Margo Bartsch, founder since 2004 mbartsch@collegeessaycoach.com 802-985-3770

 

Starting September, 2015, the new ACT essay format and timing is completely different than prior years. Similar to the upcoming new SAT essay in March, 2016, the updated ACT and SAT essays aim to reflect the critical thinking that colleges are demanding from students. Standardized test essays allow colleges to evaluate how a student interprets a question, identifies a theme, and organizes evidence.

Overview:

 

The optional essays require additional registration and extra payment for it to be evaluated and scored. Nearly all colleges require submitting the essay scores. The new ACT and SAT essays are longer and different than previous formats.

There are four blank pages to write the response, compared to two pages from previous years. The new ACT essay is 40 minutes (compared from 25 minutes) and the new SAT essay is 50 minutes (compared from 20 minutes). The goal is for the student to read, analyze and write a compelling argument to support a theme.

 

New ACT Essay:

With the new ACT essay, there is a prompt and three general opinions. In tutoring my students to prepare for the exam, I group them as "papa bear, mama bear, and baby bear." The student must present a theme or point of view based on the position they agree with the most.

The ACT essay is structured by either refuting or agreeing with the opinions depending on the theme's position. The student's evidence should highlight personal experience, historical significance, or current events that substantiate why or why not an opinion is valid.

New SAT Essay:

Whereas, the new SAT essay is designed to read a long passage, article, or excerpt by an author. The essay must explain how the author builds the argument.  The student must develop a theme or main idea of the author's purpose.  Unlike the new ACT, the student does not take a position of whether they are in agreement or not with the author's claims. 

The new SAT essay is structured around citing evidence from the passage and organizing points to substantiate the essay's main idea.  In tutoring my students, we review how facts, opinions, style, and words are helpful organizational tools to support claims and write persuasively.

 

Summary:

Both the new ACT and new SAT essays are given at the end of the test, after nearly four hours of testing. Writing with structure is critical to present a central argument, support ideas with evidence, and formulate a clear conclusion. This writing style is similar to an author analysis or research paper where substantiating the facts reinforces the thesis.

 

The new essays for the SAT and ACT are scored by quality, not quantity. You are rated on how clearly you present you main idea, support and analyze evidence and develop your point of view, and how well you use language throughout the essay. Your essay score represents the quality of your ideas and the organization of your thoughts. It is not the position you take, but how well you state your case and support it. Practice makes perfect!

Organizing your time is key. In working with your College Essay Coach, you will learn how to streamline the pre-writing process, structure your outline, compose your ideas, and proofread your work. The essay is your opportunity to engage the reader and break-through the clutter of other essays. It is your timed-approach to structured writing that will be your chance to shine!