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The 2016 ACT® writing test is more rigorous than ever before. Students are encouraged more than ever to practice their argumentative and writing skills with plenty of time before they take the writing test, so that they are as prepared as possible for the new changes. Be sure to research online or in print books for updated writing prompts, tips for writing fast and effective argumentative and compare and contrast essays, and how to reduce test anxiety so that you are ready for any challenges and comfortable during the test.

What to expect:

You have 40 minutes to answer one question that will measure your writing skills, specifically those that you were supposed to learn in high school English. The test provides some sort of issue, for example, “Discuss the possible perspectives of the increasing presence of intelligent machines.” You will then be given a number of different perspectives and told to evaluate and analyze each of them for the purposes of forming your own opinion and comparing it with the ones given.

Though the writing test does not impact your overall ACT score, the writing portion will serve as an indicator of your general writing and critical thinking abilities to any potential colleges. Some colleges and programs don’t require you to take the writing portion and some require you to achieve a certain score, so be sure to contact your potential colleges to see of their specific admittance requirements.

The ACT website states that instead “of one holistic score, students will receive four domain scores, each reflecting a key dimension of writing competency. They will also receive a subject-level Writing Score and an English Language Arts (ELA) Score on the familiar 1-36 scale. This allows for precise evaluation of student writing and a more detailed score report.”

Boosting your score:

Practice, practice, practice. The only way to get better at writing is to practice. Take practice tests, free and paid, invest in a good prep guide, refer to ACT.org for sample essays and writing prompts, and be sure to practice writing these same types of questions in a limited timeframe as well. Be sure that any advice you find online is from a credible and up-to-date source.

Ask your parents to help you come up with new situations and perspectives, and then have them and/or your teachers help you assess each of your practice runs for four key factors:

  • Ideas and Analysis
  • Development and Support
  • Organization
  • Language Use and Conventions

Getting feedback from mentors is essential to your success. Feedback helps you understand how different people will interpret your writing and help you be more apt to cover any question that the test scorers might have. Ensure that you are able to anticipate key problems that readers want to know.

Reading published essays will also help to hone your writing skills by giving you examples of quality work. The more reading and writing you do, practicing writing as a process and incorporating all of the steps from brainstorming to editing, will ensure that you are thoroughly prepared for the ACT writing test.

Finally, practice writing in different forms and for different purposes. Try writing an unbiased story for a newspaper. Practice writing from different perspectives, for example as your favorite author in their own time period. Write narratives, poems, editorials, fiction, and nonfiction. Being a versatile writer is all about being creative, knowing the writing process, and be able to respond and react to social problems and situations in a unique and constructive way.

Everyone can improve their writing skills. Preparing months in advance will give you the confidence and skills needed to score high on the ACT writing test.