After 2 hours and 55 minutes of English, math, reading, and science questions, we know the last thing you want to do is write an “optional” essay. Trust us; we’ve been there too. It’s very tempting to skip the ACT Writing Test.
Students aren’t the only ones who want to give the optional essay a pass. An increasing number of colleges and universities are dropping their ACT Writing Test requirements. The Washington Post reports that some estimates suggest that fewer than 25 schools require the writing section. Part of this decline has come from the SAT making its writing section optional in 2016; schools had required the ACT writing section since the SAT writing section was required. Other schools feel that the other writing samples they require from applicants and/or their essays are better measures of applicants’ writing abilities.
Since many colleges don’t require or even recommend the ACT Writing Test, there is a good chance that you won’t have to take it. However, it’s important to make sure that you can apply to the schools you want to attend without it before signing up for the ACT without writing.
To decide whether to take the ACT Writing Test, you should first ask yourself if you know exactly which schools you plan to apply to.
If you don’t know which schools to apply to:
If you don’t have your final list of schools, then we highly recommend taking the ACT with writing. You don’t want to limit your school options before selecting your target schools.
If you know which schools you plan to apply to:
If you have your final list of schools, check whether each school on your list requires or recommends the ACT Writing Test. You can use the ACT’s handy database of school requirements here.
You should also check each school’s requirements on their individual websites to get the most up-to-date information about their policies before sitting out the test.
If any of your schools requires or recommends the ACT Writing Test, sign up to take the test. It’s absolutely worth the extra 40 minutes of work to get a chance to attend the schools on your list.
If none of your schools require or recommend the ACT, then you can sign up for the ACT without writing. However, if you are proud of your writing skills, it may be worth taking the test to give schools an additional measure of your abilities. Taking the ACT Writing Test also gives you the option to apply to a wider range of schools if you want or need to add colleges to your list later.
That said, universities will often consider your writing score if you submit it. As such, you shouldn’t submit a high overall score with a low writing score. Adding another section to the test increases your risk that you may have to retake it if your writing score is lower than you expected.
Should I take the ACT Writing Test? The Takeaway:
The ACT is tough enough as it is. You don’t have to take the ACT Writing Test unless at least one of your target schools requires or recommends it. On the other hand, if you haven’t chosen your schools yet, you should consider taking the ACT with writing to avoid limiting your university choices.