New Act Essay Writing Section

Perfect the New ACT Essay / Writing Section

Step-by-Step process for ACT essay writing

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The key to this new essay is planning. The students who get the best scores on these essays are the ones who plan out every element of their essays in advance, leaving nothing to chance.

If you just “start writing” without thoroughly planning your essay beforehand, you’re in trouble. However, if you take the time to plan everything out, getting a perfect score will be a walk in the park.

Quick side note: If you’re looking for a proven ACT prep system to help you write a flawless essay check out my ACT prep program. It is built on my proven tactics and methodologies and has an average user score improvement of over +4.66 points.

ACT Essay: Stage One, Planning

1. Figure out which of the three arguments you agree with most. This isn’t rocket science, and there’s no wrong answer. Take a look at the three options and pick the one that instantly strikes you as the most obviously correct.

Key Point: you’re not required to “bring information” to this test.You will never be required to understand any specific scientific, historical, literary, or political concepts to write these essays effectively. Any and all information required will be provided to you. As long as you understand what technology is, you’re good to go. There’s no need to study up on different topics before you write these essays. So long as you don’t live under a rock, you’ll be able to write them without any problems.

So don’t get paralysis by analysis. You are not going to be graded based on which side you pick. All three are there for a reason – they’re all equally valid in the minds of the test maker and the test grader. All you need to do is pick the one that seems most correct to you.

I’ll pick the middle one – Perspective Two. It’s the one that I agree with most, so I’ll pick it. Onward.

2. Write a single sentence that encapsulates the idea of the Perspective you choose.

This is called your thesis. It’s the most important sentence of your entire essay. Every single word that you write is there ONLY to support your thesis.

It might be the most important sentence in your essay, but it’s also the simplest one to write. You don’t need to get fancy here.

Key Point: the ACT does NOT give you points for being “fancy.” It TAKES AWAY points for being unclear or irrelevant.You don’t need to write like Shakespeare. In fact, doing so would get you in a lot of trouble. Instead, you just need to make your case as simply, clearly, and straightforwardly as possible.

Here’s my thesis sentence: “Advanced machines will make the world a better place.” Again, this isn’t Shakespeare – it’s just simplifying the Perspective into a single sentence.

3. Write a single sentence encapsulating the other two Perspectives.

In order to write a clear essay, you need to have an incredibly simple idea of what you’re arguing for or against. By going through this process, you’ll have a pure, clear idea of what you’re arguing, and also what you’re arguing against. If you get caught up in all the wording of the Perspectives, you’ll get in trouble. This is a way of boiling it down. Here are my attempts at both:

  • Perspective One: New machines make us worse people and get rid of our humanity.
  • Perspective Three: New machines will push and challenge humanity in a beneficial way.

So there we have it. We now have all three perspectives boiled down into their simplest forms. Now we’re cooking with gas. But what do we do with these simplified arguments?

4. Write a SPECIFIC example that proves that each of the three simplified sentences is true in “notation” form. You don’t need to write down a full, beautiful sentence. Just come up with one specific, real-world example that somewhat proves the point. You do not want to come up with generalities here – just come up with the first thing you can think of that proves the point. And remember: because you don’t need to know anything about these topics, these examples will be very obvious.

Here are my examples:

  • Perspective: Advanced machines will make the world a better place.Example: New machinery can harvest more food at farms, which means that underprivileged people will have more food, and everyone will be able to eat more affordably.

    Notice that this isn’t some insanely sophisticated point – it’s just an obvious fact, and the first one that I thought of. How do new machines make the world better? They can farm stuff efficiently. Done.

  • Perspective: New machines make us worse people and get rid of our humanity.Example: My coffee shop got replaced by a vending machine. Now I don’t talk to anyone all morning, and I feel lonely.

P.S. – this isn’t even true. But the test makers won’t know. You don’t have to reference a New York Times article or some profound personal experience. Just think of some believable, relevant, specific fact that somehow proves your sentence.

  • Perspective: New machines will push and challenge humanity in a beneficial way.Example: A new workout machine at my gym pushes you at special angles with special resistance, which grows your muscles very efficiently.

Again – this isn’t true. But it’s believable and obviously proves the point at hand. You do NOT need “brilliant” points here. You do NOT need to present a Nobel Prize-winning example – it JUST needs to be RELEVANT.

Now you have your thesis, summaries of all the other perspectives, and evidence to prove all of them. Now we’re going to repeat the exercise again, with a slight twist:

5. Come up with ANOTHER specific reason why YOUR Perspective is true.

Same deal. Just come up with another example. Here’s mine:

  • Perspective: Advanced machines will make the world a better place.

“New machines in hospitals will be able to save more people’s lives and lead to a happier and less dangerous world.”

Pretty easy, right?eat the exercise again, with a slight twist:

6. Come up with two specific reasons why the OTHER perspectives are NOT true!

You have two goals with this essay. The first is to pick and prove your point. The second is to analyze and then discredit the other two points. You need to be fair and acknowledge the validity of the other points of view – but you eventually need to shut them down. That’s why you need to come up with specific examples of why these other points stink. Here are my examples:

  • Perspective: New machines make us worse people and get rid of our humanity.Specific example of why this is false:

    I have a new machine that lets me talk to my grandmother in California. I’m now more connected with her.

    This is not that creative. It’s just obvious. Sure, machines can make us bad people – but they can also make us good people!

  • Perspective: New machines will push and challenge humanity in a beneficial way.Specific example of why this is false:

    Machines will put lots of people out of work. This might challenge them, but if they can’t get back on their feet right away, it might ruin their lives and the lives of their families.

    Again, this is pretty obvious stuff. Sure, being “challenged” is good – but only to a point. If I have eight kids to feed and a machine takes my job, I will not appreciate it.

    Presto. You now have your thesis, summaries of all the other points, two examples to support your thesis, and both a confirming and a contradictory example for the other two points.

    Now it’s time to bake this cake! And for that, we move on to stage two.

ACT Essay: Stage Two, Writing

You now have everything you need to write your essay. All the ingredients are in place. You know what you think and you have reasons for thinking it. You also know what you don’t think, and can both support those other Perspectives and tear them down. Now it’s time to put that all into a cohesive structure.

Your essay is going to be five paragraphs long – no more and no less.This might sound like a lot, but all you have to do is plug your information in and you’ll be good to go! Here’s how this is going to look on a very basic scale:

Paragraph One:
  • Here’s my opinion.
  • Here’s a general reason why I think it.
  • Here’s a specific reason why I think it.
  • However, there are other opinions.
  • My opinion is best, but it’s important to look at the others, so let’s do that.
Paragraph Two:
  • Some people think this.
  • There are some reasons why.
  • However, they haven’t thought of THIS reason why not.
  • Overall, this perspective is flawed.
  • My perspective is better, but there’s another one we need to look at.
Paragraph Three:
  • Some people think THIS.
  • There are some reasons why.
  • However, they haven’t thought of THIS reason why not.
  • Overall, this perspective is flawed, too.
  • Which brings me back to my perspective.
Paragraph Four:
  • My perspective is clearly the best.
  • Here’s another general reason why.
  • Here’s another specific reason why.
  • Here’s why that matters.
Paragraph Five:
  • My perspective is awesome.
  • Some think other perspective, but that’s wrong.
  • Some think OTHER perspective, but THAT’S wrong, too!
  • My perspective is the greatest.
  • I’m outta here / “Ta-Da!”

If you practice and memorize this “template,” you’ll get a perfect or near-perfect score on every ACT essay that you write. It’s effective, and it’s very simple to memorize and master.

Think of the three requirements for this essay (as given on the official assignment sheet):

  1. Analyze and evaluate the perspectives given. Done. You do a thorough analysis and run through of all three.
  2. State and develop your own perspective. Done. You pick the one you like best and then “make it your own” through evidence and rewording.
  3. Explain the relationship between your perspective and those given. Done. We used the body paragraphs not just to talk about the other perspectives, but also to compare them to yours and minimize them in comparison!

Now you just need to follow the template and plug everything in. I want you to read an example of my first paragraph to see how this works:

Template, as a reminder:

Paragraph One:
  • Here’s my opinion.
  • Here’s a general reason why I think it.
  • Here’s a specific reason why I think it.
  • However, there are other opinions.
  • My opinion is best, but it’s important to look at the others, so let’s do that.

Paragraph (I’m going to space out each sentence so you can see where all five come in):

Advanced machines will make the world a better place for humankind.

Progress in our technology will allow us to make vast improvements in every element of our lives and the lives of our neighbors, covering everything from healthcare to food production.

For example, even modest improvements in the machines we use to farm have led to lower food prices and significantly lowered global starvation rates.

However, there are those who feel that advances in our machinery can also lead to different benefits, and to significant problems.

Though the improvements in our machinery stand to benefit mankind in almost every way, it’s essential that we take a look at different perspectives on the issue.

Key Point: my “general” sentence (sentence 2) is just a “layup” to my specific example that I already thought up. A general reason is an idea, whereas an example is a specific fact. A few examples to show you what I mean:

  • General reason: puppies are cute
  • Specific fact: puppies have soft fur, big eyes, and love everyone
  • General reason: dictators are bad

Specific fact: dictators often imprison their citizens for no reason and deprive them of basic human rights

  • General reason: Joe is socially awkward

Specific fact: Joe talks to the wall at parties and hides in the bushes when people approach him
See the difference? So long as you have this down, you can knock out this paragraph in no time.

Quick side note: Take a look at my online programs if you want a full course on writing a flawless essay – I cover the entire process of general–>specific information much more thoroughly in the Green ACT System and my ACT MasterClass.

Let’s move on:

Paragraph Two:
  • Some people think this.
  • There are some reasons why.
  • However, they haven’t thought of THIS reason why not. Overall, this perspective is flawed.
  • My perspective is better, but there’s another one we need to look at.

Paragraph (I’m going to space out each sentence so you can see where all five come in):

There are those who feel that new machines make us worse people, stripping us of our humanity.

In some small ways, this might be true. For instance, my coffee shop recently replaced their baristas with vending machines. Now, I go all morning without interacting with a single person.

However, for every time that machines separate us from humanity, they can connect us in many more ways. As an example, I recently bought an iPad, which allows me to Skype with my grandmother in California. I’m closer to her now than I’ve ever been in the past.

Sure, some machines may replace our day to day human interactions, but in most cases, they actually connect us more deeply to the ones we love!

Progress in machinery is a boon to all of mankind, pushing us into new spheres of connectedness and closeness. However, some see another benefit to the progress of our machines.

Paragraph Three:
  • Some people think THIS.
  • There are some reasons why.
  • However, they haven’t thought of THIS reason why not.
  • Overall, this perspective is flawed.
  • Which brings me back to my perspective.

Paragraph (I’m going to space out each sentence so you can see where all five come in):

Some proponents of technological advancement feel that new machines will push and challenge humanity in a beneficial way.

Indeed, there are some new inventions that can truly push humans to their limits. For instance, a new workout machine at my gym uses biometric input signals to calculate precise enhancements in angular resistance, building muscle at twice the speed of a regular workout.

However, while challenges can sometimes be helpful, they can often be more problematic than beneficial. A recent example: new machines will put lots of people out of work. This might challenge them, but if they can’t get back on their feet right away, it might ruin their lives and the lives of their families.

Pushing people to their limits can sometimes help them, but if these challenges go unchecked, they can truly harm the people they’re meant to help. For that reason, I don’t feel that these “pushes” should always be seen as a benefit.

All of that being said, the benefits surrounding new technology are still very real.

Paragraph Four:
  • My perspective is clearly the best.
  • Here’s another general reason why.
  • Here’s another specific reason why.
  • Here’s why that matters.

Paragraph (I’m going to space out each sentence so you can see where all five come in):

Each new advancement in machine technology represents an enormous potential improvement for the conditions of humanity.

New machines won’t just improve the lives of all the people who are exposed to them – they’ll also be able to create and save lives that may never otherwise have had a chance to experience our world.

For instance, a new robot being used at hospitals has been able to save heart patients at a 95% success rate who used to survive only 20% of procedures prior to the machine’s invention.

These are individuals who were nearly beyond saving, who now get to experience and contribute to our world thanks to the wonders of advanced machinery. Not only do they benefit, but they also get to help support their families and friends, and contribute to their families, their friends, and our world.

Paragraph Five:
  • My perspective is awesome.
  • Some think other perspective, but that’s wrong.
  • Some think OTHER perspective, but THAT’S wrong, too!
  • My perspective is the greatest.
  • I’m outta here / “Ta-Da!”

Paragraph (I’m going to space out each sentence so you can see where all five come in):

With each new advance in machine technology, humanity has a new way to survive and thrive in an increasingly complex world.

There are those who feel that machines will strip us of our humanity. However, more often than that, machines actually contribute to our interconnectedness and the quality of our lives.

Some feel that machines’ benefits will come in the form of challenges. However, these challenges are the very things that new machines will help us to overcome!

As we continue to improve our relationship with machines, we’ll continue to brighten the outlook of the human story.

It’s only a matter of time before a machine will be able to write this essay for me!

And That’s All, Folks!

A lot of people have trouble believing that a format this simple could secure a high score. I get asked one question in particular on a nearly daily basis:

Isn’t this ridiculously formulaic? If everyone wrote an essay like this, wouldn’t they get penalized for writing basically the same essay as everyone else?

This is actually a great, totally logical question. But there are a few things you need to know:

1. Everyone WON’T write an essay like this, because the vast majority of students don’t prepare nearly enough, or don’t think they can prepare at all.

Of the millions of students who take this test every year, the vast majority are totally and utterly unprepared. If you take the time to master this simple format, you’ll be one of the very few students who actually writes a properly structured essay. Everyone else will be flailing in the wind. They might not have any idea how to write a good ACT essay, but hey…at least they’ll be original?
2. You don’t GAIN points for original thoughts – you LOSE points for screwing up!

The ACT writing / essay section is graded by subtraction. You don’t “win points for
saying smart stuff” and “making great arguments” (all of which are opinions and can’t be used by graders). Instead, you lose points when you make mistakes. These mistakes need to be objective (based on fact). Some of them are:

  • Lack of a clear thesis
  • Lack of clear topic sentences
  • Lack of a thread
  • Failure to address all perspectives
  • Lack of an introduction
  • Lack of a conclusion

For a full guide on all the mistakes that’ll lose you points, you can check out my my ACT prep programs. However, the main idea is this: so long as your essay does everything it should, and doesn’t go off topic, you’ll get a perfect or near-perfect score.

Was my essay original? Profound? “Smart?” Not at all. This was the sort of argument that anyone with a basic awareness of “robots” could make. But do you know what I think? Do you know why I think it? Do you know why I don’t agree with the other perspectives? Did I provide relevant evidence? Yes, you certainly do.

My essay did everything that it needed to in order to avoid losing points. If you can pull that off, the essay graders can’t help but give you a perfect score.

Two more questions I need to answer:

How Am I Supposed to Memorize This?

This may surprise you, but – practice.

If you want to use this methodology, you need to memorize all the planning elements and how to use them. You have to be able to quickly and automatically pick a perspective, write a thesis, boil down the perspectives into simple sentences, and pick evidence and anti-evidence for all of them.

Then, you need to memorize and utilize my templates and practice “plugging material in” so often that you don’t even need to think about what you’re writing next. You need to practice this so often that using it feels like using the pythagorean theorem – just plug A in here, B in here, and C in there, and boom – you’re finished.

You should practice to the point where you’re not even thinking consciously about using the template. It’s just something that happens when you write.

That might take you four essays, or it might take you fifteen. Just keep going until it’s automatic. And if that sounds like a bunch of work, it is. But if you want to get a high score on your ACT essay / writing section, you’ll put it in. Remember the cardinal rule of test prep: If someone tells you that preparing for these tests is easy, they’re lying. Anyone can do well on the ACT, but it takes work. If you put in the work, you’ll be separating yourself from the millions of students each year who aren’t willing to do so. And your ACT scores are all about comparison. I’ll leave the decision up to you.

How do you write sentences like that? How do you so easily come up with all of this evidence, all these transitions, all these general statements, etc.?

This is a bit more complex. Practice, as per usual, is still essential – but you also need the right strategies and the right tools at your disposal. If you’re interested in learning a ton of additional tools that’ll help you to:

  • Instantly craft and generate relevant evidence that you can plug into any essay
  • Write flawless transitions between paragraphs
  • Fill all the pages provided in the time limits given while still devoting time to planning
  • Craft “generality” and “so what” statements that you can directly tie to all your writing in seconds
  • Write more complex, vocab-rich sentences and say the same things without sounding like you’re repeating yourself
  • Craft perfect introductions and conclusions that engage the essay reader and set you up for a favorable score
  • Avoid every single mistake that loses you points, leading to a perfect score on every essay you write, regardless of the topic or “how good of a writer you are”

Then I recommend checking out one of my online ACT programs. In addition to a full, step-by-step essay and writing course, you’ll also receive record-breaking strategies, practice drills, and study plans to help you master the English, math, reading, and science sections of the ACT.

The students using my programs improve their scores by over 4.66 points on average, so check it out if you want prep that really works.

Whether or not you decide to use my programs, I hope that you’ll take the lessons in this guide and put them to immediate use! Anyone can get amazing ACT scores, and the new ACT essay provides a particularly beautiful chance to prepare – so long as you follow the planning steps, use the template, and memorize this process, you’re going to rock this thing!

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A reminder: If you’re eager to succeed with a proven ACT prep system to help you write a flawless essay check out my ACT prep program. It is built on my proven tactics and methodologies and has an average user score improvement of over +4.66 points.

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