When Should You Take The SAT,ACT With Essay?


A question students ask when preparing for the SAT and ACT is: “Should I take the test with or without writing?” The answer has evolved since the new SAT was introduced in March 2016.

The Essay was always optional on the ACT.  Prior to the launch of the new SAT, the Essay was required. Scores from the Essay were combined with the scores on the SAT Writing section.  Since the Essay was a required section on the Old SAT, students taking the ACT needed to take the ACT with Essay as well.

With the advent of the New SAT, Collegeboard has made the Essay optional, just like the ACT.  This change has impacted what colleges are requiring.  What I am finding is that colleges wanting to see the essay are becoming more the exception than the norm.

My recommendation for students is the following:

For high school juniors – Since your college list has barely taken shape, consider a more conservative approach.   For those aiming for 1350+ on the SAT or 30+ on the ACT, take the SAT/ACT with essay.

For high school seniors – Since you already have a defined list of schools, research each of your school’s essay policy.  This information is available on the school’s website or the following websites:

SAT Essay:   List of colleges with their SAT Essay Policy

ACT Essay: List of colleges with their ACT Essay Policy

Below is also a limited compilation of schools and their stated essay policy.