The ACT has always been reluctant to admit that any part of the ACT can be ‘coached’ – in other words, that someone who follows a test prep course can get a higher score than they would have without the coaching.

However, the ACT itself has admitted that the writing section it added to the revised version of its test is coachable. In fact, some outside observers are saying the writing test may be the most coachable part of the exam.

The College Board, the ACT’s effective counterpart, once sponsored a study that found that students who had received as little as 9 hours of coaching for the writing test of the old version of the SAT raised their test scores significantly. In some cases, the increase was as much as 3 points on the 12-point writing test scale.

Test-takers apparently don’t have to sink weeks of their time into essay prep in order to increase their ACT writing scores. A short, focused prep program seems to be all that is needed for some test-takers to boost their scores.

But an even better piece of news is that writing section coaching can teach skills that are useful beyond the scope of the ACT. The strategies test-takers learn to quickly brainstorm an essay topic and to organize and present their arguments in writing can come in handy for college study and exams.

Even if you’re confident of your writing abilities, it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with sample ACT essay prompts and to write some practice essays under realistic test conditions (meaning by hand and within 25 minutes).

Fall is a good time for high school juniors start planning their test prep for one of the spring test dates. Don’t forget, the spring of your junior year is the ideal time to take the ACT. That way you’ll have your test scores in hand before you begin serious work on college selection – and you’ll have plenty time to re-take the ACT if you aren’t happy with your first set of scores.

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