What Your ACT Score is Based on


Before you can sit down and pound out that perfect essay, you want to make sure that you know exactly what the ACT Writing graders are basing their decision off of.  You wouldn’t throw ingredients together without knowing what you were trying to bake, right?  Well, maybe you would…but not if you wanted it to taste good!  The same is true for essay writing: figure out in advance what you’re trying to bake so that it will be delicious for your graders to read!

Taken straight from ACT itself, they say your essay will be graded on the following five criteria:

•express judgments by taking a position on the issue in the writing prompt

 •maintain a focus on the topic throughout the essay

 •develop a position by using logical reasoning and by supporting your ideas

 •organize ideas in a logical way

 •use language clearly and effectively according to the rules of standard written English


So what do these criteria mean?

1.      Express Judgment: This means that you take a definite, clear stance on the issue presented in the prompt, giving a logical and consistent line of reasoning for your stance.

2.      Maintain Focus: Instead of presenting random information that is not clearly related, you consistently provide arguments that support your one main idea.  Everything you say is dedicated to explaining your point.

3.      Develop a Position: No essay is effective when it just states its points – it needs to back up the main idea with support!  Your essay is good when you clearly state your idea and fully explain why your idea is the best response to the question.

4.      Organize Ideas: Structure, structure, structure! You must make sure that there is a logical progression to your ideas, and that they are easy to understand.  This means that you start with an Intro, have two or three body paragraphs, a conclusion, and transitions throughout.

5.      Clear and Effective Language: It’s not just what you say, but how you say it.  You might have good ideas, but ACT also wants to know how articulately you can express them.  Pay attention to word choice, sentence structure and complexity, and grammar.

Your ACT Essay score is based off of these strict criteria, and judges use a rather detailed, rigid rubric with these categories to rank your effectiveness.

Notice that these skills are great ones to focus on for any essay writing task you do.  At the most basic level, you need to have clear ideas and effective support that proves your ideas true…and you need to sound good doing it.

Now that you’re aware of what ACT wants with your ACT essay, you can more confidently move ahead knowing whether or not you feel you are meeting these criteria.