4 Quick Essay Review Tips for the ACT Writing Section


4 Quick Essay Review Tips for the ACT Writing Section

By: David Recine

The ACT Writing section really stands out. It’s far more complicated than the multiple choice questions in the other sections. And it’s even scored differently. (See this article on ACT Score range for details on essay scoring vs. multiple choice scoring for the exam.)

Yes, this final, optional part of the ACT really does stand out from the rest of the exam. And ACT Writing can also make you stand out. If you choose to take this essay and you do well on it, your college application can really shine.

But how can you know if you’re doing well? There’s no answer key to check, but there are other ways to review your ACT essay to see if you’re on your way to a top ACT Writing score.

Tip 1: Know the ACT Writing Rubric

To estimate your own ACT Writing score, you need to know how the essay is rated. First, know that the Writing section is scored by two independent human scorers. Each person who reviews your ACT essay will score it on a scale of 1 to 6. These scorers use a special rubric to grade ACT Writing… and this rubric is available publicly. Check out the ACT Writing rubric and use it to self-score your own practice ACT essays.

Tip 2: Understand the ACT Writing Score Range

It’s important to remember that ACT Writing has a 2-12 score range, since the rest of the ACT is scored separately on a scale of 0 to 32. So where should your score fall on the 2-12 scale, if you want to really stand out? Ideally, you want an ACT Writing score that’s above average. And you also want the scores on the other part of the exam to be above average, so that your essay marks are part of a larger good picture. When you set your target score for the essay and the main exam, consult this chart, in Magoosh ACT’s guide to the question “What is a good ACT Score?”

Tip 3: Make Sure You Fully Answer the Question

I suppose it’s not fair to call the ACT Writing prompt a question. After all, you don’t just answer a simple question on this part of the test. Instead, you read three different written perspectives on a social issue. Then you give your own opinion on your issue, linking your opinion the perspectives you were presented with.

With such a complex prompt, it’s easy to forget something. As you review your writing, double check and make sure you covered everything. Did you address the perspectives from the prompt? Did you write your own clear opinion, and directly relate your point of view to the other perspectives? If it helps, go back and double check the instructions after you finish writing… and during writing too.

Tip 4: Actually Get Your ACT Writing Reviewed Before the Test Day

My final word on ACT Writing review is this: get your ACT Writing reviewed! You could hire a private ACT tutor; many students go that route. But if you aren’t sure how to find (or pay for) a private review of your ACT essay, there are other options. At your high school, you can probably get a teacher or guidance counselor to give you ACT Writing feedback. Often, community centers and public libraries also offer those services to college applicants too.

This is definitely an important aspect of getting a top score in ACT Writing. It’s hard to see your own mistakes and imperfections as a writer. But another person can give you honest, objective feedback. Don’t let the scorers be the first human beings to review your ACT Writing. Get feedback before test day.



David is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent.

Schedule a free consultation

to find out how we can help you get accepted.