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The ACT Essay – To Write or Not to Write?

If your child is in the middle of ACT test prep, you may be wondering whether or not registering for the test with the optional essay is a good idea. It adds extra time and costs a bit more money, so is it really worth it? Take a look below so you can make an informed decision.  

What is it?

The ACT writing section asks the student to compose a persuasive essay based on a prompt. Usually, the ACT will pick a relevant cultural topic, like intelligent machines (will robots take over if we don’t stop them?) or tech free time (should you occasionally detach yourself from your device?). Students must take a stance on the issue, engaging with the three perspectives provided. The essay will be graded on its ideas, support, organization, and language.

Taking the essay means an 40 extra minutes at the end of the test and an additional $16.50 in registration fees. Your child cannot take the ACT essay separately—it must be taken as part of the full official test.    

Does it matter?  

Sort of—the essay certainly doesn’t matter as much as the other sections of the test. Its score won’t affect the composite score, which is comprised of the English, Math, Reading, and Science sections. It’s essentially an extra section that some colleges require and others don’t. Remember, your child will also be submitting a personal statement and supplements that will give the college an idea of her writing ability.  

Should your child take it?  

The answer mostly depends on where your child is applying to college. Obviously, if your child’s application list contains colleges that require the essay, opt to take the ACT with writing. You can check out the colleges’ individual websites or the  ACT’s database to see which schools require the essay.