The ACT Writing Section: Back to basics

Finding the ‘good’ in this crisis
October 5, 2016
December 7, 2016

Scoring high on the ACT Writing section has its benefits: a boost to one’s test-taking ego and the liberty to allow for a slip on one of the other sections on the test without damaging the overall score. There is no denying the fact that the writing section is the easiest section to nail on the ACT. With the right amount and quality of work/input, this section is a cakewalk. Of course this is true given that the test-taker is already at a 29/36 or higher score level.

The climb from a 29 to a 34 is not herculean but demanding though trying to reach that perfect 36 may prove herculean and in the long run not worth all the sleepless nights and joyless days! For most colleges, the real score to consider is the composite score and hence the 34/36 on the verbal versus the 36/36 is as important or as pointless as what it contributes to the overall score. Ideally, it is prudent to work hard and smart enough to reach and maintain the 34/36 level rather than to waiver between a 33 and a 36. The Writing section ought to become the terra firma on which one can build an edifice of skillful test-taking skills.

The pattern of preparation that will facilitate mastery of the Writing section comprises of 2 most essential skills: thoroughness with Grammar rules and adeptness with rhetorical styles.

  1. Thoroughness with Grammar rules:

What is agonizing about the ACT Writing section is its simplicity. Yes, its simplicity. The grammar skills a test-taker requires are so fundamental that it is painful to see oneself going wrong on what one learnt (hopefully!) back in the early grades at school: Subject/Verb Agreement, Pronoun Number Agreement, Verb Forms, Tenses, Wrong Word to name a few. With practically all curricula de-emphasizing the role of grammar and with modern technology ousting traditional communication functionality, it is not surprising that ACT test-takers find their grammar skills terribly atrophied.  Going back to re-learning the ‘old’ ways of English is not easy and might take as long to assimilate (and accept!) as learning a new language does. The section also expects a high level of proficiency with punctuation. Again,something not so popular with the test-takers of today. With the virtually done-away-with status of punctuation in today’s life-style (aka communication-style) even the innocuous comma can be a challenge on the ACT leave alone the apostrophe, the semi-colon and the colon! So, while prepping up Grammar do not ignore punctuations.

  1. Adeptness with rhetorical styles.

Understanding rhetorical styles demands intense and intelligent reading of the content while watching out for the clever deployment of writing strategies. How sentences and paragraphs fit together, how thoughts are joined, whether a sentence is extraneous, whether the idea and the content match, what the tone of the author is, what flavor an idiomatic usage lends to the script and much, much more is what ‘rhetorical style’ comprises of. Broadly, learning to apprise all this while reading is not an easy task but once the learning is initiated and then pursued relentlessly through regular practice, it becomes an effortless foray into the web of words that confront test-takers. The key is to accept at the start that the ACT expects of test-takers a set of skills that are not the norm in everyday life. Having accepted this, it is easier to get started on a whole new journey of learning, a journey that is arduous and oft frustrating but in the long run very rewarding. The reading skills one picks up for the ACT Writing section may well pay dividends on other platforms and finally actually drive out one’s fear of reading!!!!

Option SAT Dubai has worked hard to develop training tools that ensure an enjoyable interface with the ACT. We believe we have in fact made preparation for the ACT an immensely rewarding experience and invite test-takers to associate with us in their efforts to negotiate this test.

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