sure what the essay will ask about ahead of time, you can use the same general structure for every ACT® essay!

The following provides helpful suggestions for writing your essay. You do not need to copy this approach exactly; think of it as an extremely useful framework.

 

1st paragraph = 4 sentences
1. Hook (a question or statement that grabs the reader’s attention)
2. Restate the first point of view.
3. Restate the opposition.
4. State your thesis AND include the type of examples you will use.
2nd paragraph = at least 5 sentences
1. Introduction with a transition
2 – 4. Details about your example
5. A sentence that states how your example SPECIFICALLY supports your thesis
3rd paragraph = at least 5 sentences
1. Introduction to your example with a transition
2 – 4. Details about your example
5. A sentence that states how your example SPECIFICALLY supports your thesis
4th paragraph = at least 5 sentences
1. Introduction with a transition & an acknowledgement of the opposition
2 – 4. Details about your example
5. A sentence that states how your example SPECIFICALLY supports your thesis
OPTIONAL paragraph (helpful for scoring a 10 or above)
1. Introduction with a transition & an acknowledgement of the opposition
2 – 4. Details about your example
5. A sentence that states how your example SPECIFICALLY supports your thesis
Conclusion paragraph = 2 sentences
1. Use a concluding transition word, mention the examples you used and state that they clearly support your thesis
2. A Zinger (just like a hook, except it is used at the last sentence of the entire essay)
Educators debate extending high school to five years because of increasing demands on students from employers and colleges to participate in extracurricular activities and community service in addition to having high grades. Some educators support extending high school to five years because they think students need more time to achieve all that is expected of them. Other educators do not support extending high school to five years because they think students would lose interest in school and attendance would drop in the fifth year. In your opinion, should high school be extended to five years?
In your essay, take a position on this question. You may write about either one of the two points of view given, or you may present a different point of view on this question. Use specific reasons and examples to support your position.

Sample Essay Using Template


1st paragraph = 3 sentences
1. Hook (a question or statement that grabs the reader’s attention) Is high school really the best time of one’s life?
2. Restate the first point of view. Some people think that high school should be five years instead of four years long.
3. Restate the opposition. Others contend that extending the length of high school will not be beneficial for students.
4. State your thesis AND include the type of examples you will use. Schools should not change the four-year schedule because an additional year will cost too much money, students will lose motivation, and a fifth year would be stressful.
2nd paragraph = at least 5 sentences
1. Introduction with a transition. Even if high school is the pinnacle of one’s life, it cannot simply be extended without consequences.
2 – 4. Details about your example. In schools across the country, students are already suffering from budget cuts, and an extra year would simply compound the problem.  The most expensive part of any school district’s budget is teacher salaries, and it would take more teachers to staff the additional classes that a fifth year would require. No matter how much a fifth year might help, to take away from the existing budget would lead to fewer supplies to go around, larger class sizes, and further under-compensated educators.
5. A sentence that states how your example SPECIFICALLY supports your thesis. In short, no matter how enjoyable a fifth year may be to teenagers, schools simply cannot afford it.
3rd paragraph = at least 5 sentences
1. Introduction to your example with a transition. If money isn’t a compelling enough reason to deter districts from adding a fifth year, consider the universal plague of senior-itis.
2 – 4. Details about your example. Students as young as 14 complain that they are sick of high school and can’t wait for it to be over.  College sounds fun and exciting, and high school is the hurdle standing in the way.  High schoolers want to live in dorms, eat in a dining hall, and sleep in to noon.  To deny them of that opportunity for an entire year would decrease the likelihood of them following through with that dream.
5. A sentence that states how your example SPECIFICALLY supports your thesis. Really, the only cure for senior-itis is graduation, so prolonging that outcome will only dampen students’ spirits.
4th paragraph = at least 5 sentences
1. Introduction with a transition & an acknowledgement of the opposition. It is tempting to require a fifth year of high school to help teenagers develop life skills that are beneficial in the job market, but colleges provide that help without the added stress of attending a school that is determined based on geography alone.
2 – 4. Details about your example. High school students across America feel marginalized within their schools because they cannot find friends who have the same interests.  In small towns, everyone knows everyone else, and it is difficult to “re-invent” oneself.  College allows for personal and creative freedom that leads to self-assurance and general satisfaction.
5. A sentence that states how your example SPECIFICALLY supports your thesis. College is a much better time to learn about being an adult because it is much easier to envision oneself as an adult when the pressures of growing up aren’t constant stresses.
OPTIONAL paragraph (helpful for scoring a 10 or above)
1. Introduction with a transition. The process of advancing through high school as a springboard into advanced studies may not be perfect, but extending the journey could be disastrous.
2 – 4. Details about your example. Any issue that a high school currently faces will not get any better by adding a fifth year.  Everything from violence to drop-out rates to lack of interest in extracurricular programs will be exacerbated by the implementation of a fifth year of high school.  Even if enough support could be generated to institute such a measure, it would likely be reversed after seeing the ramifications.
5. A sentence that states how your example SPECIFICALLY supports your thesis. High schoolers have enough problems already, so making them stay in a place that suffers from a multitude of issues will not be in their best interest.
Conclusion paragraph = 2 sentences
1. Use a concluding transition word, mention the examples you used and state that they clearly support your thesis. In all, a fifth year of high school would cripple the already wounded system in terms of money, motivation, and stress.
2. A Zinger (just like a hook, except it is used at the last sentence of the entire essay). If America is truly concerned with helping its youth, people will make every effort to improve the four years of high school that we already have.
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