The New ACT Essay
Your Full Guide to ACT Writing Section
Since September of 2015, the ACT essay / writing section has gone through a radical change. And that’s amazing news for you.
The ACT essay was always easy to master with a bit of practice and the right techniques. However, the new ACT essay is even easier to perfect than the old one ever could have been. This short guide will teach you exactly what’s changing, how to prepare for the new essay, and how to take full advantage of this new format.
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Why did ACT test change?
Honestly, unless you’re in the education business, you probably don’t care too much about the details. The short version: the ACT is trying to fit the CORE curriculum in the long-term hope of becoming a viable high school equivalency exam. By providing an essay that more closely matches and tests CORE standards, they’re hoping that they’ll continue dominating the SAT and become the obvious choice for American high school students. Again, this is amazing news. The CORE is extremely straightforward (and doesn’t incorporate any “tricks” or logical reasoning elements).
The new “CORE-friendly” ACT essay / writing portion just makes this test more beatable than it already was. I’ll leave the rest to the ACT’s PR team. For now, let’s get into what you should do about it.
What is Different?
The old ACT writing / essay section gave you a simple prompt, then asked you to take a side on that prompt and argue your point. The basic format looked something like this:
“Watching TV can be bad for your brain. However, sometimes it’s educational, so some people think it’s good for your brain. So in your opinion, do you think that TV is good or bad?
In your essay, take a position on this question. You may write about either one of the two points of view given, or you may present a different point of view on this question. Use specific reasons and examples to support your position.”
The old format couldn’t have been any simpler. “Here are two opinions on a topic. Pick one and then write about it for a few paragraphs.”
The new ACT writing / essay format is much more complicated. But here’s the funny thing:
while the new ACT writing / essay FORMAT is much more complex, the process of WRITING these essays has become VASTLY SIMPLER.
Here’s what it looks like now:
Take the time to read through all of this and really get a feel for what the new ACT writing / essay section looks like. Once you do, we shall move on:
How Do You Write This Thing
(and why is it so much easier)?
In the old ACT essay, you only had to do one thing – pick a side and argue it. Now, you have to do so much! You need to evaluate three different arguments, you need to come up with your own argument, and then you have to relate your argument to the three arguments given. Oh, the humanity!
But here’s the thing: in the old version of the ACT essay, you had to both come up with an argument and come up with the reasons why you support it. In the new ACT essay, all of the arguments and reasoning behind them is provided for you!
It’s the difference between being asked to “make lasagna or pizza for dinner tonight” and “grabbing something off the McDonald’s dollar menu.” Sure, there are more options on the McDonald’s menu – but they’re already cooked for you!
At first, it seems like there’s a ton more to do. In reality, the ACT is doing all of the hard work for you! All you need to do is read carefully, pick what you like, and then follow a simple process to “plug in your opinion.”