Most students are delighted to hear that the ACT Writing portion of the exam is optional. “Optional?” they think. “Then I opt not to take it!” If those pesky English essays and history research projects were optional, then we’d all opt not to do those either. Right?
But before you choose to ditch the essay and take just the multiple choice portion of the test, you should seriously take into consideration what the essay portion is for. Just like the entire ACT test, the writing portion is designed to help you demonstrate your skills to colleges. Colleges are very interested in your writing, reasoning, and arguing abilities, and it is extremely likely that several of the colleges you apply to want to know your ACT Writing score.
Most juniors don’t know exactly which colleges they want to apply to. Some colleges want your essay scores, some recommend but don’t require it, and others don’t want it at all. Since you may not know which schools you intend on applying to, then it is highly recommended that you take the ACT Essay. Even if your college of choice only “recommends” that you take it, then take it. When it comes to applying to schools, you want to make sure you make yourself stand out in every way possible. This way, you don’t have to scramble in the fall to take the entire ACT plus the essay later on. You’re covering all your bases.
So, yes, you should take the ACT Writing portion. Just in case your college wants it. So before opting out of the ACT Plus Writing, you better make certain that all the colleges you intend on applying to don’t want it at all.
How do I know if a college requires or recommends the ACT Essay?
It can be a pain trying to visit every college website and application center to figure out if you need to include the essay or not. Thankfully, ACT itself provides a great resource for you. If you go to the ACT website, you’ll find this handy search tool that will quickly identify for you which schools require, recommend, or don’t need the essay.
Including the ACT Writing in your exam costs an additional $15 on top of the normal exam fee. This is not that much money, and should in no way discourage anyone from taking the writing exam. What I recommend to students, actually, is to take the ACT Plus Writing more than once. Many students already take the regular ACT test multiple times because there’s an inherent advantage in doing a task that you’re familiar with. This holds true for the writing portion as well: take it once to get comfortable with the task, and take it a second time to really nail that score you’re after.
So overall, taking the ACT Plus Writing is only advantageous when it comes to preparing for college. And taking this portion more than once works to your advantage too. Plan accordingly, and good luck!