Quicklist: Top 20 ACT Essay Dos and Don’ts


It can feel a little overwhelming to try to take in all of the tips and tricks for acing the ACT Essay.  We know, and we don’t want you to feel overwhelmed at all.  So instead of providing you with one more highly detailed article that gives you the inside edge on one writing facet of the ACT Essay, you’re get one short, quick, to-the-point Dos and Don’ts list.

Glance over this list and get focused on the major things you want to make sure you hit when you’re writing that perfect ACT Essay!  Here are the Top 20 things to keep in mind when preparing for or writing on the ACT:





Start with a unique,   attention-getting intro

Say the same old bland,   predictable things in your intro


Give a clear thesis that   takes a definitive stance

Give a wishy-washy,   unclear answer to the question


Make sure you take a few   minutes to outline your thoughts

Jump right into the essay   without planning it first


Put your answer into some   kind of a larger context

Answer the question   without consider what larger issues are at stake


Begin each body paragraph   with a simple topic sentence

Begin a body paragraph   with an example or question


Use concrete, practical   examples in your body

Speak in vague or   predictable generalities


Give meaningful, unique   reasons to support your argument

Repeat points or assume   your reader agrees


Thoroughly explain your   examples and reasonings

Be too brief with your   explanations


Use transitions between   body paragraphs

Jump from one topic to   the next with no clear connection


End with a powerful, practical   conclusion

Leave out a conclusion or   just summarize your argument


Use sophisticated,   grammatically correct language

Try to sound so   intelligent that you end up sounding ridiculous


Include multiple   references to what other people who disagree with you might be thinking

Narrow your argument so   much that you fail to include others’ perspectives


Prepare by looking at   sample essays and loads of tips!

Never think about the   essay until you’re actually writing it


Practice by writing   several practice essays in 30 minutes

Believe that you’re good   enough to wing it on the essay


Schedule your time while   taking the test

Ignore the clock and get   rushed at the end


Have an easy-to-follow   structure throughout your essay

Randomly write ideas   without making it easy for a reader to flow from one point to the next


Stay focused on writing   about the topic

Bring in random,   irrelevant ideas that fail to support your argument


Take a minute or two at   the end to edit your essay

Leave no time at the end   to re-read and tweak your argument


Go for quality rather   than quantity

Think that writing more   means that you’re writing better


Have confidence — you   CAN do it!

Give up before you even   have a chance

Just remember this simple advice: Be Smart.  Be Articulate.  This means that all you have to do is have a meaningful way of explaining your answer to the prompt, and show that you can adequately use language to communicate your ideas.

You can find plenty of ACT Writing tips throughout this site to help you with specific areas of writing you’d like to improve with.  It’s not difficult at all to ace the ACT Essay, but you definitely want to take time to prepare so that you can be successful!


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