Writing Test Description for the ACT

Taking the writing test will not affect your scores on the multiple-choice tests or your Composite score. The ACT writing test is a 40-minute essay test that measures your writing skills—specifically, those writing skills taught in high school English classes and in entry level college composition courses. The test describes an issue and provides three different perspectives on the issue. You are asked to (1) analyze and evaluate the perspectives given, (2) state and develop your own perspective on the issue, and (3) explain the relationship between your perspective and those given.

Note: Your score will not be affected by the perspective you take on the issue.

You will receive a total of five scores for this test: a single subject-level writing score reported on a range of 2-12, and four domain scores, also 2-12, that are based on an analytic scoring rubric.

Note: The subject score is the rounded average of the four domain scores.

Writing Skills Measured by the ACT Writing Test

If you take the writing test, you will receive a subject-level writing score as well as four domain scores. The domain scores are based on the analytic rubric used to score the essays, whereas the subject-level score is calculated from the four domain scores. The four domain scores correspond to the following dimensions of writing competency:

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.