Get 12 Act Essay Format

The New ACT Essay / Writing Section



Big news:  in an effort to make the test more accessible, and compete with the new SAT, the ACT has turned its Essay (Writing) section into a multiple-choice test. 

OK, not really.  But kind of.

As you may have heard by now, the ACT is changing the format of its Writing Test (a.k.a. the essay section).  Instead of 30 minutes to write, you are now given 40 minutes to write, and instead of being given only a prompt and an assignment, you will now be provided with a prompt, an assignment, and three different perspectives on the essay.  You are then asked to evaluate the different perspectives on the issue, to provide your own perspective, and to explain the relationship between your perspective and at least one other perspective, using examples, analysis and logic.  (In the words of the ACT, students are asked "to develop an argument that puts their own perspective in dialogue with others.")

Below is the exact prompt from a recent essay.  Please note that the assignment has been changed frequently, and that any ACT essay prep materials you use may not have been updated to reflect these changes.



The new essay will be scored out of of 12 points.  It will also be given a grade of 2-12 in the following areas:  Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, & Language Use and Conventions.  You can read more about those sub-scores here. 

While you're at it, you can read an example of a perfect-score essay from the makers of the ACT.  However, because I'm not a huge fan of the ACT's sample essay (it includes misspellings and is light on examples and structure),  I have also written my own example of a perfect-score ACT essay.  Here's another one I wrote as well. 

The ACT has released two free sample PDF essays in the new format, in addition to the 3 in the new book.  You can find them here and here (scroll to pages 54 and 55 of the new ACT diagnostic test).  If you need additional practice prompts, then I would recommend that you check out ACT tutor Shane Burnett's website, Mighty Oak Test Prep, where you can download 6 additional ACT prompts written by him.

Here is how I would classify the change, in general terms:

1) You are presented with a very unbiased account of a situation in our society.  Factual observations are made, and rhetorical questions asked, but no opinions or answers are provided. 

2) Three different perspectives are given on the issue, usually about two sentences each.  They are along the lines of yes / no / maybe, but of course the perspectives are more nuanced than that, since the question is no longer posited as a "true or false?" scenario. 

First Question: "Automation is generally seen as a sign of progress, but what is lost when we replace humans with machines?"

Second Question: "In a society that values both health and freedom, how do we best balance the two? How should we think about conflicts between personal health and public freedom?"

Overall, I would say that this is a positive change, even if it is a rather transparent (and abrupt!) reaction to the new SAT redesign.  The irony, of course, is that the SAT changed its format to more closely mirror that of the ACT, to which it is losing market share as students are increasingly opting out of the SAT to take the ACT instead.

Why is this a good change?  A couple of reasons: it gives you 10 more minutes to write, and instead of having to come up with your own perspectives on the question, they are provided for you already, and you can take your notes directly on the page, circling and underlining key terms and using them to structure your outline.  No more racking your brain, wondering what you are going to write about--nearly everything is already provided for you. 

Good luck!

-Brian
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copyright 2018 Brian R. McElroy
Founder and President, McElroy Tutoring Inc.
email: mcelroy@post.harvard.edu
Toll-Free: 1-866-584-TUTOR (8886), x 4
Direct (Call or Text): 619-889-2935
www.McElroyTutoring.com

 

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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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