Unlike the SAT, the ACT has decided to make small, incremental changes to their college admissions test. This fall, they will begin by rolling out a revised ACT essay, which will ask students to evaluate three points of view and to throw their support behind one argument.
In the past, the essay (which is ‘optional’ for students on test day but is required by all NC state schools) has asked students to take a stand on either side of one issue. For instance, a prompt might ask whether students should be allowed to drive when they are sixteen, or should they have to wait until they are eighteen? The new, revised ACT essay prompt is a little different, and students will have a little extra time to write. They are being given 40 minutes, rather than 30, to write their essays.
This sample prompt, based on a brief reading passage called Intelligent Machines, is representative of the prompts that will be used for the ACT writing test.
The revised ACT essay prompt presents an issue and provides three different perspectives on the issue. You are asked to “evaluate and analyze” the perspectives; to “state and develop” your own perspective; and to “explain the relationship” between your perspective and those given. Your score will not be affected by the perspective you take on the issue.
Essays will be scored based on four criteria: ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use. Students will receive scores in each of these areas on a 2-12 score range. While the current ACT also judges students on these areas, it provides only an overall Writing score. With the new ACT Writing test scores, students will better understand their strengths and weaknesses, which will allow for more targeted practice and greater score increases.
The ACT has provide a sample prompt and six sample essays to demonstrate the scoring rubric.