ACT Writing Plus

What do you need to know about prepping for The ACT?

Find Out

The optional ACT Writing takes place immediately after the main four sections of the test are taken. Students get 40 minutes to plan and write an essay responding to the prompt. The overall score is out of 36, and there are four sub-scores given in separate categories. The essay score stands alone and is averaged with the English and reading sections for a separate language arts scored, named ELA (English Language Arts). Students who want to score highly on the ACT essay need to be prepared and aware of the components of the prompt and scoring rubric.

The most important piece of guiding information in your essay is the prompt itself. A single paragraph will describe a relatable issue regarding contemporary society, and below this are three different perspectives on the issue. The perspectives are important because they must be discussed throughout the essay, even if your own thesis falls outside of them. In order to stay on topic when writing, it is important to carefully read and understand these three perspectives.

Students are scored in four domains: ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use. Understanding the ACT’s scoring rubric is helpful to grasp exactly what belongs in a good essay. Using it as a blueprint as you plan your essay will help ensure that you meet the points ACT essay graders are looking for. Let’s take a brief look at the four categories:

Ideas and Analysis

Scores in this domain reflect the ability to generate original, relevant ideas about the issue and its given perspectives. It is critical to analyze and discuss all three given perspectives, especially as they relate to your own thesis, which should be clearly stated.

Development and support

This domain score reflects your skill in developing and using examples and reasoning to support your thesis. Your goal is to show that you understand the complexity of the issue. Staying relevant to the issue and your thesis will help strengthen your argument.


Scores in this category reflect your ability to organize your thoughts and arrange them in a way that leads the reader through your discussion. Whether you evaluate each perspective in its own paragraph or you work through all of the positives before discussing the negatives of the issue, you’ll want to make it very clear for the reader what you are analyzing throughout. Seize the opportunity for points in this domain by planning your essay before you begin to write it.

Language use

Scores in this domain reflect both your command of written English (grammar, vocabulary, syntax, etc) and the way you use your own style and tone to “talk” to the reader of your essay. Writing for clarity cannot be overemphasized, and should take priority over impressive vocabulary. Variety in your sentence structure and length are rewarded, as they keep the reader engaged with your essay.

Writing is often seen as a creative endeavor, but when writing for the ACT, aiming for these four targets helps meet their objectives. Students will benefit greatly from practicing with real ACT writing prompts and considering these four domains. Prepstar ACT classes and private tutors will help students evaluate what they’ve written and find specific ways to improve and write for each of the domains described above.