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Thinking through the ACT and SAT essays--could you give your input?

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Ds is in his 10th grade year. He took the ACT with writing and did not do well in the essay. His problem is not writing, per se, but that he can't think of enough to say about the kinds of topics the ACT has. He needs to take the ACT every year to fulfill requirements in our state, but the requirements don't include the essay part. So here are my questions:


For the sake of college applications:


Should I have him continue to take the ACT essays (knowing that if he gets a bang up score on the rest of that ACT, that future colleges would see the cruddy essay score?) The point would be to practice essays in a standardized test setting.


Should I have him take the ACT without writing and instead focus on SAT essays? (SAT essay prompts seem more substantive in general rather than focusing on supposed "high school" level persuasive writing topics)


What materials have been the best for your student in helping prep for the SAT essay? Anyone have a student who did so-so, then improved their essay using ____ resource?


Thanks for your input.

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Can't advise as to what route to take. From what I've read, students with language skills excel at the ACT, students with other skills excel at the SAT. Below are links to various articles that may at least give you more to think about as you make your decision.


FWIW, our boys are 9th and 10th grades, and we try to do a weekly timed essay for practice (just 15 minutes at this point), and length is a problem for them, too. What I see is that they have great, well-reasoned arguments, but struggle to come up with specific examples, which is what would give those essays the additional length that the essay graders are looking for. I think we will start taking 5 minutes all together *before* writing to brainstorm and come up with a quick outline AND specific examples, before we start writing -- hopefully to get them in the practice of doing that themselves for the testing. BEST of luck in deciding what route to go! Warmest regards, Lori D.



The ACT website

Samples of prompts, but especially of essays, which, if you and your student look over, you might get a better feel for what to add in to lengthen the ACT essay:

ACT homepage = http://www.actstudent.org/writing/sample/index.html

ACT Scoring Explanation = http://www.actstudent.org/writing/sample/sixexplain.html



Writing the ACT Essay: instructive essay on how to write an ACT essay




ACT Writing Test Scoring Guidelines / ACT Writing Test Rubric:




CUNY/ACT Writing Exam: tips for what's ooked for and how to write a good essay




WTM High School Forum: old thread on ACT/SAT essay prompts for practice:




Wikipedia: ACT vs SAT essays and grading




The College Board: SAT essay grading explanation and examples of essays:




Sparknotes: how to plan out and write an SAT essay:




Online Math Learning: past SAT writing prompts for practice:


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Thank you SO MUCH for the instructive writing link. It is just what we have needed.


My dd is also on a weekly ACT writing prep schedule, with last week being her first. She was quite frustrated and these instructions address the very problems she was having.


Can you tell I'm VERY excited!!


Thanks again. :001_smile:

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