ACT Writing Format & Basic Info

What is the ACT Writing Test? Why is it optional?

The optional ACT Writing Test, which is always administered at the end of the test, is 30 minutes long. All essays must be in response to a given prompt. The prompts are about a social issue applicable to high school students. You are asked to respond to a question about your position on the issue described in the writing prompt. In doing so, you may adopt one or the other of the perspectives described in the prompt, or you may present a different point of view on the issue. Your score will not be affected by the point of view you take on the issue.

The Writing Test is fairly new to the ACT. It was added to the test in 2005, and it was decided that the test would be optional in order to be accommodating to the differing needs of both individual students and individual institutions.

Should I take the ACT Writing Test?

Each institution and program of study differs in their requirement for the ACT Writing Test. Be sure to check and see if the program or school you are interested in requires or prefers their students to take the ACT Writing Test.

Although each person is different, many people suggest that students should take the ACT writing test. It is quite comparable to writing assessments required by most school districts, and there is evidence that taking this test and doing well will increase your chance at getting into the college or university of your choice, even if they do not require it of all of their students. There is also the chance that the requirements of your chosen school will change in the future to require the Writing exam.

What is the format of the Writing test?

You will be given a writing prompt which addresses a social issue. An effort will be made to make this prompt something that is relevant to you as a high school student. You will respond to the prompt in an expository essay in which you take a position on the question while still addressing alternative points of view. The test is scored based on how you present your position, not on the position itself.

The test is hand-written with a No. 2 pencil (the same type required for the rest of the test). You will be given 30 minutes to complete the essay.

What general academic skills will I need?

This test is formulated to be similar to essays that you are required to write in school. The ability to write an organized essay with logical arguments and using proper grammar and language is very important. The ability to consider differing points of view and to make real life connections to the issues addressed in the prompt will also be beneficial.

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