ACT or SAT testing is required by many colleges for students to qualify their as applicants. Although all schools are bound to accept the results of both ACT and SAT without discrimination, some advanced colleges highly recommend taking ACT together with optional essay writing part. Hence, if you plan to apply to these colleges (check their requirements in advance), you need to prepare and pass ACT in full package. If questions of the exam depend on your knowledge and not skills of a writer, then essay completing will require additional training on your part.
But this training and understanding of principles that define a good ACT essay will definitely boost your chances at scoring 12 and getting into the college of your choice. In this guide, we aim to explain how a 12-mark essay stands out and how you can create an essay that is really close to these high rate examples.
Specifics of the Essay
ACT essay has its formula and is written according to a given prompt. Yes, you do not have to brainstorm a cool topic to write on, you just need to take a look at it and what is said and write your unique (integrated and yours only) perspective on the proposed issue.
The bad news is that you will have only 40 minutes to do everything – planning, writing, and proofreading, so careful time planning is the key. Besides, you will have to rely on perspectives proposed to you, and choose and develop the one that appeals to you most. So even if you do not accept any of the suggested perspectives, you will have to integrate them into your writing in order to demonstrate your understanding of the task and the ability to work with suggested materials.
Your essay will be read by two separate evaluators. They will have only 2-3 minutes for your writing. So your main task is to present your ideas in a logical order and shape them as clear as possible. If they both understand at once what you want to say and see that you can provide evidence and explain how it supports your ideas, then they will give you 5 or even 6 points each. Together their points total to 12.
Essay Prompt and What It Looks Like
A prompt will include a short piece of general information on the topic and three perspectives on it – positive, negative and neutral.
Let us consider the following example:
In recent years there is a trend to shift attention from liberal arts (Humanities) and English to STEM subjects as primary for employment and economic development. Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics (STEM) curricula are extended and additional teaching staff is employed, while departments teaching Arts and Languages are eliminated or reduced to a minimum. This drastic shift is presented as necessary for preparing students for successful functioning in the job market of the USA. Given the strategic significance of how education is being reshaped, explore possible consequences of such a shift and put forward objections or arguments supporting this shift.
- 1st perspective
Arts and humanities are not necessary for the job market or everyday life, so these parts of the curriculum should be made optional. All students should only take classes that provide them with basic reading and writing skills. Advanced creative writing or deep history studies appeal to a few students, so there is no need to spend funds on them.
- 2nd perspective
Classical education has always meant teaching students how to think and evaluate ideas, and only recently education became focused on preparation for a workplace. STEM curricula prepare skilled employees who can perform complex calculations or builds networks, but these employees do not see any ethical dilemmas in the tasks they perform. So now the situation reflects this gap in education: technologies develop faster than human abilities to predict and harness their benefits and harm.
- 3rd perspective
Until now, STEM and Arts were in opposition to each other, and the advancement of one curriculum always meant a reduction of the other. In the modern complex world, both parts of a balanced curriculum should be given equal weight. Students need to understand how the world works (STEM) and how to evaluate its functioning (Arts) before they settle for their career path.
The Essay Task
The task accompanying such prompt claims that you need to analyze perspectives, develop your own one and explain how your perspective relates to the suggested ones. Everything you say needs to be supported by arguments and evidence.
Whether you develop a fully different perspective or use the suggested one, remember: it is your ability to organize thoughts and builds arguments that matter most. High-brow evidence or complex vocabulary will not help you succeed if your ideas are confused and incoherent.
So what you need to focus on is organization, a clear thesis that states your idea and relates it to suggested perspectives, and clear paragraphs that convey your thoughts smoothly. Basically, you need to write a standard 5-paragraph essay, but you have only 40 minutes for it, and it is your ability to think clearly and logically that matters most.
Differences Between 10 And 12 Points Essay
Now the most important information (from point of view of all students): how evaluators decide if an essay is worth 5 or 6 (and so 10 or 12, correspondingly).
- In terms of ideas and their exploration: both 5 and 6 essays host an argument that engages with all perspectives from the prompt. A thesis is focused, with a clear purpose and stance taken. The exploration is placed in an appropriate context, and it addresses underlying relations, complexities, and values of the topic. But, in a 6 essay, the argument will be critically exploring the prompts, the thesis has some interesting nuances, context is adding to the understanding of the matter, and underlying values and issues are not only mentioned but analyzed as well.
- In terms of evidence and support: in both essay arguments and support expand understanding of the matter, the line of argumentation is consistent, its reasoning demonstrates how important the issue is. Complications (additional circumstances) add to the fullness of analysis. But, in a 6 essay, the context is larger and more nuanced, and complex thinking highlights a few more aspects to consider in the argument.
- In terms of the flow of thoughts/organization: organization is fine, the whole paper is guided by a single clear idea, and the order of arguments highlights the ideas being expressed. Transitions between paragraphs are effective and appropriate. In a 6 essay, the organization enhances the reasoning, from the order of ideas to transitions.
- In terms of vocabulary: language is appropriate and clear, style, register, and tone fit the discussion. The language structure is varied. Some mistakes are acceptable as long as they do not interfere with understanding. In a 6 essay, language contributes to the efficiency of argument; style and voice are chosen deliberately and also contribute to the efficiency of argument. So in a 6 essay, you will have to think of some nice long words to throw in, but do not overdo. It is content and organization that matters most.
How to Be Prepared For Writing A 12 Essay
- Start practicing several months in advance. Begin with 50 minutes to go, then reduce to 40 minutes.
- Study thoroughly the 5 paragraph essay structure. Practice writing a meaningful and debatable thesis. It is said that a good thesis already gives you 3 points out of 6. Write down different types of theses to get a grip on them.
- Explore previous ACT prompts to get a clue what they look like.
- Think of universal examples from books, movies, real-life, your personal experience that you can apply in different essays. Make a list of them.
- Write essays focusing on a thesis and organization. Complex language and editing are the last considerations. The same applies to write an actual ACT essay. 10 minutes for planning, 30 for writing. Mind that you need to write at least a page and a half, or two pages, if possible. This is also a sign of a 6 essay. Leave editing for the last minute. Write your paper as long as you can (without repetitions, however).
- When you practice at home, ask your friend or parents to evaluate your writing, although they are not provisional editors, they are readers, and they will point out weak spots in the paper that jump right in the eye.
- Be calm and confident – if you have done it before, you can do it now!
- Not sure you know where to begin? Reach out to us and get an excellent sample of an ACT essay to study and use. We know how to handle this important kind of task.
Bonus: Free Sample of ACT Essay
And now a bonus track from our professional writers and editors, so to say. Look at examples of a thesis and arguments based on the suggested prompt and try to build your own.
A thesis: The importance of the spiritual and emotional development of students along the professional one has been established long ago, so the elimination of the liberal part of education is unacceptable. Rather, the STEM curriculum needs to incorporate elements of Arts that help build a worldview of students, since it is philosophy and ethics that guide the economy and government, not vice versa.
Note that a thesis can consist of two sentences. It is OK to write a one-sentence thesis as well.
Although today it is fashionable to put STEM forward as the more advanced and superior realm of education that ensures progress, the reality offers a different insight. Most breakthroughs in technology, including digital area and AI, were made possible only due to the close collaboration of representatives of mathematicians, linguists, philosophers, and biologists. It is the intersection of STEM and Liberal Arts that provide for the most successful exploration of the world and the introduction of new ideas and technologies.
Technology and employment constitute a significant part of our daily life, but they are not the sole focus and purpose of human life. Building friendships, communities, interacting, exploring the world, creating, – it all requires other skills than Math and Physics. An active citizen is a person who understands how a state works and if there is a failure in its functioning. These are questions that only philosophy and ethics can answer. A wider perspective on a global economy and its implications for the planet is possible only when arguments different from profits and cost-cutting are applied. A critical look at the world is possible from a mental distance, and to reach this distance one needs to understand how to do it and what to look for.
Our founding fathers based their Declaration of independence and, later, the Constitution, on the works and ideas of prominent philosophers. To them, Arts were not redundant – they were the foundation of the state. And with this foundation, they managed to build the Great America where the economy flourished and challenges were overcome. If they managed to build a great state without rejecting Liberal Arts, then most probably the people of modern America can repeat the achievement of their great leaders.
Liberal Arts and STEM have their proponents and opponents, but they are pillars of public life and well-being. Removal of one of the components will help educate great technicians but citizens who will see their country only as a place to earn, not to love, respect and support in critical moments.