Content of ACT Writing Test
The writing test describes an issue and provides three different perspectives on the issue. You are asked to "evaluate and analyze" the perspectives, to "state and develop" your own perspective, and to "explain the relationship" between your perspective and those given.
The test also offers guidance and structure for planning and pre-writing, but planning and pre-writing are optional and do not count toward the score. Your score will also not be affected by the perspective you take on the issue.
Your essay will be evaluated based on the evidence that it provides of your ability to do the following:
Analyze and evaluate multiple perspectives on a complex issue.
State and develop your own perspective on the issue.
Explain and support your ideas with logical reasoning and detailed examples.
Clearly and logically organize your ideas in an essay.
Effectively communicate your ideas in standard written English.
Trained readers will evaluate your essay for the evidence it provides of a number of core writing skills. These readers will consider four key dimensions of your essay:
- Ideas and Analysis
- Development and Support
- Language Use and Conventions
Ideas and Analysis
Effective writing depends on effective ideas. It is important to think carefully about the issue in the prompt and compose an argument that addresses the issue meaningfully. In evaluating the ideas and analysis in your essay, readers will look for your ability to do the following:
- Generate a clear main idea that establishes your perspective on the issue
- Engage with multiple perspectives on the issue by analyzing the relationship between your perspective and at least one other perspective
- Clarify your understanding of the issue and differing perspectives on it by providing a relevant context for discussion
- Analyze critical elements (e.g., implications and complexities) of the issue and perspectives under consideration
Development and Support
Even the best ideas must be developed and supported to be effective in a written argument. By explaining and illustrating your points, you help the reader understand your thinking. In evaluating this dimension of your essay, readers will look for your ability to do the following:
- Clarify your ideas by explaining your reasoning
- Bolster your claims with persuasive examples
- Convey the significance of your perspective by exploring reasons why your ideas are worth considering
- Extend your argument by considering qualifications, exceptions, counterarguments, and complicating factors
Organizational choices are essential to effective writing. Guide the reader through your discussion by arranging your ideas according to the logic of your argument. As readers evaluate the organization of your essay, they will look for your ability to do the following:
- Unify your essay by making strategic use of a controlling idea and other organizational techniques (e.g., theme or motif)
- Group ideas clearly, with each paragraph limited to the discussion of related ideas
- Produce a sequence of ideas that follows a clear logic, both in terms of the argument’s overall structure (e.g., introduction, body, conclusion) and within the argument itself, with each point following from the last
- Use transitions to connect ideas, both within paragraphs (e.g., relating claims to support) and across paragraphs (e.g., moving from one discussion into another)
Language Use and Conventions
Skillful language use enhances argumentative writing. Strategic choices in the vocabulary you use and the style you employ can make your essay more effective. To evaluate your use of language, readers will look for your ability to do the following:
- Make precise word choices that communicate your ideas with clarity
- Demonstrate control over a variety of sentence structures
- Match the style of your writing to the audience and purpose (e.g., more evocative language to convey emotional appeals versus a more neutral voice to convey an argument based on reason)
- Accurately apply the conventions of grammar, word usage, syntax, and mechanics