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09/04/2019

How to improve my ACT essay score? (and… to retake or not?)?

QUESTION
How to improve my ACT essay score? (and… to retake or not?)?
I recently received my first ACT score (first standardized test attempt). The composite score was 32 (a 36 in English, 33 in Math, 29 in Reading and 28 in Science). I was prepared for a poor science score but was disappointed in my reading score. However, the real shocker was my essay score – an 8. The specific comments were:

“Your essay acknowledged counterarguments on the issue but did not discuss them. Your essay adequately supported general statements with specific reasons, examples, and details. Your essay maintained focus on the specific issue in the prompt.”

I am ranked number one in my class; my school is an extremely competitive vanguard school. I have a GPA of 4.93, which is mathematically the highest GPA possible at my school. I don’t test quite as well as I should, but can’t seem to figure out what kind of counter argument the ACT scorers wanted. It seems like fluffy essay topics typical of these standardized tests don’t have clear counter arguments. Does anybody have any thoughts as to how to construct a better scoring ACT essay?

Also, with a 32, should I retake the ACT? I am taking the SAT in a few weeks. My top two colleges are Georgetown and Yale (other possibles include Princeton, Brown, Boston U, Harvard). I have absolutely loaded extracurriculars but am worried about a 32 not being quite high enough. Time management is possibly my strongest ability, so I don’t feel like I ran out of time or just had an off day.

ANSWER
I’ve never taken the ACT myself, but I teach AP Bio, and I know that the AP Bio essays need to be written in a particular way in order to maximize your score. I suggest you check out an ACT review book or website for their essay techniques/tips. One that I’m aware of that has a free 7 day trial is http://www.brightstorm.com/act I have no real idea how good it is (I know their AP Bio course is good), but for free, it’s worth it ;^D With your skills, it is likely that you could zero in on the parts of their course that is best for you w/in the 7 days and get out the learning you need, especially if you time it for your spring vacation or if you have a long weekend coming up soon.