1. Quantity counts. Race to at least 400 words. Your hand should be tired at the end of the 25 minutes that you are allowed. Despite what others may tell you, quantity counts.
2. Do not spend a lot of time on the introduction or conclusion. 50 words maximum on each.
3. Do not massage the topic. The reader skips over the introduction, anyway.
4. Don't worry about topic sentences, transitions, subject-verb agreement,etc. Your handwriting can be sloppy, but it does need to be legible.
5. Spend your time on 100 words each on three examples which address an ethical question or dilemma such as good versus evil, learning from one's mistakes or when loyalty to friends is in conflict with one's self interest ,etc.
6. Don't spend too much time looking for perfect examples. If the topic asks multiple questions and you only know an answer to one of them, be sure to seize that thought and answer that one you know and not obsess over the one(s) you don't know.
The March 2011 SAT Essay prompt asked if "Reality TV" was harmful. Answering such questions directly with an asssessment of "Jersey Shore" can be harmful. A way to answer the question would be to ask your protagonists or antagonists to answer the question at the "moment of truth" ask Atticus Finch from "To Kill Mockingbird" as Atticus throws the glass to Tom Robinson to prove to the racist 1930s white jury that Tom Robinson cannot catch the glass with his left hand and that May Ella Ewell was choaked by someone who was left handed. The more likely suspect was her father who signed his name left handed in front of the jury. Atticus would be opposed to "Reality TV" because it does not represent the truth because it is scripted by producers and edited for sensational outcomes. Atticus needs truth to convince the jury. Napoleon in "Animal Farm" would favor "Reality TV" because he could use its sensationalism to scapegoat Snowball for all that goes wrong with the windmill on Animal Farm after Napoleon has the attack dogs chase Snowball away.
7.Choose your examples with the climactic scenes from short, well known novels and/or plays e.g To Kill a Mockingbird, Lord of the Flies, Animal Farm, Of Mice and Men, Romeo and Juliet, Diary of Anne Frank, The Crucible, Scarlet Letter or Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. The graders are English Majors. They want to read about what they know. They are grading 200-300 of these essays in a weekend, so familiarity of subject matter to the grader works to your advantage and is the preferred strategy here.
8.. Check the indexes of Sparknotes 101. It contains the 250 most taught novels and plays of all time. Refresh your memory by reading the plots and characters in Sparknotes 101 as well as on Wikipedia.
9. If you are more comfortable with history, choose well known subjects like the U.S. Civil War, World War II, Lincoln, Ghandi, Women's Rights or Civil Rights. We suggest you choose unusual topics within your subjects (Rosa Parks is more unusual than Martin Luther King).
10. Stay away from Math and Science, personal experience, movies, television and subjects that make one sound immature. The goal here is to elevate one's game by sounding learned and interesting.
With the ACT Essay you have 30 minutes to write it instead of 25 minutes and is the last part of the exam rather than the first. Many students do not sign up for the ACT essay, but I feel that not including the essay in the ACT exam sends a signal to colleges that you either cannot write well or are not interested in writing or do not think that writing is important. All are bad signals to the colleges and the world. Also, since the Essay on the ACT exam, students often want to get the exam over with and to go home. So those students particularly short change the essay and write a short essay. Moreover the Essay Prompt for the ACT is a question particularly directed to young people like "Should there be school uniforms?" or "Should there be a police officer assigned to your school in order to try to control drug use?" Answer the question either positively, because it is the right thing to do, or negatively, because it restricts free speech and opens the door to authoritarian behavior by an agenda different from yours. After you have run out of arguments for your position and have acknowledged the other side, start using analogous situations using young people protagonists like Huck Finn, Holden Caulfied, Ellie Weisel from Night, the protagonist from the Giver or Pony Boy from the Outsiders, They are all protagonists from coming of age classic works of literature, and start from from the moment of truth, If you are not comfortable with those young people examples, use your three works of literature that you are most comfortable with from you SAT Essay. Whichever works you choose, they lengthen you essay to 2 1/2 to 3 pages, so your essay will stand out for its length as well as content. A student of mine using this technique scored a 9 out of 12, which was comparatively higher than the other parts of her ACT exam. So I believe this is a good track to go down to get your ACT Essay score to go up.
"Thank you for teaching my daughter new ways to write."
"-parent of 7th grader, Long Island City, NY