Writing Test Description for the ACT

If you register for the ACT with writing, you will take the writing section after the four multiple-choice sections. Your score in the writing section will not affect your scores on the multiple-choice or your Composite score.

The writing section is a 40-minute essay test that measures your writing skills—specifically, writing skills taught in high school English classes and in entry-level college composition courses.

The section consists of one writing prompt that describes a complex issue and provides three different perspectives on the issue. You are asked to read the prompt and write an essay in which you develop your own perspective on the issue. Your essay must analyze the relationship between your own perspective and one or more other perspectives. You may adopt one of the perspectives given in the prompt as your own, or you may introduce one that is completely different from those given. Your score will not be affected by the perspective you take on the issue.

Five scores are reported for the writing section: a single subject-level writing score reported on a scale of 2–12, and four domain scores that are based on an analytic scoring rubric. The subject score is the rounded average of the four domain scores. The four writing domains are:

Writing Skills Measured by the ACT Writing Test

Ideas and Analysis

Scores in this domain reflect the ability to generate productive ideas and engage critically with multiple perspectives on the given issue. Competent writers understand the issue they are invited to address, the purpose for writing, and the audience. They generate ideas that are relevant to the situation.

Development and Support

Scores in this domain reflect the ability to discuss ideas, offer rationale, and bolster an argument. Competent writers explain and explore their ideas, discuss implications, and illustrate through examples. They help the reader understand their thinking about the issue.


Scores in this domain reflect the ability to organize ideas with clarity and purpose. Organizational choices are integral to effective writing. Competent writers arrange their essay in a way that clearly shows the relationship between ideas, and they guide the reader through their discussion.

Language Use and Conventions

Scores in this domain reflect the ability to use written language to convey arguments with clarity. Competent writers make use of the conventions of grammar, syntax, word usage, and mechanics. They are also aware of their audience and adjust the style and tone of their writing to communicate effectively.

See sample essays or read test tips.

Get more information about how the writing test is scored.