Changes to the ACT Writing Section

The ACT will be changing the Writing portion of the test, starting in September 2015.  The following outlines the changes:

  • Extended Writing Time: Students will have 40 minutes to craft an essay response, rather than the previous 30 minutes.
  • Changed Prompt Style: Test takers will be presented a contemporary issue and three perspectives regarding the issue.   Students are expected to respond to the three perspectives in their argumentative essay.  The perspectives can help prompt students thinking, and reduce the planning time in outlining the written statement.
  • Directed structure and format for the essay: The ACT provides structured directions, and questions to guide brainstorming and outlining of the essay.
  • Scores: The numerical writing score for the essay will be reported on a 1-36 scale, instead of the former 2-12 scale.
  • Rubric for Evaluation: students will receive a 1-12 scale score in four main areas: Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, Language Use & Conventions.  Basically, both the format and the content of the essay will be evaluated.  While the criteria for evaluation is similar to the previous versions of the ACT Writing test, students will now receive an numerical score for each criteria.

In addition, knowing what has NOT changed can help ACT takers prepare.  The following lists what is the same on the ACT writing test:

  • Argumentative Essay: Students will still be asked to state a position on a topic and support their position with detailed examples in the body.
  • Writing Style: Word choice, sentence structure still matters.  Complex sentences with phrases that explain a student’s analysis of the topic are still weighted in the evaluation.
  • Thesis Statement: A guiding statement that summarizes the author’s position and demonstrates a nuanced understanding of the topic will strengthen a score on the essay.

Students have the opportunity to view a sample prompt and example essay responses to be familiar with the changes before the September 12, 2015 test.  A viewing of the new prompt can help students know what to expect on the writing portion of the test.

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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