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In response to the new, much more rigorous SAT Essay, the ACT is stepping up their essay for the Fall of 2015.  It is no surprise that the ACT is making such a change to the writing section, given that the ACT and SAT try to keep up with one another as far as testing rigor.  Here is a link to a new official practice ACT writing prompt:

What is remaining the same with the new ACT Essay?

  • It will still be optional.  Most colleges will want students to take it, but not all.
  • It will still be a single prompt.
  • It will still be scored between 2 and 12.
  • It will still NOT impact the overall 1-36 composite ACT score, but will be reported on the general score report.
  • It will continue to be a test of general writing and critical thinking ability–students will not need to have any specific background knowledge to respond.

What is changing with the new ACT Essay?

  • Students will be encouraged to gather their thoughts and pre-write more in-depth.  There will be a separate pre-writing sheet for this purpose.
  • The essay prompts will move away from the school & current event focus they currently have and shift more towards more general intellectual questions.
  • Students will have to evaluate three different perspectives on the topic.
  • Students will receive more comprehensive scoring.  In addition to the 2-12 overall score, they will receive scores in the following sub-domains:  ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use.
  • We do not yet know how long the new ACT Writing test will be.  I would imagine it will be in the 40-50 minute range as opposed to the current 30 minutes.  We should find this out in the coming months.

What can students do to prepare for the new ACT Writing test?

Work on their analytical writing skills by engaging in intellectual dialogue and argumentation, both spoken and written.  Students will be expected to do the following critical thinking tasks on the new essay:

  • Evaluate and analyze different perspectives.
  • State and develop their own perspectives.
  • Explain the relationship between their perspective and the perspectives provided in the prompt.

The more comfortable students become with being able to articulate their viewpoint and analyze the viewpoints of others, the easier this writing task will be.