Key components of a great ACT essay?

I'm nervous about the Writing section of the ACT because I have a hard time writing under pressure. What should I make sure I include in my essay for a high score?

First, make sure you have a strong introduction that introduces your perspective on the issue and its relationship to the other perspectives listed in the prompt. Choose one of the perspectives that the ACT gives you to make things easier on yourself. A good introduction with a solid thesis statement is very important because it's the first thing the graders will see.

In the body of the essay, aim to devote one paragraph to each perspective. List both pros and cons for each (even the ones you don't agree with), and give specific examples to support your points. Start by discussing the two perspectives that you disagree with, and use the third body paragraph to support your chosen perspective.

Then, restate your thesis in a short conclusion paragraph. The structure of the whole essay should look something like this:

Introduction (2-3 sentences)
Body Paragraph 1: Opposing Perspective (5-7 sentences)
Body Paragraph 2: Opposing Perspective (5-7 sentences)
Body Paragraph 3: Your Chosen Perspective (5-7 sentences)
Conclusion (1-2 sentences)

The five paragraph format may seem very formulaic, but it's the easiest way to write a high-scoring, well-organized essay on the ACT.