How to Improve Your ACT Essay Score

The tips below identify examples of various components of the essay. The examples of each component are meant to highlight that particular component; the examples may not go well with the thesis mentioned in the ideas and analysis paragraph below. In an actual essay, make sure all of the components align with your thesis.

Remember IDOL.

  • Ideas and Analysis
  • Development and Support
  • Organization
  • Language

Ideas and Analysis: Address all perspectives, agreeing, disagreeing and/or placing a limitation on one or more of the perspectives. Have a precise, nuanced thesis. Provide a context for the analysis (U.S. vs other countries; democratic countries vs. dictatorships; now vs. 100 years ago; school vs. workplace). “Technology is beneficial only in countries in which the government won’t abuse the advancements to create an Orwellian state.”

For your analysis, use this mnemonic.

“Imply Complex Tensions and Value Assumptions.”

Say it 10 times to remember it.

The mnemonic should help you remember that your analysis must include:

  • Implications
  • Complexities
  • Tensions


  • Underlying Values
  • Assumptions

Implications: A dictatorship can exploit technology to create an Orwellian state.

Complexities: The Internet can give citizens of dictatorships access to outside information. However, dictators may block or censor the Internet or monitor Internet usage and jail those who publish messages that oppose the government.

Tensions: Examine fundamental rights, such as the right of free speech, democracy, privacy, safety and healthcare. Examine the clashes of those rights.

Even in a democracy, technology can infringe on freedom. In protecting its citizens from terrorists, democratic governments monitor phone calls and e-mails of law-abiding citizens, robbing those citizens of the very freedoms the anti-terrorist fight is supposed to protect.

Underlying Values: Examine fundamental rights, such as the right of free speech, democracy, safety, privacy and healthcare.

Assumptions: Look at the assumptions of each perspective and support or attack that assumption. If it says machines lead to efficiency, as assumption is that efficiency is beneficial. However, you can note that technology can allow computers to grade essays automatically, which can be efficient at providing a grade but fail to provide the feedback students need.

Development and Support: broaden the context (“In poorer Communist countries, people cannot afford the technology that can improve their lives.”) Add qualifications (limitations) and complications. A qualification: “However, in poor countries that receive international investments, technology can be a boon to the economy.”) A complication: “The threat of terrorism has meant that even citizens of democratic countries can risk becoming part of an Orwellian state as the government spies on its own citizens by monitoring telephone calls and of e-mails. In democratic countries, stronger civil rights laws can seek to limit such an invasion of privacy; we must be constantly vigilant to maintain a free society.”

Organization: Organize your ideas well. Have one controlling idea (that starts with a good thesis) and logically progress to build upon that idea. Have good transitions linking sentences within paragraphs and joining paragraphs

Language Use: Your language should enhance your argument. Use only words that you know well, and use them correctly. Using introducing phrases, yary your sentence structure, as I do in this sentence. Avoid grammatical and usage errors.

For the tips above, I use an ACT Essay on Intelligent Machines.