How To Master the ACT Writing Section

If you’re in high school, and are a junior or a senior, there’s a good chance that you’re already turning your attention ahead to college. More specifically, you are probably researching schools and trying to determine where you want to go. Do you want a traditional four-year university? A community college? An online school? A school, such as Argosy University, that combines elements of online and traditional teaching? Do you prefer an institution that is public or private? There are certainly many questions to ask yourself at this point.

But before you start spending all your free time browsing CollegeBoard.com or Online-Degree.com, it is important that you take the necessary steps to improve your candidacy at whatever school you ultimately choose. This means working to maintain (or boost) your grades, adding extracurricular and volunteer work to diversify your application, and taking the SAT or the ACT so that you can be considered for admission in the first place.

Originally used primarily by Midwestern schools, the ACT has grown considerably in usage and popularity in recent decades, and it now surpasses the SAT in many regards. In 2005, the ACT added a 30-minute writing section at the end of its administration. The writing section, scored on a scale from 6 to 12, has become increasingly useful in recent years to colleges that seek to assess the expository skills of their applicants.

There’s a good chance, then, that the ACT and the ACT writing section will fall somewhere on your path from high school to your dream college. Here are a few tips for easily boosting your scaled score and mastering the writing section:

Have an introduction and a conclusion. Even if your introduction seems weak and your conclusion is only a couple sentences long, breaking up your essay into the standard expository format can translate into an automatic 2 point boost on your scaled score.

Pick a side and stick to it. The ACT graders don’t care which side of an argument you support. They do care, however, that you support one side and present an explicit opinion to that effect. A student that vacillates between the two viewpoints will not be viewed favorably when grading occurs.

In the introduction, start general and end with a thesis. No matter what the essay topic, starting the introduction with a broad observation and ending it with a prescriptive thesis is sure to immediately put your essay in the top half of scorers. If the essay question is: “Should high school seniors get parking privileges over underclassmen?,” you may want to start your essay with this generic statement: “People have long debated whether seniority should entail special privileges at school.” You can then provide a couple filler sentences and then transition to your thesis statement: “Seniors should (or should not) get parking privileges for reasons X, Y, and Z.” This is a standard thesis format that can be used for any essay.

Think outside the box. Picking a side of the argument and then giving obvious supporting reasons can leave you with an essay that receives solid scores. But if you want to fall in the 10 to 12 range, you can get an added point or two by thinking outside the box. Using our previous example, a standard argument for senior parking privileges may be that there needs to be some sort of method to determine spots, it’s fair because everyone will eventually become a senior, and seniors are usually more responsible by virtue of their age. An out-of-the-box reason, however, may be that seniors might need to often leave school during the day for college interviews or internships.

Acknowledge the opposing view. Acknowledging that the other side of the argument has some validity will get you 1 to 2 easy points on the writing section. Don’t go on and on about the strengths of the opposition, simply provide one sentence where you point out an argument on the other side.

These are the main ways you can boost your score on the ACT writing section. While it may be difficult to improve the quality of your writing and of your grammar, any student should be able to learn these tips and then apply them when the time comes.

By Jennifer Smith

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, February 28th, 2012 at 8:52 am and is filed under Colleges, Tips. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

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