8 Keys to Boosting Your ACT Essay Score

June 01, 2016

The ACT essay is an important part of the test, but not many know what the best way to approach it is. We asked expert Richard J. Dalton Jr. from Your Score Booster to share his insight and knowledge about the ACT Essay. 

When you think of your ACT essay, remember IDOL (Ideas and analysis, Development and support, Organization and Language. The tips below focus on IDEA: Ideas, Development, Examples (support) and Analysis.

1. Don’t pick a thesis directly from one of the perspectives. Make up your own thesis, which could be a variation of one or two perspectives. Write a precise, nuanced and interesting thesis that you can further develop through analysis.

Precise but NOT nuanced thesis: “Technology can help us progress”

Precise AND nuanced thesis: “We can exploit technology and preserve our humanity if society is willing to help those who would otherwise be left behind in the technological revolution.”

Don’t put a context in the thesis. Save that for the development of the essay. See next tip for more information on context.

2. Look at particular contexts. For example, within education (one context): “We must ensure that people have the best technological tools necessary to excel in school.” Another context is geographical: “People who live in rural areas must have equal access to high-speed Internet access to ensure that they are not left behind.” Here are some other potential contexts: (democratic vs. dictatorship, developed countries vs. developing countries, today vs. 1950, Canada vs US, etc.).

3. Give examples. “We must ensure that people have the best technological tools necessary to excel. Some philanthropic organizations are giving laptops to students in poor schools, and scores on standardized tests are higher in those schools compared with students in poor schools who don’t get laptops.

4. Examine implications: “These laptops are helping educate future teachers, who can ensure that generations to come will be educated about the latest technology.” When you state an implication, you don’t have to provide support for that implication; you can just state the implication.

5. Note the complexities: “But the parents of poor students are unfamiliar with the latest technology or simply don’t have the time to help their children. So it’s essential to teach not only students but also parents.”

6. Examine tensions (and some more implications). Here’s a tension between the benefit of technology (mentioned previously) and a downside (loss of jobs). “While technology can help poor people progress, automation of manufacturing jobs has led to the layoffs of the parents of many underprivileged children, meaning they cannot afford the very technology that can lead to their children’s future success. Furthermore, many poor adults are not trained well enough to work in other jobs that require advanced knowledge of the latest technology. While it is beneficial to help the next generation of adults, we must ensure that the current labor force, even those who are poor, gets access to degree-granting programs, not just short-term training, to ensure long-term success.”

7. Underlying values: Examine fundamental rights, such as the right of free speech, democracy, safety, privacy and healthcare. “Some argue that society must invest money in creating the technology infrastructure, bringing high speed access to poor, rural areas, especially helping improve healthcare with greater access to advanced telecommunications. But fighting the war on terrorism has shifted the focus from domestic priorities to foreign affairs, leaving people safe at home but lagging behind the rest of the developed world in terms of healthcare.”

8. Examine assumptions: Look at the assumptions of each perspective and support or attack that assumption. If a perspective says machines lead to efficiency, note that efficiency may not be the best goal, as it can come at the cost of jobs.

Want more tips? Read more about how you can improve your ACT Essay essay score.

About The Author

Richard J. Dalton Jr., Guest Blogger
Richard J. Dalton Jr., Guest Blogger

Richard J. Dalton Jr. is president of Your Score Booster, which offers SAT & ACT classes and tutoring online worldwide. An SAT/ACT expert and a former journalist, he lives in Vancouver, British Columbia.




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