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Taking the Writing Portion of the ACT?

The Writing portion of the ACT is optional and does not impact your composite score. Unless you’re applying to a highly selective school, chances are your college will not place a great deal of emphasis on your Writing score. Why? Because the scoring method for the Writing portion of the ACT, unlike the rest of the test, is quite subjective. The scoring method involves judges that read your essay and assign it a score based on some fairly vague metrics. Unofficially, judges are unable to spend much time on grading each essay because they have so many to grade. This leads to judges skimming essays for key words and terms, paying more attention to introductory sentences, and, some say, how nice your handwriting is. The judges are not trying to give you an unfair score, but the nature of grading a handwritten essay is one of high subjectivity.


So, if you score fairly low on the Writing portion of the ACT, don’t sweat it. Colleges will pay far more attention to your actual ACT score than to your Writing score. That being said, there are a few things you can do to boost your score:


1. Use strong first and last sentences.

If I want to understand just the essence of what you have written, I am going to glance over the first and last sentences of your paragraphs. After all, the sentences in between will just contain details. Make sure the first and last sentences of each of your paragraphs can summarize, albeit a very basic summary, the gist of the paragraph.


2. Because of #1, write multiple short paragraphs.

Instead of writing five paragraphs of standard length, write 10 short paragraphs, each containing just four sentences or so. You’ll write about the same amount of content, but you will have divided the content up in a way that makes it easier for your reader to interpret quickly. If your first and last sentences are good, then you can state your case without writing fewer and longer paragraphs that your reader may never examine in detail. If you write short paragraphs, the reader never has to read in detail.


3. Use strong first and final paragraphs.

The first and final paragraphs should summarize your viewpoint on the topic presented to you in the Writing portion of the ACT. In your first paragraph, restate the possible viewpoints (ex: some students want school uniforms, while others do not). Then, state your view point (ex: School uniforms restrict personal choice and expression and should not be allowed.). Finally, list supporting reasons, then move on to paragraph two. Your final paragraph should summarize everything in a few sentences, so summarize and leave the essay alone. More detail will not help you here.