Time Management

Kristin Fracchia
Lesson by Kristin Fracchia
Magoosh Expert
Learn More About Magoosh ACT
It's time to talk about everybody's favorite topic, time management. All right, maybe it's not your favorite topic, but it is really important for the ACT essay because you only have 40 minutes to do a lot. To think through a complicated debatable topic to come up with good examples for it, and then, oh yeah, you have to write the thing. You have to write an entire essay and leave in a little time at the end for some proofreading to make sure it is as good as you can possibly make it in that 40 minutes.

So, let's talk about what an effective timing breakdown looks like for the ACT essay. I recommend that you spend 10-15 minutes planning. It is much better to spend more time planning and less time writing than the other way around. High scoring essays are really not all that incredibly long, but they have the perfect examples and they are exceptionally well organized.

So, figure this out before you go into writing so you don't end up getting stuck with weak examples or rambling organization. So I recommend that you spend one minute reading the prompts and perspectives. Four to six minutes brainstorming examples and arguments and counterarguments, if that applies, for each perspective. And then spend five to eight minutes choosing your perspective, develop your thesis, and sketching a brief outline.

So that means you can't really do the upper ranges of each of these minutes and still stick to that 10 to 15 minutes planning, so this is just to give you kind of a rough estimate, 10 to 15 minutes overall, though. Don't spend less than 10 minutes. I'm serious about this, make sure you have a really good outline. So, let's talk about the initial minute here.

Although it often helps to come up with a gut instinct perspective immediately after reading a prompt, in an ideal world you'll be writing about a perspective that you believe in, it's really best to leave this for after you brainstorm examples. If you have more persuasive examples for another perspective, then this is going to be perspective you want to argue. The graders really don't care what you real perspective is.

They're going to be reading essays on all sorts of different viewpoints, and it's not their job to judge which one they think is the best, it's the one that has the best examples, the best support, the best arguments. Now, then you want to spend 20 to 25 minutes writing your essay, and finally two to three minutes proofreading. Now ideally this two to three minute proofreading period isn't optional.

But if you need time to finish out your last body paragraph then go ahead and omit it. I'd rather you finish writing your body paragraphs. If you're running out of time for the conclusion, however, then I recommend that you spend some time on proofreading rather than your conclusion. Write down a one sentence conclusion just restating your thesis statement and use that time to proofread.

A long conclusion really isn't all that important, but fixing some of those mistakes you always make is important. So, let's talk about why you wanna spend so much time planning, and then we will break down this 20 to 25 minute writing period a little bit further. All right, so, why are you gonna do this? The new ACT essay gives a 40 minute time limit.

The old essay gave a 30 minute time limit. However, the evidence I've seen so far shows that the essay does not need to be longer to get the same score as under the old time limit. So the reason, I believe, for this time limit extension is to give students more time to think through the more complex essay task that is on the new ACT essay, so you need this planning time in order to write an essay that is effectively organized and very persuasively argued and supported.

Okay. So hopefully you believe me, use that planning time. All right, let's break down that 20-25 minute writing period a little bit further in case you want some more details, now I don't want you to obsess over this. Don't be checking your watch to see when every two minutes pass, but check in roughly every five to ten minutes on your essay time period.

Make sure you're roughly on track with where you need to be. Okay, so I want you to spend about three minutes on your intro paragraph. It should be about two to three sentences, maybe four. Then spend four to five minutes talking about the first perspective that you're going to evaluate. Now, this doesn't necessarily mean the one that's labeled perspective number one.

It means the first one that you want to talk about. So part of your planning period, and we talk more about this in the planning video, should be organizing which perspective you want to talk about first, which one second, which one third. So you can decide based on your organization, your argument, which is the natural order for those to appear in.

But you do need to talk about all three of them, so you can't skip any of them. So I would suggest you spend four to five minutes talking about whatever the first one you're gonna talk about is, four to five minutes on the second, four to five minutes on the third, and then your perspective is going to be three to four minutes. I recommend that you tie this into whatever that last perspective is you're gonna talk about.

And again, we talk about this more in the structuring your essay and planning your essay videos, in the body paragraph videos about how to do this. But even if your perspective is a little bit different, if you can tie it into that last one you're talking about, you're gonna cover more ground. So that's the breakdown for that. And then, remember these are, and then spent two to three minutes on your conclusion.

Again you can omit the conclusion if you are running out of time for proof reading, just do a quick one sentence recap on the conclusion and move on. Now, remember that these are rough guidelines, okay, so it doesn't exactly mean this is gonna be how your essay breaks down. Maybe you'll have a lot more to say about the first perspective than you have to say about the other ones so take the time to develop a really good example.

But this will help roughly keep you on track with an essay that is going to work and that is going to get you a decent score as far as covering all your bases goes. And remember, this is not the only way to organize your essay, but it's an effective way and, like I say, we'll talk more about that in some of the other videos, particularly the Structuring Your Essay one.

All right, quick recap, so you can have these timings in your head. Ten to 15 minutes of planning, where you're reading, you're brainstorming examples, and you're outlining. 20 to 25 minutes writing, and two to three minutes proofreading. Personally, I'm in favor of the max planning time. Your essay doesn't need to be all that long, but it does need to be really well constructed.

All right, so there's effective time management for the ACT. I hope this helps you get everything done in time and not run out of time to write your essay.

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