Sample ACT Essay – Score 6
“School’s out for summer!” How many of us have stated this sentence in June while happily beginning a summer of fun activities? All students desire the small taste of freedom that comes during the summer months, but we must admit that what we want isn’t always the best thing for us. Few students will admit this, but having an extra few months every year to complete our education would be beneficial to young people entering a world that is more global and competitive than ever. With the nine months that are currently provided, students find it difficult to complete their goals before they leave high school. Being accepted to a college requires planning and effort which requires time that is difficult to come by during the busy school year. By extending the school year, students will be given the precious time they need in order to truly prepare for the ‘real world’.
Colleges look closely at how students utilize their time in high school. Do students do well in their courses? Are students afraid of taking difficult courses? Are students ‘well-rounded’ with extracurricular activities? Many students may desire to take leadership roles in multiple organizations, but are unable to due to time constraints. With an extra few months each year, students will be able to fulfill all of these requirements. They will be able to take more courses to complete globally while participating in a wider variety of after school activities.
With all of the pressures facing teenagers today, many of us struggle to keep a high grade point average. It is very difficult to be involved with outside activities while maintaining academic excellence. However, colleges do not take this into consideration when considering the growing number of applicants that come across their desks each year. Many students who are from other nations such as Japan and China spend much more time in school, and are therefore at an advantage when being compared to American students. Students in our country need to step up to the global plate and use all twelve months of the year to achieve their goals.
Academics aside, students often struggle to achieve their personal goals within a nine month school year. A student may face a choice between an AP Calculus course and a music course. Which looks more impressive on a transcript? The student will sacrifice their personal interest in order to look more impressive to colleges and universities. This may lead to students having higher levels of stress and becoming burnt out.
High school is a turning point for many people. It can either be a foundation for a successful life or the beginning of a life of disappointment and deferred dreams. A few extra months of education each year may make all the difference. With the additional time, students can take both the courses they want and the courses they need while having more time to work at a reasonable pace and to reduce stress and pressure. Teenagers work hard to build the foundation for their future, and they need as much time as possible to ensure their success.
Score 6 – Explanation
Sample ACT Essay – No score
Blank test, illegible, not in English, off-topic
Sample ACT Essay – Score 1
In this essay I will be writing about how year long schools are a bad idea. Students already have to go to school for much too long. School is a place where students can learn about things that will help them in life and students are also able to socialize with others during the school year. Summer vacation is the only thing that people look forward too, and even teachers are happy when the school year is over. Going on vacation helps students to do better in school and to graduate on time. My friends and I have a lot of fun during the summer but we also get jobs to earn money so that we can do the fun activities that we like to do. Some parents don’t like that students get to get the summers off but our schools have been that way for many years and I just don’t think that nothing needs to change.
Score 1 – Explanation
Sample ACT Essay – Score 2
If you ask any student if they would enjoy going to school all year, the vast majority would say no. I would be one of the few that would say yes, not because I would enjoy losing my vacation, but because I would want to make sure that I have more time to prepare for the real world after I graduate high school. Along with this, I feel that we waste a lot of time preparing for the tests that we have to take at the end of the year, and this might make up for the time that we lose when we are doing that.
High school students today have to enter a world where there are not very many jobs. Students need to learn more in school and become smarter so that they can get the jobs since many more people are going against them to get these jobs. Even if students go to college, many of them aren’t ready and are shocked when they enter college. Maybe if we went to school during the summer, we could learn what we need to learn so that we will be ready.
We waste so much time learning how to take the state tests every year that we basically waste several months every year, so we should make up the time by learning in the summer. Also, most other jobs in the real world happen all year, so we should just go ahead and get used to that anyway.
Score 2 – Explanation
Sample ACT Essay – Score 3
Experts debate changing the school calendar to year-round schools. Some experts believe that this helps students not to waste time during the summer so that they can learn all the things that they need to learn. Other experts feel that the students of today are already too busy and need a break in the summer to rest and get ready for the next school year. Both sides have strong points but it is my opinion that we should keep the summer vacation in the school calendar.
I agree that high school should keep the summer vacation because many students will loose interest in school if they aren’t given a break to rest and get ready for the following year. School is very busy for students with both educational and extracurricular activities, and if students don’t get to rest sometimes, they will get burned out and will do worst at school instead of better. Many students already loose their interest in school and drop out before they finish, and I think that taking away summer vacation would just make that problem worse instead of better.
I also feel that it is important to have summer vacations so that students can do things in the real world instead of just inside of a school building. Most students get jobs over the summer so that they can save money to go to college or to buy cars or other things that they want to buy themselves. Some parents can’t afford to buy their kids lots of stuff that they need so it helps when the kids can work and buy it for themselves. Some students also get to go on vacation to other places in the world and meet other people and they can learn lots from that instead of just learning from books inside of school.
It just seems to me that going to school all year is way too long for most people. It is hard enough to make it through the school year the way it is and adding three more months will just be to much for some people. Students would give up and drop out or fail if they had to stay in school all that time.
Score 3 – Explanation
Sample ACT Essay – Score 4
Educators debate the usefulness of a summer vacation in todays changing world. Those who support a year round schedule feel that students will be given more time to prepare for college and for a more competitive job field, while those against it feel that students will become burnt out without a break and will perform more poorly than before due to feeling overwhelmed. There are advantages and disadvantages to each side of the argument, but I feel that having a 12 month school year would be counterintuitive for many reasons, such as a loss of interest and motivation, loss of real life experiences and the fact that three extra months of learning will not solve the bigger issues that face our educational system.
Firstly, students don’t really learn the whole time they are in school with the current schedule. Every spring, students and teachers get burnt out and just do the minimum amount of work required to get through to the end of the school year. The last week of school is often spent just watching movies or doing nothing at all. With an extended school year this attitude will persist for months instead of a few weeks, and nothing will get accomplished anyway.
Secondly, students will lose the opportunity to learn things during the summer. Yes, it is possible to learn outside of school! Many students get jobs during the summer in order to help with expenses. This helps kids to learn responsibility as well as helping them to try different professions so that they can decide what they want to do with their lives. Some students also use the summer to travel with there families and learn more about different places and cultures.
Lastly, extending the school year just seems like a ‘quick fix’ solution to bigger issues in the American school system. Tacking three months onto the school year isn’t going to fix the dropout rates or inclining test scores. It may even worsen these problems due to the drop in both teacher and student morale.
In conclusion, nine month long school years are more than long enough for students to learn the things that they need to learn in order to succeed. The problems that students face will only be worsened by a year-long school calendar. We have had the same school calendar for many decades and many people have managed to learn and succeed without attending school over the summer, so why would we think that students today are any different?
Score 4 – Explanation
Sample ACT Essay – Score 5
Demand for excellence in both academics and extracurricular activities are forcing high school students to work their fingers to the bone in order to reach the high standards that are applied to them in today’s society. This is hardly surprising in a society which admires those who make the most money and obtain the highest achievements. Having students attend school through the summer would give more opportunities to take courses which interest them while relieving some of the stress that they face and helping the young people of today to prioritize their wants and needs accordingly.
Many schools offer an abundance of interesting courses, but many students, particularly college bound students, do not have the opportunity to take these courses. Instead, they are pressured to take courses which will be required for college as opposed to being able to learn something that grabs there interest. College admissions are more competitive than ever, so students will take difficult and more ‘impressive’ courses in order to have a leg up instead of being able to learn about things that they enjoy.
Life for teenagers today is more stressful than ever. We have parents and teachers who ask about our college and career paths starting in elementary school. Stress is a real problem for many young people today. They have to consider many things: Where should I go to college? How will I pay for college? What should I choose for my career? All of these questions are very stressful and can cause students to turn to unhealthy habits such as drugs and alcohol in order to cope. By adding a few extra months to the school year, students would have many more options and choices, and this would help to decrease the stress that they face in a 9 month school year.
Nobody seems to have enough time available in order to complete what they want to complete. Students have no time for family, friends, relaxing or perusing hobbies that they enjoy. Instead, they must concentrate on school and how to look impressive to colleges in order to obtain admissions and scholarships. Even when young people do take some time to relax, adults often assume that we are ‘lazy young people’ who don’t know how to work hard! While some teenagers are lazy (just the same as there are lazy adults!), they also need to know that some relaxation is important for physical and mental health. While some people may think that this is achieved through a three month summer vacation, they should realize that most teenagers just take on jobs or internships to earn money instead of just relaxing… and before they know it, they are back in the stressful school environment. Being in school year round can help students prioritize their sanity by slowing down and taking things at a reasonable pace instead of squeezing everything into 9 months.
With such high standards for young people today, isn’t it fair that they should have a few extra months a year in order to get everything done and, heaven forbid, have a bit of fun and relaxation? Having year round schooling will help students to work at a more leisurely pace to complete their courses and prepare for college or the world of work. They will be able to learn about things that interest them instead of just what they ‘should’ learn for college, and they will be able to have more time to relax and learn how to prioritize their health and mental well being. Having year round schooling will benefit students for years to come.
Score 5 – Explanation
The ACT Writing section (new as of September 2015) is the only optional part of the ACT. However, optional does not mean unnecessary. A number of colleges do require it to be included with the rest of your ACT scores as part of their application process (if you want to check if your dream school is one of them, you can use the ACT’s own College Writing Test Requirements search tool to find out). If any of the schools you’re considering require you to take the ACT Writing Section, you definitely need to know what constitutes a good ACT Writing Score.
Start improving your ACT writing score (and everything else) today with Magoosh!
Note: This post has been updated to reflect the changes announced for the September 2016 ACT and beyond, released by the ACT in June 2016.
ACT Essay Grader
Before we talk about good ACT Writing scores, it’s important to know what score you’re working with.
If you’re coming to this post after taking your first ACT practice test, you might be wondering how the heck you’re supposed to even grade your essay. You’re thinking, “What even IS my ACT Essay score?”
To start, let your essay sit for a day or two before grading it (it’s helpful to get some distance). Then, follow the official scoring rubric from ACT, and ask a trusted friend/teacher/parent to do the same. Be as objective as possible as you grade—you won’t do yourself any favors by inflating your score!
Then, use our handy ACT Essay Grading tool to find your score:
ACT Writing Test Scorer
Click the button below to get started:
All right, now you know what your ACT essay score is. Let’s try to figure out how your essay ranks.
What’s Considered a Good ACT Writing Score?
This is always a tricky question, because the easy answer is that you should try to get the highest score you can. But that isn’t really helpful, is it?
Of course, a lot depends on the schools to which you apply (see ACT scores for the top 100 universities to learn more). Generally, the more selective the school, the higher your score should be to be competitive. Those universities that require the ACT Writing will almost always have an average score range on their admissions website, so make sure you do your research. Most schools do not provide a cut-off score, so theoretically a below-average score will not eliminate you from being considered for admission. Then again, it won’t help you either.
Okay, But Really…I Want Numbers!
All right, all right, let’s talk numbers.
What’s a good ACT Writing score? First off, remember that the ACT Essay is now scored from 1-6 in four categories by two graders. This gives you four scores from 2-12. You then receive a final ACT Essay score from 2-12 that is the average of these four scores. This is the score you will be reporting to colleges. For more detail on how the essay is scored, make sure you check out Rachel’s article on ACT Essay scores.
This is a change from September 2015 to June 2016, when the ACT essay scoring scale was 1-36. If the old scoring scale applied to you, you should have received notice from the ACT about how to convert your score to the new 2-12 range. The ACT also has a good resource to help you convert 2015-2016 ACT essay scores to 2016-2017 essay scores. To understand your percentile, you can use this “Norms Chart”.
That’s a Lot of Numbers… So What Is a Good ACT Writing Score?
If you took the test after September 2016, you’re using the 2-12 scale. And what’s a good ACT Writing score now, using this scale? Shoot for a minimum of 8 on the essay. This will be enough to not raise any eyebrows amongst college admissions officers. For extremely competitive schools, aim for a score of 10+.
ACT Writing: Essay Percentiles
If you’re still wondering just how good your scores are, here’s the breakdown for ACT essay scores and percentiles:
As you can see from this table, the mean, or average, score on the ACT Writing section falls slightly below 7. It’s a good idea to aim for the 75th percentile, so in this case a good ACT writing score would be an 8 or above (16 or above on the old ACT). A 10 or above would put you in the 97th percentile, which is great! If you aspire to Ivy League or other highly-selective schools, a 10 is the threshold you should try your best to reach to be safe.
How Have People Been Doing on the New ACT Writing?
Last year, the Washington Post reported that ACT Writing scores after the essay change were lower than people expected. And honestly, this is exactly why the ACT decided to go back to a separate 2-12 scale: too many students were comparing their essay scaled score from 1-36 to their multiple choice scaled scores from 1-36, when in reality the percentiles were very different.
If you are ever concerned that your essay score is inaccurate, however, you can ask for your essay to be re-scored. The $50 fee for the re-score will be refunded if you do get a higher score.
So what’s the takeaway from all of this? Really, a few key points:
- Research the schools you plan to apply to, and see which of them require the ACT Writing test.
- At the least, shoot for an 8+ overall score for a “good” ACT Writing score.
- A score of 10+ is an ideal score for applications to selective schools.
- If you believe your essay has been mis-scored, you may request a re-score for a fee.
- Don’t panic!
This post was originally published in February, 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
About Elizabeth Peterson
Elizabeth holds a degree in Psychology from The College of William & Mary. While there, she volunteered as a tutor and discovered she loved the personal connection she formed with her students. She has now been helping students with test prep and schoolwork as a professional tutor for over six years. When not discussing grammar or reading passages, she can be found trying every drink at her local coffee shop while writing creative short stories and making plans for her next travel adventure!
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