Should I take the SAT/ACT with writing?

Posted on 1st October 2016

Whether you sit the SAT or ACT, you have the choice of writing the optional essay at the end. This essay is quite different to anything you would have written in school – it should be structured in a particular way and use appropriate language. Since this is optional, why should you bother taking it?

The answer depends on where you’re applying to college, or where you think you might apply. There are a few possibilities to consider:
  1. Some colleges, such as Duke, require that you take the writing component, regardless of which test you’re doing. So if you’re applying to one of these colleges, you simply have to take it!
  2. Other colleges, such as Fordham, say that they require the writing component if you’re taking the ACT, but not if you’re taking the SAT. It’s not a good idea to choose your test based on this criterion: take the test that you find easiest, and then look into whether you need to take the essay.
  3. Some colleges, such as Rutgers and Tufts, say that the writing section is ‘recommended’ or ‘optional’. In this case it’s probably the case that the writing section will help show off your skills to the college you’re applying to.
  4. This further complicated by the fact that a few colleges, such as Rice, say that if you take the ACT with the writing component then you don’t need to do Subject Tests, but if you don’t take the writing then you must do Subject Tests!
This might all sound complicated, but can be simplified by one strict rule:
  • Don’t choose the colleges you want to apply to based on what tests you need to do.
Decide what colleges you want to apply to and then see what you need to submit. Or if you’re taking the test before you know where you might apply, keep your options open and do the writing component!

Note: colleges change their rules all the time, especially with the recent changes to the SAT, so you should always check on the college websites to see what they’re latest requirements are.
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