How To Write A Good ACT® Essay

ACT Writing Tips and Strategies

Welcome to your ultimate guide for conquering the ACT® Writing test! Whether you're a first-time test-taker or looking to boost your score, this page is your go-to resource on how to prepare for ACT writing. In this comprehensive guide, we've curated a study plan, effective tips and strategies to help you master how to write the ACT essay. From ACT writing test prep materials to strategies for exam-day readiness, we've got you covered!

Learn how to write a stellar ACT essay, discover valuable insights and recommendations, and get answers to FAQs that will teach you everything you need to know about how to prepare for ACT writing.

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How do you study on your own for ACT Writing?

ACT Writing test prep can be hasslefree with these 11 golden rules:

  1. Understand the Format

    Familiarize yourself with the ACT Writing test format. This includes the prompt and the scoring rubric.

  2. Go Through Sample Essays

    It helps you learn how good essays are structured and how the thesis is presented. Analyze high-scoring and low-scoring sample essays to understand the elements that contribute to success.

  3. Create a Dedicated Study Plan

    Creating a study plan will help you cover all aspects of writing, be it brainstorming ideas, outlining the essay structure, presenting a claim and using evidence to support it, drafting, revising, and proofreading.

  4. Read Widely

    Improve your reading comprehension skills by exposing yourself to diverse topics and styles. This will help you analyze and respond to different types of prompts.

  5. Brush Up Your Grammar and Writing Style

    A well-crafted essay requires a strong command of language. As you spend time reading, remember to note the various styles of how authors make claims and use evidence to establish them. Use this time to review grammar rules, sentence structures, and proper usage.

  6. Practice Is Key

    Make it a ritual to regularly practice writing essays under timed conditions. Focus on clarity, organization, and the development of ideas.

  7. Time Management

    Time your essay writing sessions as on the actual exam. It will help you manage your time effectively during the writing process. Remember to allocate specific time for planning, writing, and revising.

  8. Practice writing essays on a variety of topics

    Writing extensively on a variety of topics enhances your ability to address different perspectives and arguments. Be aware of current events and social issues, as they often form the basis of ACT Writing prompts.

  9. Target Weaknesses

    As you practice more, you’ll notice areas of improvement. Make a note of those and adjust your study plan accordingly to work more on those areas. Also, seeking feedback from teachers, peers, or online resources will help you improve your essay writing skills.

  10. Utilize Official ACT Resources

    Take advantage of the official ACT sample essays and writing prompts to simulate exam conditions.

  11. Stay Consistent

    Last but not least! Regular, focused practice over an extended period of time will yield better results.

How long should you study for ACT Writing?

Figuring out how long to study for the ACT Writing test depends on your proficiency levels. But, a good plan is to aim for about 4-6 weeks. Spend 2-4 hours each week - that's enough time to get the hang of the format, practice writing essays, and get feedback. By sticking to a routine like this, you'll amp up your writing skills and feel super ready for the ACT Writing test. You can always tweak the study plan based on your starting point, comfort level, and the specific improvements you aim to achieve.

ACT Writing Study Plan

An ideal ACT Essay prep study plan should look like this:

You can always adjust your study plan if you need more time in certain areas. And don't forget, regular practice and feedback are key to success!

3 Steps to A Good ACT Essay:

Although does not mention a specific word count for their Writing test, it’s recommended to maintain a word count of 400 - 600 (two pages if you’re writing by hand). To succeed in ACT Writing, we recommend incorporating these 3 key elements into your essay:

  1. Introduction (60 - 80 words): 1 Paragraph

    The introduction is the opening act of your essay. Therefore, it is super important to draft it carefully, so the grader gets a clear picture of your main idea. You can do that by subtly outlining the different perspectives presented in the prompt and evaluating them in a few sentences. A raw outline would look like:

    ‘Perspective A’ has its benefits, but it has a deficit. While ‘Perspective B’ sounds great, it puts forth another set of drawbacks.

    You can refine your evaluation further by not addressing the perspectives explicitly, but by drawing out their main ideas and analyzing them. Conclude your intro by putting forward a statement that states, “These drawbacks call for an alternative take on the topic”.

  2. Body (250 - 350 words): 2 - 3 Paragraphs

    The body of your thesis is where you will showcase your reasoning, analytical, explanatory, and argumentative skills. A good body includes the following components:

    • Provide a clear line of reasoning that resonates with your argument and elaborate on how it supports the thesis. For example:

      “‘Perspective A’ has [so and so] characteristics. While they might seem useful or flawless at first glance, they do come with [such and such] deficits. ‘Perspective C’ (your argument) offers alternative/better ways to tackle such issues.

      You should try to include at least two alternative or conflicting perspectives to help build your argument.

    • Bringing in real world scenarios or evidence to support your thesis can earn you those extra brownie points.
    • Stay focused on your chosen argument or perspective, while providing examples to support the thesis. This makes sure that your argument and ideas are communicated to the reader in a clear and concise way.
    • Remember, your argument should emerge organically from the analysis and critique of alternate perspectives.
  3. You can always develop your own perspective if you’re not sure of one or the other perspective mentioned in the prompt.
  4. Conclusion (60 - 80 words): 1 Paragraph

    The conclusion is where you “draw the line.” It should present a clear and concise statement of your argument, with an outline of the limitations that the other perspectives assert. A one-liner proverb or a short sentence at the end can add the needed highlight to conclude your thesis statement.

ACT Writing Test Tips

If you're wondering how you can score high or even get that perfect 12 on the ACT Writing essay, these pointers should help you out:

  • Understand the Prompt: Take a moment to really get what the prompt is asking. It helps you focus on your essay.
  • Plan Before You Write: Spend a bit of time planning your essay. Outline your main points so you have a roadmap while writing.
  • Stay Organized: Write a clear introduction, body paragraphs with supporting details, and a solid conclusion. It makes your essay easy to follow.
  • Be Clear and Concise: Use straightforward language. Don't overcomplicate things. Remember, clear writing is effective writing.
  • Use Examples: Support your ideas with examples. It makes your essay stronger and more convincing.
  • Check Your Time: Manage your time wisely. Allocate a specific amount for planning, writing, and revising.
  • Revise if You Can: If time allows, go back and check for inconsistencies or areas to improve. A well-revised essay is more polished.
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Study Materials for ACT Writing

You have to read a variety of written literature to familiarize yourself with different writing styles, general knowledge, and how evidence is used to support an argument. These materials can range from:

  1. Newspapers
  2. Essay books
  3. Research articles
  4. Fiction and Nonfiction
  5. Poetry
  6. Plays
  7. News stories
  8. Business writing
  9. Magazine articles

ACT Writing Essay Examples

The official ACT website has ACT Writing sample prompts and essays that you can read and evaluate to understand what differentiates a good essay from an average one. You’ll also get an idea of how they are scored. 

6 Common Mistakes to Avoid on ACT Writing

If you’re gunning for that perfect 12 on ACT Writing, here are 6 mistakes you must avoid:

  1. Misinterpreting the Prompt

    Misinterpreting the prompt or not evaluating all aspects of the given issue can lead to a faulty essay.

    Solution: Invest 8-10 minutes to thoroughly read and understand the prompt. This will help you identify the main idea, develop your argument, and ensure your response addresses all components of the given prompt.

  2. Lack of Planning & Organization

    A lack of organization in your essay, with unclear transitions between paragraphs and ideas, can leave the grader puzzled about your main idea. This occurs when you hastily begin writing without dedicating time to planning your essay structure and key points.

    Solution: Take a few minutes to plan your essay, outlining your thesis, main arguments, and supporting examples before diving into writing. Ensure your essay is structured with a clear introduction, body paragraphs following a logical order, and a conclusion. Use transitions to smoothly guide the reader through your argument.

  3. Lack of a Clear Thesis Statement:

    Providing a vague or broad thesis statement often lacks a strong perspective, and will confuse the grader. An unclear thesis statement may also lead you to miss out on the counterarguments, which is a fatal flaw when writing your thesis.

    Solution: Acknowledge and respond to potential counterarguments to strengthen your essay's overall persuasiveness. Develop a focused and assertive thesis statement that clearly states your stance on the given issue. You can also add a couple of sentences to present a preview of the main points you'll discuss in your essay.

  4. Inefficient Development of Ideas

    Providing shallow or underdeveloped ideas without supporting evidence will make your essay superficial. Sometimes, students also repeat the same ideas or examples without adding new insights. This redundancy may cost you a good ACT Writing score.

    Solution: Support your thesis with specific examples, evidence, and reasoning. Develop your ideas with depth and clarity. Ensure each paragraph contributes unique content to your essay. Avoid unnecessary repetition to keep your writing concise and impactful.

  5. Poor Writing Style and Language

    Using slang, passive voice, and contractions (like can't, don’t, etc.) can make your essay read less persuasive and informal. A poor writing style, like concluding abruptly or failing to summarize the main points of your argument, also contributes to a low ACT Writing score.

    Solution: Craft a thoughtful conclusion that summarizes your key points and reinforces your thesis. Refrain from using a passive voice too often, and avoid redundancy with words. You can look for synonyms rather than repeating the same adjectives or adverbs over and over again.

  6. Time Mismanagement

    Spending too much time on one part of the essay and rushing through another will impact its coherence and readability.

    Solution: Manage your time wisely. Allocate enough time to plan, write, and revise your essay. Be mindful of the time constraints to ensure a well-rounded and complete response.


In mastering the ACT essay, precision and clarity are paramount. By adhering to a structured approach, incorporating strong examples, and showcasing a nuanced understanding of the prompt, you can craft a compelling essay that stands out. Remember, practice is key. By following the strategies discussed here, you can write a stellar ACT essay and elevate your overall performance. Happy writing!

If you’re looking for reliable prep courses for ACT Science, Math, and English sections, try our ACT practice test designed by experts to get you exam-ready.

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