Five Ways You Can Improve Your ACT Writing Score

5 Ways You Can Improve Your ACT Writing ScoreIt is easy to think that the ACT Writing Test is about grammar, grammar, and grammar. And while knowing grammar fundamentals is an important first step, the ACT writing test involves a lot more than making sure your phrases are parallel. To really do well, you’ll need to understand how sentence, paragraphs, and entire essays logically fit together. Of course, there is also the grammar. Below are ACT writing tips that cover which grammar to study to how to make sure you get questions relating to sentence placement correct.

1. Know the grammar the ACT is testing
Grammar is a pretty vast subject. The ACT, however, doesn’t test it all. What you need to know—what comes up in almost every passage—is the following: breaking up nouns and phrases with commas, possessives, verb tense, pronoun agreement, and word choice (picking the best word given the context). Knowing that these topics are the most common will help you hone your studying. For instance, if you struggle with comma use—whether those commas are meant to break up dependent and independent clauses or a list of things—you should spend some time brushing up on your commas. I’d recommend studying commas over the course of a week, in little 30-minute sessions. As you learn the fundamentals, make sure you do practice passages so that you can apply these concepts, whether the concept be commas, verb tense, or any other area you struggle in.

2. Always pay attention to context
As I mentioned in the intro, you’ll need to know more than just raw grammar. To correctly answer many questions, you’ll have to look at the surrounding text. Is that pronoun singular or plural case? Well, you’ll likely have to read the sentence beforehand. Some questions ask you to pick the phrase that makes the most sense. To do this, you’ll sometimes have to read a couple of sentences before the underlined part to pick the best answer.

3. Don’t be afraid to read an entire paragraph before doing the question
A good strategy is to read through the paragraph doing only the questions that relate to punctuation and in-sentence grammar. For questions that ask you whether a general idea should be placed at the end of the sentence or questions that ask you to determine the best position for a sentence, you should read the entire paragraph first. That way you have a sense of the big picture. Once you get to the end of the paragraph, you can return to those questions that require this big picture thinking.

4. Take practice ACTs under timed conditions
The truth is the ACT writing is difficult because you get so little time. With 45 minutes to do a whopping 75 questions (that’s about 36 seconds per question), you’ll find yourself struggling to finish, especially without sacrificing accuracy. The best way to improve is to make sure you are carefully doing the first three tips in this post. Then, and only then, should you attempt to take full-length practice tests, because otherwise you’ll rush too much and base your answer less on context and grammar than on the way the answer sounds. By doing practice tests, you’ll get faster.

5. Read
The ACT Writing test is essentially a massive reading section, but instead of comprehension you are mainly being tested on grammar and style. To become adept at sifting through all of these words, you should make it a daily habit to read from
newspapers (The New York Times and The Washington Post are good) and magazines (Time for the easy side, The Atlantic Monthly for the more challenging reads). Find something that interests you and spend about 15-20 a day reading. Do that for three straight weeks and you’ll be surprised at how your reading brain improves.

To successfully all these tips, make sure to not only take practice tests but to make sure you are improving. To see how you perform on a section, make sure you have this ACT raw score conversion chart handy.

About Chris Lele
For the last ten years, Chris has been helping students excel on the SAT and the GRE. In this time, he’s coached 5 students to a perfect SAT score. Some of his GRE students have raised their scores by nearly 400 points. He has taken many GMAT students from the doldrums of the 600s to the coveted land of the 700+. Rumor has it he does a secret happy dance when his students get a perfect score. You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh High School Blog, and study with his lessons using Magoosh SAT Prep.

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