ACT Writing Test Tips

The ACT® Writing test is a 40-minute essay test that measures your writing skills—specifically, writing skills taught in high school English classes and entry-level college courses. (The writing test is optional.)  

The test 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.  

Scores are based on the average of four domain scores: ideas and analysis (ability to generate productive ideas and engage with multiple perspectives); development and support (ability to discuss ideas, offer rationale, and bolster an argument); organization (ability to organize ideas with clarity and purpose); and language use and conventions (ability to convey arguments with clarity by using correct grammar, syntax, and mechanics).   

Test-Taking Tips:

  • Plan
    • Budget your time. Determine how much time you will spend on planning, writing, and reviewing. Be ready to write directly from your outline since it is unlikely that you will have time to draft, review, and recopy your essay.
    • Understand the prompt. Before writing, carefully read and consider the prompt. Be sure you understand the issue, the different perspectives, and your task. 
    • Use the planning questions. Planning questions are included with the prompt and can help you analyze the different perspectives. Use these questions to think critically about the prompt and generate an effective response. (Planning questions are optional and not scored.) 
    • Structure your essay. Use the planning space in your test booklet to structure or outline your response before writing. 
  • Write 
    • Establish focus. Establish the focus of your essay by making your argument clear with organized ideas.  
    • Support your argument. Explain and illustrate your ideas with sound reasoning and meaningful examples. Discuss the significance of your ideas. Show why your argument is important to consider. 
    • Choose your words wisely. Use words that accurately and clearly communicate your ideas.  
  • Review
    • Check for errors. Take a few minutes before time is called to read over your essay and correct any mistakes. If you find words that are hard to read, rewrite them. 

Download the FREE ACT Practice Test for more ACT tips, strategies, and practice questions!