Write Better ACT & SAT* Essays
Many students worry about the writing portion of the ACT or SAT. The reality is students can prepare themselves by focusing on a few basic strategies for essay writing. Students should follow this list of tips to make their test essay shine!
Write a longer essay—It has been shown that longer essays tend to get higher scores.
Know the topics you will write about—You won't have a lot of time on test day to choose a focus for your essay. Therefore, you should go into the test with some "go-to" topics already in mind. For example, To Kill a Mockingbird is a great book to write about because the themes of the book are relevant to almost any essay. Other books that fit many different essay topics are: Lord of the Flies, The Great Gatsby, and The Catcher in the Rye. Try to have one topic from history that is a "go-to" topic. For example, I know a lot about World War II, so I will often write a paragraph about how World War II relates to the topic.
To save time, write a short introduction and a short conclusion—You only have 25 minutes to write the essay. Spend the majority of the time writing the body paragraphs. This is where you will support the main point of your essay with specific examples.
Use a range of sentence structures when you write—You don't want your essay to sound like this:
The simple fact is that you must try to be productive each day. The reality is that you can't take life for granted. The key is to realize that each day is a gift.
The repetitive structure of "The ____ is ____" makes this passage awkward to read. Varying sentence structures can make your text much more readable:
The simple fact is that you must try to be productive each day. You can't take life for granted. Instead, you must realize that each day is a gift.
Stick to the topic—This sounds obvious, but many students forget it. The essay topics are going to be broad so that you don't need any specialized knowledge on a particular topic to score high on the essay. Also, you do not have to write in any particular style. As long as you stick to the topic, you can choose the tone that suits you best (persuasive, argumentative, humorous, etc.)
Use a few interesting words—Your essay doesn't need to be chock-full of long, complicated words, but it should have at least a few. Use obstinate instead of stubborn, ambivalent instead of unsure, or disingenuous instead of dishonest.
Watch out for spelling, punctuation, and grammar mistakes—If you have one or two of these mistakes, it is no big deal. But if you have more than a few, your score may suffer.
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