Three days left to register for the october act!

And, in case you haven’t heard about the recent changes
That were (almost silently) enacted on portions of the act,
Read on!

The act has quietly implemented a couple tweeks to the test which will debuted september 12th.

The major change is a brand new writing section. A lot of the changes are cosmetic, but some are more substantive.

In order to ward off any test-taking day jitters, let’s review the changes and I’ll give you five strategies to use the changes to your benefit.

Time: students now have 40 minutes (rather than 30) to plan and write their essay. Plus, the act has provided a structure for the planning component.

Scoring: both the scoring system and the rubric for the essay are changing. Previously, the act awarded a composite score of 1-6 points for the essay. Now the writing section is scored on 4 subcategories: ideas/analysis, development/support, organization, and language use/conventions. Each category is awarded 1-6 points, yielding a maximum of 24 possible points. (remember: as with the prior writing section, the essay does not affect the overall act composite score.)

Prompt: this change is probably the most significant of all. The new prompt affects both the content of the essay and the format. In the previous version, the essay prompt required students to take a simple “for” or “against” stance. Plus the topics were fairly mundane, student-friendly, and/or school related. (students might have gotten a prompt like “should cell phone use be allowed during school? Explain.”)

And that all needs to be accomplished in 40 minutes. Whew!

So let’s get into 5 strategies to help you navigate the essay changes:

The new prompt requires a much greater understanding of themes and issues being played out both nationally and internationally. The format is new as well. As you’ll see on the sole example the act has provided, the new prompt introduces a topic and then provides three different perspectives on that topic. Students are then asked to analyze all three perspectives, to introduce their own (or to fully agree with one of those given), and then to compare their perspective with that given in the prompt.

If you want maximum points, make sure to include all 3 perspectives in your essay. (the quickest way to lose points will be to omit one or more of the viewpoints.)

Write an organized essay. Here’s an easy way: look for a common thread among the 3 given perspectives. Use this as your unifying theme. Additionally, use various transitions between your points and paragraphs so it reads like an essay (and not an outline).

Be specific. Use examples to make your point. (this helps the reader who is scoring you to know that you’re informed.) focus more on using words that make your point succinctly then on trying to use words that make you sound like a thesaurus. Write with a mixture of both complex and short sentences (just as you see in this paragraph).

Relax about these changes. Just by reviewing the acts sample pages, you’re ahead of many students taking the test, whether or not you have taken test prep classes. This writing section is new for everyone!

And there’s one more reason to relax and simply do your best: colleges are far from unified on how they weigh the writing section of the act in their selection process. Remember, a record number of colleges (over 800) are de-emphasizing the importance of admissions tests. In fact, many schools are going “test optional” or “test flexible” with their admissions policies. The schools you are applying to want to see your best writing scores, but this section of the act shouldn’t be a deal-breaker in their awards decisions.

Please let me know if you have any questions about these changes or if I can help you in any other way. If you’re unsure how to navigate the path to college, I’m here to help. Call my office at 630-971-2300 or click here to schedule a free meet & greet session where we can review your unique situation.

And good luck to all the act test takers!

Mike Mckinnon

College planners of america, ltd.