September 16, 2015, by

Students taking the ACT this fall could be in for a surprise. For the previous few years, the essay on the ACT remained predictable and straightforward – students simply answered an open-ended question in 30 minutes.

The old format has been retired, and students taking the September ACT were the first group of official test takers to experience the newly-designed essay prompt. When the old format was in use, many colleges required students to take the ACT with the writing section, and we believe many will maintain this policy. As with the previous format for the ACT essay, nearly all students are better off taking the test with writing, just in case. The ACT keeps a database of the requirements of individual colleges regarding the ACT writing section.

The new essay remains at the end of the test, but now is given over 40 minutes instead of 30. As with the previous format, students will be given a prompt that contains a short analysis of an issue. However, instead of a relatively straightforward yes/no or either/or question relating to that issue, students will now be asked to “evaluate and analyze” three given perspectives. These perspectives are short statements that relate to the subject matter of the prompt by providing short differing opinions.

Students will then be asked to state and develop their own perspective on the subject, which does not necessarily need to match any of the three perspectives given, although students should certainly explain how and why their view differs from each of the others provided. The ACT has provided a sample prompt, with instructions, that is helpful in understanding the new format, and it has provided sample essays with scores ranging from lowest to highest.

Scoring for the essay has also changed. Student-produced essays will now be graded on four scales – Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use – each up to 6 points. The essay grade, however, will continue to be given as a separate score and will not directly affect a student’s ACT Composite.

We look forward to learning more about the changing ACT essay. If you have further questions about the changes in the ACT, please add them as comments on this blog or on our Facebook page, and we’ll respond as soon as we can. If you want help preparing for the ACT, please contact us to set up a consultation.

Finally, good luck to everyone taking the new ACT essay this fall! Let us know about your experience.

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