During my junior year of high school, I decided to dedicate my time to being a peer editor. My free periods consisted of revising papers, from youthful, optimistic 6th graders to second-semester seniors that were definitely sliding. One question that I was constantly asked across the board was: “How do I become a better writer?” The number of times this question was asked multiplied when the ACT scores came back and I did well on it. My usual response, even after the ACT, was some sort of “I’m not sure it just comes naturally to me” or “Just a lot of hard work.” Those answers are slightly true, but not the whole truth. Becoming a better writer, in general, does take time and effort, but these tips below will help your writing process, and definitely your ACT writing score.
- Read Your Own Work
This may seem like an obvious thing to do, but this is one of the most common mistakes I see in writing. I guarantee that there will be many mistakes: whether it will be spelling errors, punctuation oversight; or even just a sentence that made perfect sense in your head, but is confusing on paper. I understand that it can be very cringe-worthy to read through your work, but I promise it will improve your paper significantly.
- Practice! Practice! Practice!
This is probably one of the easiest steps for the ACT audience, a.k.a. high schoolers. We are constantly writing for our English courses, and it is very clear that we improve over the years. If you cannot see a change in your writing from assigned papers, search for more prompts and write sample essays. Take about an hour each week, and write a paper with different types of prompts. Not only will this help your writing, but this will help your pacing skills, making you even more prepared for your test.
- Don’t Make The Same Mistakes
Not only is this a great life lesson, it is a fantastic writing skill. Think of all of the essays you have gotten back from teachers, what are your most common mistakes? For some people, it may be run-on sentences, comma splices, or general flow of words. Whatever you do, make an effort to change your habits, and don’t hold yourself back by not changing.
- Dilate Your Vocabulary
It is so important to stand out and use more than average words. Try taking everyday words like ‘good’ and replace it with ‘reputable.’ Try to eliminate casual words like ‘cool’ and the repetition of ‘like.’ I would suggest trying to incorporate a SAT/ACT word into your day (like Cher did in Clueless with ‘sporadically’) This will enhance your vocabulary and make all English assignments easier.
- Go In With A Plan
Remember those brainstorming tools teachers would give you in elementary school to help organize your ideas when writing an essay? If not, here’s a nostalgic reminder:
This may seem like a childish idea, but it really does help with making sure you have a properly formatted essay with strong points. The ACT gives one prompt with 3 opinions and asks which one you side with. When I took the ACT, I was conflicted in choosing which opinion I delineated with the most; however it was clear when I was able to produce 3 strong points about one and became stumped with the other. If you do this step, I promise that your essay will be 10x easier to write, because it will basically be plugging in ideas and elaborating.
- Use All of Your Allotted Time!!!
I cannot express how anxious I feel when I see fellow test takers finish essays in 20 minutes. There is no way to do all of the steps above in that short amount of time!! Even if you are not doing anything to your essay, you might think of a new idea, or correct an old idea written down. This will also help pacing issues if you have them. This was all of your ideas will have the time to develop and come out during the test, instead of later.
- Have Fun!
Lastly, be creative! Writing is a beautiful way to express yourself and your opinions. This is the only creative outlet on standardized tests, and it should be utilized. Try not to stress too much about writing an essay, but still take it seriously. If you follow these steps and have some confidence, writing an ACT essay should be a breeze.