You’ve just signed up for the ACT. But did you know that there is an optional writing test for the ACT? Do you know if your dream schools require it or recommend it?
What Is the ACT Writing Test?
The ACT Writing test is an optional essay test you can take immediately after the other sections of the ACT. It costs an additional $16.50 and 40 minutes of your time. It's available to take after the ACT on all seven national testing dates in the USA. Keep in mind when deciding to take it or not that you cannot just take the ACT Writing test on its own—you can only take it while suitably exhausted after taking all the other sections of the ACT!
The writing test is meant to measure the writing skills that you should have learned in your English classes in high school. It also claims to be a measure of how you might do in entry-level composition classes in college.
So, what exactly is the test like? First, you will be given a prompt that tells you about an issue. You will also be presented with three possible points of view on said topic, and will be asked to write an essay about your point of view. You can either borrow and elaborate upon one of the ones that are given, or offer up a fourth viewpoint. Sound tough? See this article for some top ACT essay strategies.
Your ACT Writing score (which is out of 12 points) is not part of your composite score, which will still consist only of your English, Math, Reading, and Science subscores. Instead, your essay subscore will be added to your English and Reading scores and averaged for a combined English/Language Arts score. For a full breakdown on how the ACT is graded, read this guide.
Why Do Schools Require ACT Writing?
You may be surprised to learn that not all schools require the ACT Writing test! But those that do think they have a pretty good reason. These schools think that your essay score, combined with your English and Reading ACT scores, can help them understand your grasp of English and your ability to produce a sample of writing under pressure.
This is quite a different skill compared to what they see when you submit your personal statement and essays in your application. They are assuming that those have been proofread by 50 of your closest friends and family members, and that they have been heavily edited and reviewed for hours on end. So while your personal statement is more like a heavily photo shopped selfie in flattering lighting, ACT Writing is like a candid snapshot of your writing abilities.
Specifically, these schools want to get a better idea of your ability to defend a point of view and your reasoning skills. Can you write logically and coherently? Can you use proper sentence structure without Word telling you what you have done wrong? The Writing Test is your chance to prove all those skills.
And, apart from your application, the combined English/Language Arts ACT score has another use for many schools. They may actually use your score on this test to help place you into different levels of English classes—so it can potentially save you the trouble of taking a placement test once you arrive at college in the fall!
Full List of Colleges That Require ACT Writing
This list of 4-year universities is broken down by state. The first colleges in each section are those that require the Writing ACT, followed by those that recommend it. "Recommend" means that the college does not require it, but that scoring well will improve the strength of your application and help you reach equal footing with other applicants who do take it. Keep in mind that school requirements frequently change (especially with the recent rise in test-optional admissions), so it's always a good idea to check with individual universities before you apply.