“Do I have to write a lot?”
“How much is enough?”
“Should I have more short body paragraphs or fewer ones that are longer?”
Here’s what you need to keep in mind: QUALITY is much, much more important than quantity. Quantity is nice, too. But you should never, ever sacrifice good content and explanations for the sake of just writing more. Just adding information regardless of how cruddy it may be is never a good plan.
You do not have to write tons and tons of information. After all, you only get 30 minutes for crying out loud. What ACT is looking for is quality thinking, paired with a reasonable amount of quantity that develops the ideas.
So how much is enough? You should write 4 or 5 paragraphs total. One introduction, two or three body paragraphs, and a conclusion.
Notice how the number of body paragraphs you write is optional. Believe it or not, it is okay to write just two body paragraphs. You should write two body paragraphs if one of these conditions applies to you:
• You are a slow writer (like me!)
• You just have two points to argue, plain and simple
• You have a lot that you want to say about these two points
Since quality is more important than quantity, two body paragraphs will certainly get the job done IF your paragraphs have great thoughts inside of them. (If your paragraphs don’t have good thoughts inside of them, not even three or more paragraphs will get the job done.)
And when should you write three body paragraphs? You should consider including three body paragraphs if:
• You are a fast writer and adding a 3rd good paragraph is no problem
• You have three excellent reasons that deserve equal attention and development; there is something in your 3rd paragraph that you didn’t/couldn’t accomplish in the first two.
You must, must, must make sure that whatever you’re writing – in the intro, body, or conclusion – has quality, worthwhile ideas. You should never feel obligated to include a third body paragraph just because you feel obligated to compose a 5-paragraph essay.
Quality, not quantity, is what counts!
BUT – if you look at the sample essays, you’ll notice that the essays that receive the scores of 5 and 6 are the essays that are also the longest, usually. Moral of the story: if you can have BOTH quality AND quantity, then you are really in good shape.
When you’re preparing for the ACT Essay, train yourself to think of quality ideas first. Then, once you become more accustomed to thinking of quality ideas, focus on developing your ability to write them down quickly.
Quick Tips for achieving quality body paragraphs:
>No fluff! Don’t say the obvious, predictable, or vague.
>Get every sentence to accomplish something.
>Have a pre-determined paragraph structure that you can follow.
>Avoid a surface-level argument; go for more complex reasoning and considerations.
>Include counterarguments and others’ perspectives inside of each body paragraph.
There is a certain art to writing quality body paragraphs in short amounts of time. Take a look at the posts here on good body paragraphs, and you’ll learn lots of tricks for getting the maximum out of each body paragraph, whether you decide to write 2 or 3!