The ACT Writing Test—colloquially referred to as the ACT essay—is an optional 40-minute test that does not affect your overall ACT score. But just because the writing test is optional when you register, it doesn’t necessarily mean it’s necessarily optional for you.
Select schools, maybe even your dream university, actually do require the ACT essay as part of the admissions application. Further, if you consider yourself more of a strong writer than a strong test-taker, the ACT essay can help you impress the admissions committee. Either way, understanding how the ACT essay is scored will help you perform at your best should you decide to write it:
Understanding the ACT essay prompt
The ACT essay will present you with an issue as well as three perspectives on that issue. Your task is to clearly state your own point of view and analyze the the similarities and/or differences between your perspective and one of the given perspectives. You are not evaluated on the perspective that you take; instead, you will be evaluated on how well you organize your thoughts, support your ideas with examples and reasoning, and communicate your argument clearly, using the conventions of written English.
How the ACT essay is scored
The ACT essay is scored across four domains: Ideas and Analysis, Development and Support, Organization, and Language Use and Conventions. Each of these are scored by two independent graders on a scale of 1-6 (with 6 being the highest) for a total score in each domain out of 12. Your overall writing test score will be the average of your scores on the four domains, and thus, also out of 12: