Tips For Writing A Powerful College Essay

3 Standardized Testing Tips For English Language Learners

The reading sections of the ACT and SAT can often be challenging tasks for test-takers. For students whose first language isn’t English, these passages can be even more difficult. Tiffany Sorensen, a professional tutor at Varsity Tutors and contributor at US News, recently offered a few prep tips that can make reading passages easier for second language learners.


When prepping, Sorensen recommends second language learners to specifically seek out vocabulary lists that are designed for English language learners (ELLs).

“These will expose you to the words you are most likely to encounter on the ACT or SAT, rather than arcane words you have a much smaller chance of coming across,” Sorensen writes.


A helpful skill to practice when reading passages is to seek out the main ideas.

“ACT and SAT reading passages often bombard test takers with much more text than they need to answer the questions,” Sorensen writes. “Cutting through the clutter to find the important information is a key testing skill.”

According to Khan Academy, main ideas, particularly in non-fiction, can often be found in the following places within a passage:

  • A thesis statement, which summarizes the main claim of the passage, will usually show up in the first few sentences.
  • A topic sentence, which describes the main subject of a paragraph, is usually the first sentence of that paragraph.
  • The concluding paragraph will frequently restate the main point of the passage by summarizing everything that has been previously said.


If you’re taking the ACT, you’ll have the option to complete the 40-minute essay. Sorensen says a helpful strategy is to practice common essay writing phrases, or “language chunks.”

“Before test day, devote some time to memorizing ‘language chunks’ that you can use in your writing, no matter what the essay topic may be,” Sorensen writes. “For example, the essay always has you consider and comment on different perspectives, so you can come prepared with phrases that help you speak about and compare those perspectives. Examples of useful chunks you should learn include ‘an advantage of’ and ‘on the other hand.’ Knowing such recyclable phrases can ease test anxiety and give your essays a more natural sound.”

Sources: US News, Khan Academy

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