Writing Skills < Thinking Skills
Contrary to what many people believe about the ACT Essay, this is not just some writing assignment to test your writing skills. What ACT is really testing is your ability to think in a complex, sophisticated way. So don’t be misled into believing that you just need to sound fluid or have good grammar. Good sentences and grammar are important, but some of the last things that ACT is going to use to determine your score!
Good ideas – sophisticated ways of looking at things – are of the utmost importance. Writing is just the way these ideas are communicated to others. The first thing you need to have when you want to be a good writer is good ideas that are worth sharing. And good ideas lead to good writing.
If you think about it, a vast majority of essays that the graders read will all basically say the same thing. There won’t be anything interesting, compelling, complex, or worthwhile in them – and graders will easily tire of this chore. Then, when they do read those rare essays that do genuinely have thoughtful, meaningful ideas inside of them, they are extremely likely to give it a higher score.
Don’t you want your essay to stand out? Then make sure it has good ideas!
How do I have “good thinking” on this ACT Essay?
When you are preparing for this essay test, you want to spend as much time dedicated to practicing “thinking” as you do writing. Here are some tools you can take advantage of to exercise your mind in this capacity:
1. Use the Prompt Analysis tool on this site before actually writing any of practice essays. Normally, students take about an hour to complete all of the analysis guide’s questions at first, and then over time get faster and faster at it. Eventually, you want to be able to answer all of this guide’s questions and compose an outline in about five minutes.
2. Always take “multiple viewpoints” into consideration. The ACT Writing wants to make sure that you aren’t just some ignorant high school kid who likes to yell about something. Truly intelligent “thinkers” are able to understand what others think and why they think that way.
3. Consider the “context” for your argument. This means that you need to understand what larger issue is actually at stake. If the prompt is about if students should be able to say negative things about their school on Facebook, then don’t just say, “Yes, students can say whatever they want on Facebook.” Talk about how it’s an issue related to freedom of speech, students’ rights, and so on. That’s context.
4. Have good examples and thorough explanations. Just having good, solid body paragraphs goes a long way. The more concrete examples you have, and the more explanation you provide that goes along with those examples, the better and deeper your thinking will be.
Remember that the ACT Writing portion wants you to prove that you are able to think about things in ways that are deeper than the average kid. Taking a relatively simple prompt and showing the viewpoints, issues, and explanations related to it will go a long way in making your thinking stand out!