Optional SAT-ACT Essays – Take Them or Leave Them?

essay writerWhen your student takes the ACT or SAT, should it be with or without the optional essay? The ACT Writing section (essay) has always been optional. Not so coincidentally, students now have the same option when taking the SAT. The essays are the very last section of each test. Students who opt out of essay writing get to leave the test center, leaving the essay writers behind for another 40 minutes for ACT — or 50 minutes for SAT. The scores on the ACT and SAT essays are reported separately, not included in the composite scores.

The SAT essay is a pretty standard five-paragraph essay where students read a passage and analyze the author’s effectiveness. On the ACT, students read three different perspectives on a given topic, then evaluate at least one perspective, as well as explain their own position. The ACT prompts can be quirky, requiring a bit more preparation. In the end, good writers will have little problem other than the fatigue that sets in after three-plus hours of testing.

Which students should take the essay section of the ACT or SAT? If they are applying to colleges that require or recommend the essay, students should definitely comply. In addition, we recommend that all high-scoring juniors and seniors do the essay to demonstrate their writing skills, which are so important to success in college. Generally this includes students scoring 1350+ on SAT and 30+ on ACT. In fact, most colleges do not require the essays — although admissions officers like to compare the quality of ACT/SAT essays to the essays written as part of the college application. They know that the students actually wrote 100% of the ACT/SAT essays, while many applicants get outside help on colleges’ essays.

At Dogwood, our expert tutors help students improve their writing skills, which they’ll demonstrate through college and beyond.

Use the following links or visit college websites to see each school’s ACT/SAT essay policy.

SAT Essay: List of colleges with their SAT Essay Policy

ACT Essay: List of colleges with their ACT Essay Policy