How to write the ACT essay

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The ACT essay will provide you with a prompt "relevant" to high school students—basically it's a topic on which the ACT test writers believe almost any typical high school student will have some opinion. Here's an example of a sample prompt.

The Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA) requires all school libraries receiving certain federal funds to install and use blocking software to prevent students from viewing material considered "harmful to minors." However, some studies conclude that blocking software in schools damages educational opportunities for students, both by blocking access to Web pages that are directly related to the state-mandated curriculums and by restricting broader inquiries of both students and teachers. In your view, should the schools block access to certain Internet websites?

In your essay, take a position on this question. You may write about either one of the two points of view given, or you may present a different point of view on this question. Use specific reasons and examples to support your position.

Your job is to write an essay in which you take some sort of position on the prompt and develop your position through the use of appropriate supporting examples. You've probably written an essay like this in your high school English class. The only difference is that on the ACT you have a mere 30 minutes to read the prompt, brainstorm some examples, organize the essay, write it, and proofread it. You may be thinking that there's no way that you can write a great essay in such a short amount of time on a topic you've never seen before, and that is indeed true. But that's okay, because the ACT essay graders don't expect a perfect essay; they don't want to penalize you for minor spelling and grammar mistakes. Instead, graders will focus on the major components of your essay.

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