Some Good Essay Words
When taking the ACT essay section, students have 45 minutes to write a well-reasoned argumentative essay about a given prompt. The new ACT Essay prompts tend to be about “debate” topics — two sides of an issue are presented, with no obviously “right” side. Oftentimes, these subjects carry implications for broader issues such as freedom or morality. Test-takers are expected to convey some stance on the issue and support their argument with relevant facts and analysis.
In addition to some of the more obvious categories, like grammar and structure, students’ essays are also evaluated on their mastery of the English language. One way to demonstrate such mastery is through the correct usage of advanced vocabulary words. Below are 50 above-average vocabulary words sorted by the contexts in which they could most easily be worked into an ACT essay.
Context 1: Factual Support For ACT Essay
These words can easily be used when stating facts and describing examples to support one’s argument. On ACT essays, common examples are trends or patterns of human behavior, current or past events, and large-scale laws or regulations.
- Antecedent – a precursor, or preceding event for something – N
- Bastion – an institution/place/person that strongly maintains particular principles, attitudes, or activities – N
- Bellwether – something that indicates a trend – N
- Burgeon – to begin to grow or increase rapidly – V
- Catalyst – an agent that provokes or triggers change – N
- Defunct – no longer in existence or functioning – Adj.
- Entrenched – characterized by something that is firmly established and difficult to change – Adj.
- Foster – to encourage the development of something – V
- Galvanize – to shock or excite someone into taking action – V
- Impetus – something that makes a process or activity happen or happen faster – N
- Inadvertent – accidental or unintentional – Adj.
- Incessant – never ending; continuing without pause – Adj.
- Inflame – to provoke or intensify strong feelings in someone – V
- Instill – to gradually but firmly establish an idea or attitude into a person’s mind – V
- Lucrative – having a large reward, monetary or otherwise – Adj.
- Myriad – countless or extremely large in number – Adj.
- Precipitate – to cause something to happen suddenly or unexpectedly – V
- Proponent – a person who advocates for something – N
- Resurgence – an increase or revival after a period of limited activity – N
- Revitalize – to give something new life and vitality – V
- Ubiquitous – characterized by being everywhere; widespread – Adj.
- Watershed – an event or period that marks a turning point – N
Context 2: Analysis
These words can often be used when describing common patterns between examples or casting some form of opinion or judgement.
- Anomaly – deviation from the norm – N
- Automaton – a mindless follower; someone who acts in a mechanical fashion – N
- Belie – to fail to give a true impression of something – V
- Cupidity – excessive greed – Adj.
- Debacle – a powerful failure; a fiasco – N
- Demagogue – a political leader or person who looks for support by appealing to prejudices instead of using rational arguments – N
- Deter – to discourage someone from doing something by making them doubt or fear the consequences – V
- Discredit – to harm the reputation or respect for someone – V
- Draconian – characterized by strict laws, rules and punishments – Adj.
- Duplicitous – deliberately deceitful in speech/behavior – Adj.
- Egregious – conspicuously bad; extremely evil; monstrous and outrageous – Adj.
- Exacerbate – to make a situation worse – V
- Ignominious – deserving or causing public disgrace or shame – Adj.
- Insidious – proceeding in a subtle way but with harmful effects – Adj.
- Myopic – short-sighted; not considering the long run – Adj.
- Pernicious – dangerous and harmful – Adj.
- Renegade – a person who betrays an organization, country, or set of principles – N
- Stigmatize – to describe or regard as worthy of disgrace or disapproval – V
- Superfluous – unnecessary – Adj.
- Venal – corrupt; susceptible to bribery – Adj.
- Virulent – extremely severe or harmful in its effects – Adj.
- Zealot – a person who is fanatical and uncompromising in pursuit of their religious, political, or other ideals – N
Context 3: Thesis and Argument
These words are appropriate for taking a stance on controversial topics, placing greater weight on one or the other end of the spectrum, usually touching on abstract concepts, and/or related to human nature or societal issues.
- Autonomy – independence or self governance; the right to make decisions for oneself – N
- Conundrum – a difficult problem with no easy solution – N
- Dichotomy – a division or contrast between two things that are presented as opposites or entirely different – N
- Disparity – a great difference between things – N
- Divisive – causing disagreement or hostility between people – Adj.
- Egalitarian – favoring social equality and equal rights – Adj.
Although it’s true that vocabulary is one of the lesser criteria by which students’ ACT essays are graded, the small boost it may give to a student’s score could be the difference between a good score and a great score. For those who are already confident in their ability to create and support a well-reasoned argument but still want to go the extra mile, having a few general-purpose, impressive-sounding vocabulary words up one’s sleeve is a great way to tack on even more points.
To learn more about the ACT test, check out these CollegeVine posts:
Angela is a student at Cornell College of Engineering. At CollegeVine, she works primarily as ACT Verbal Division Manager. She enjoys teaching a variety of subjects and helping students realize their dreams.
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This is a guest post by Sam Pealing. Make sure to visit his website EnglishForStudy.com for more academic English help!
I admire international students. Seriously. If you’re a non-native English speaker doing a degree or doctorate in English, then I take my hat off to you.
I get a lot of questions about writing essays, and I’ve taught hundreds of students how to write effective essays (which get good grades). One of the most common mistakes that I see is a lack of opinion.
Most of the time, students describe a situation, but they don’t give their opinion or stance. This can really damage your grade because lecturers are always looking for ‘critical thinking’. If you don’t give your opinion in your essays, your lecturers can’t see your critical thinking.
To put it simply: If you don’t put your opinion or stance in an essay, then you’ll probably lose marks.
In this article, you’ll learn 10 effective phrases that you can use to give your opinion in your essay. I’ve also created a free lesson pack which will help you to practice the phrases in this article. CLICK HERE to download it.
Introducing the Phrases
If you’re looking for a quick fix for your essay, these phrases should help you to start putting your own opinions in your essays.
But, before you rush over to your essays to start putting these phrases in, there’s something you need to know.
If you’re writing an academic essay, you will need to support your opinions with strong evidence. This is especially true if you are using some of the stronger phrases.
This evidence can be a journal article, a lecture, a textbook, or something else which is a trustworthy source of information.
In a more informal essay, like one in an IELTS or TOEFL language test, you don’t need to support your answers with strong evidence. Your experiences or opinions will be enough.
Quick note: I know! You’re ready to see the phrases.
This won’t take long and it’s really important.
1. For these phrases to be really effective, you’ll need to review your grammar. Shayna has some great videos on her Espresso English Youtube channel.
I recommend these:
2. If you want to know the structure of a good essay paragraph, check my post here.
Informal English Phrases
These phrases are suitable for language tests such as TOEFL or IELTS. In an academic essay, these phrases will probably be too informal because they are too personal.
“In my opinion, + [your sentence]”
- In my opinion, a good education is more important than a good car.
“I believe that + [your sentence]”
- I believe that schools should encourage students to walk or cycle to school rather than drive.
“In my mind, + [your sentence]”
- “In my mind, no-one should have to pay for medical care.”
More Formal Academic Phrases With ‘That’
These phrases are more suitable for academic essays. If you are unsure whether you should use an informal phrase or an academic phrase, use an academic one. If you think your writing might be informal, read this post to learn more.
The patterns here are quite straightforward. Just add your sentence after ‘that’.
“It would seem that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you support your opinion with evidence.
- “It would seem that children learn best when they are feeling comfortable.”
“It could be argued that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you want to challenge an existing opinion.
- “It could be argued that the benefits outweigh the drawbacks in this situation.”
“This suggests that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you don’t want to fully commit to an opinion. You’re giving yourself some distance.
- “The evidence suggests that people who speak more than one language have more job opportunities.”
“This proves that + [your sentence]”
Use this when you are confident with your opinion. This phrase is quite strong*
- “This proves that the best way to lose weight is through a controlled diet and a good exercise program.”
“This supports the idea that + [your sentence]”
Use this one when you are supporting an opinion that you have already made.
- “This new research supports the idea that successful English learners look for opportunities to use English.”
Other Ways to Express Opinion
“Although [idea you disagree with], [idea you agree with]”
Use this when you want make your opinion seem balanced.
- “Although reports suggest that cigarettes could help people to lose weight, there are too many serious health problems associated with smoking.”
Note: The ‘although’ pattern is very effective because it shows two sides of the argument. In the example, I support the idea that smoking is bad for your health –BUT- I recognise that it could have some benefits.
Structure your ‘although’ sentence like this: Although, [weaker argument you disagree with], [stronger argument you agree with].
Using Adverbs, Adjectives and Nouns
You can use adjectives to show your opinion.
- “This research was poorly conducted with a lack of control.”
The adjective and nouns in the example are negative. You can get some good ideas from this video on Extreme Adjectives. Note: try not to use any emotional adjectives.
Make Your Own Phrases!
Of course, these phrases aren’t the only ones that you can use! You can find more –or– you can create your own by combining different patterns.
Here’s an example of #7, #9 and #10 used together.
“Although it is difficult for older adults to learn a second language, an important study by Smith (2014) proved that the elderly can successfully learn new languages.”
What Should You Do Now?
So now you should have a better idea of how to include more opinions in your essays. But that’s not all; there are probably some new words here that you don’t know.
So here’s what you should do:
- Choose three of the opinion expressions and phrases that you want to try.
- Practice writing sentences using them (if you don’t have a topic, try this: should students do homework? You can see examples of this in the lesson pack)
- Get the Lesson Pack for this lesson (which contains the vocabulary and the phrases from this lesson) CLICK HERE to download it.
About Sam Pealing
Sam Pealing is an English language coach who specialises in two important areas: 1. helping you to get great grades at university, and 2. helping you to become an effective and confident English user. If you’re feeling frustrated or confused with English, Sam has created the perfect email course for you! You can join his course here –or- you can read more by him on English For Study.