How to Wow the Graders

Kristin Fracchia
Lesson by Kristin Fracchia
Magoosh Expert
Learn More About Magoosh ACT
This lesson is about what basically every student wants to know about the ACT essay. And that is how to completely knock the socks off the graders who are going to be reading your essay. So, this is all about how to wow the graders. Now, you can watch this lesson before you jump into the specific instructional videos on intros and conclusions and thesis statements and planning and all.

Or you can watch it after, either way works for me. But we're just gonna talk kind of overview, what is going to make the biggest difference in your ACT essay score, and make the graders be like wow, thank you so much for sending me this essay, because those other ones I've been reading all day are terrible. And this one is doing exactly what I want it to do.

So let's talk about the six ways to wow the graders on your ACT essay. First of all, have a clear argument. We're gonna talk about all of these in a little bit more detail. Two, use very specific examples. Three, use transition words and phrases. Four, have strong analysis.

Five, interrogate the perspectives, like they are criminals. Six, make sure your essay is long enough and we're gonna talk about what the means as well too. So let's jump into that first one, have a clear argument. Part of being clear is making sure your argument is where the graders are expecting to find it.

And so your thesis statement which is your argument should appear where they usually would expect to find them in an academic paper and that is at the end of your introduction paragraph. So for example, let's say your argument is about intelligent machines and let's take a look at this example evaluate whether it's good or bad. Intelligent machines are changing our world, for better or for worse.

This doesn't take a stance. It's not making an argument. It's too vague. They're changing our world. Well, duh. For better?

Or for worse? I don't know because you didn't make an argument. So, our second example here fixes those issues. Although intelligent machines may improve efficiency and prosperity in the workplace, ultimately the toll they take on our humanity as they hinder our relationships with others is not worth the profits they might garner.

So this is telling us that, this is our argument. They're taking too great of a toll on our humanity and it's not worth it, even if they might make us more profitable, more prosperous. So, you can check out the thesis video for more on writing a thesis statement. But if you don't have an argument, you might as well stamp a low score on your essay.

There is no way to do better than that. Number two, use specific examples. This will wow the graders as well too. So example number one. Machines make our lives easier by doing everyday tasks that normally human beings have to do.

It's all right, but it's pretty general. What are those everyday tasks? Be specific. Self-checkout machines can dramatically reduce the time we have to spend running errands. That's better, that's more specific.

You could get even more specific than that, you could talk about a specific scenario that happened at your local grocery store when self-checkout machines were installed, or something like that. You can get as specific as you possibly can and that will often go over better. Number three, let's look at this third example that gets very specific. Not about self-checkout machines, but I'm gonna go ahead and let you read this.

Go ahead and pause and read this amazing specific example. Okay, did you read it? Whoa, don't be intimidated. This student probably just learned about printing presses in history class last week and they were like oh yes, I can talk about this on the ACT essay. You too can draw on recent knowledge or topics you know well.

Now this is not perfect, but it's very specific. The Gutenburg printing press and the printing revolution. And they were horrors that people thought would make monks lazy. It would diminish the art of writing, this printing press. And today we're experiencing much the same. People are scared of a changing world and this is an example showing that.

That's not necessarily a bad thing. Machines aren't a bad thing but people will always be scared of a changing world. Now, from what I've seen it definitely appears that a couple extended good examples are getting higher scores than lots of little examples, so if you can do that, well, you're probably going to wow the graders. Now, number three the third way to wow the graders is to use transition words and phrases.

Transitions do a great deal to help readers understand the connections between your arguments. Make sure they're understanding the logical flow of your argument. They signal when you're arguing for or against something, when you’re giving an example of something. When you're moving to another argument so make sure to use them, here are some examples, in addition, on the other hand, although, for example, when you're gonna introduce an example, or similarly when you're introducing another example that is similar to the one you just gave.

Or most importantly when you wanna really draw their attention. There's so many transition words that you can be using. Don't assume that the grader reading your essay in a minute or a minute and a half is gonna take the time to infer your logic. Make it really clear by using lots of transition words. What your arguments are?

What you're doing with your arguments? Whether your moving on to a new one or supporting the one your currently talking about, etc. Number four, have strong analysis. Don't just give an example. Clearly explains how it supports your argument.

So let's go back to our example here. This is the example we read on the previous screen as a specific example, but now I've highlighted a couple parts in blue just to draw out what they're doing. So this first part, this just gives the example of the Gutenberg printing press and the printing revolution, and then this first part in blue, analyzes, explains how this example supports a point that the author wants to make about today.

People are scared of a changing world and then here it's transitioning into their argument, pushing a little farther to explicitly connect the analysis to the author's argument here, but this is not a valid justification to inhibit progress though. We must carefully consider the pros and cons of each technological advancement before okaying it.

So this is their argument here. We need to consider the pros and cons before we say technology's okay. We should just build machines and say go ahead robots. There's been lots of scary movies about why that's a bad idea. But I digress. Don't make it hard for the graders to see how your example support your argument.

Analyze and be really clear. Number five, in the ways to wow the graders. Interrogate the perspectives, never agree with all three of the perspectives. They're gonna be kind of arguing against each other. So agree with some of them, disagree with others, you probably do that already but make sure you're not just saying oh they all sound good.

So, for example, machines are bad because they cause us to lose basic courtesy towards other people. Machines also lead to a more prosperous world because they’re more efficient. In addition, machines are good because they help us imagine new possibilities for the future. That’s really contradictory.

They’re bad, they’re good, I don't know. What this person did is, there were three perspectives in the prompt, and they agreed with all of them, so what's the argument? And this happens more often than you'd think because you can see the persuasiveness of each of the perspectives that's why this is a debatable issue, because they all have valid reasoning to support them.

But what's gonna get you points is to see the limitations of the arguments. What do they fail to consider? So let's look at a another example, that's addressing what the arguments fail to consider, so notice we have this transition here although. Although some people may fear that intelligent machines diminish our relationship with others, so this was the perspective here, intelligent machines diminish our relationship with others.

There are also machines that enhance them. For example, my family keeps in touch with our relatives in Spain by using video chat programs on our computers. If these programs didn't exist, I would miss out on special moments. Such as, watching my nieces first steps. I felt almost as if I were there.

We have a good example here that shows how a machine connects with others rather than diminishes our relationships with others, it helps improve our relationships with others, so that's great. Don't just blindly agree with all the perspectives or assume that they're true. Make sure you're interrogating them, thinking critically about them, and thinking about what they fail to consider.

Careful to note, that this doesn't apply to your own argument. Don't undermine it. Argue for it. But if you can anticipate counterarguments to your argument, then you can strengthen your own argument by refuting those counterarguments. So, for example, let's say your argument is that intelligent machines make the workplace more efficient.

But in your head you're thinking, if I was in debate class someone would say, well, they often break and they require maintenance and that decreases productivity during the work day. And then you would say, aha, good point my friend. But, although it's true that machines can sometimes be unreliable, the increase in efficiency overall created by machines far outweighs temporary inconveniences and then you'd give an example of this overall increase in efficiency.

So you wouldn't exactly say this in your essay, but you would say this part, they can make it more efficient. And then you acknowledge that, hey they can sometimes be unreliable but it's more important that they're there to increase overall efficiency and that far outweighs the temporary inconveniences. Number six, make sure your essay is long enough.

Now, essays are not graded on length, but from what I've seen and what I've always seen on these standardized test essays, is that there is an unconscious bias towards longer essays. That doesn't mean that you should just ramble on and talk about nonsensical things. That's not going to help just to make it long.

But the essays that are too short they really just can't possibly contain the depth of support or the level of analysis that the graders are looking for in a high-scoring essay. And that's generally why longer essays tend to score better. So, what you wanna do is aim to get your writing on to the second page of the test book, this is something concrete that you can do and you can practice this at home by writing on wide ruled loose leaf paper, which sort of mimics how the lines work in your ACT test book.

And again don't achieve this by being repetitive or going of on tangents that's not going to get you a high score. Just making it longer doesn't give you a high score so if you really are struggling and it's going to cause you to repeat ideas or talk about ideas that don't relate in order to make your essay longer. It's really better to leave it short and sweet rather than long and redundant, but work on getting that essay on to that second page.

That's where the highest scoring essays tend to be. Quick recap. Wowing the graders. Have a clear argument. Use a very specific examples. Use transition words and phrases.

Have strong analysis. Interrogate the perspectives, and make sure your essay is long enough to do all of these things. Go ahead and check out our other videos for more on the specifics on wowing the graders on each individual part.

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