Thursday, December 06, 2007

How to Succeed on the ACT Essay Section

You get 30 minutes to write your essay for the ACT. This should be the perfect amount time to allow you to brainstorm for 4-5 minutes. You will then crank out a 5-paragraph essay in 25 minutes.

Here’s what a prompt will look like:

Educators debate extending high school to five years because of increasing demands on students from employers and colleges to participate in extracurricular activities and community service in addition to having high grades. Some educators support extending high school to five years because they think students need more time to achieve all that is expected of them. Other educators do not support extending high school to five years because they think students would lose interest in school and attendance would drop in the fifth year. In your opinion, should high school be extended to five years?

In your essay, take a position on this question. You may write about either one of the two points of view given, or you may present a different point of view on this question. Use specific reasons and examples to support your position.

The beginning of that top paragraph is like what the SAT has in the box in its prompt, a discussion of the issue. The last line is the key. That’s what you have to answer.

Here’s what your first paragraph needs:
1. Although__________ - Give a concession to the other side.
If anyone surveyed the Class of 2009, of which I’m a member, and asked, “Would you like to spend an extra year in high school?” I think the pollster would get a unanimous answer of NO! No kid wants to admit they need more schooling or seasoning before they go out into the “real world.”
2. Your thesis or answer to the prompt.
However, since technology and the media are advancing so rapidly in the twenty-first century, students now need a year of extra schooling in an area they that interests them.
3. Lay out your reasons/examples.
By giving students a chance to focus and train in the field that most interests them, they will become more interested, competent and patient. These qualities will make them better workers and citizens in general. (Each of these concepts in bold will become body paragraphs.)

Each body paragraph should:
1. Have a topic sentence that connects back to your thesis.
If students were able to pick a “major” for their last year of high school, they would become increasingly interested in school.
2. Show with evidence— a fact, story or quote.
My best friend Kyle nearly dropped out of school in the ninth grade. Kyle wasn’t lazy or disruptive. He was bored. He was already in Trigonometry…. (Go on to tell the story of how his math teacher sensed his disinterest and taught him computer programming.)
3. Explain with commentary—This shows that… or This is important because… Think those beginnings but don’t write them.
Once Kyle’s Math teacher started letting him work on computer programming, he became one of the most active and involved students on campus. If Kyle had left, he would have never taught five other kids how to program in C++. (And go on explaining why the evidence is important.)
4. Transition sentence
Once students are inspired, they will be able to more fully develop their skills.

The conclusion does matter on the ACT, so definitely write at least a line or two.
You may want to include:
1. One or two sentences that tie all the reasons/examples together with your thesis.
If Students get excited about what they are learning while developing the skills and maturity to perform in the workplace or in college, an extra year of high school is well worth it. This idea will also help schools look at students as individuals.
2. One sentence that connects your ideas to a larger issue.
By asking a year more from students and then giving them skills that will benefit them their entire life, high school will give every individual student a better chance of succeeding and improving our entire society.


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