On January 19th, 2021, College Board announced that they will no longer administer the SAT Subject Tests in the U.S. and that the Essay would be retired. Read our blog post to understand what this means in the near term and what the College Board has in store for students down the road.
Our articles on Subject Tests and the SAT Essay will remain on our site for reference purposes as colleges and students transition to a revised testing landscape. As an admission tool, students should consider the Essay as canceled. Compass recommends our students forgo the SAT and ACT optional essays on future exams.
The SAT Essay and ACT Writing continue to pose a conundrum for students. While College Board and ACT have made these components optional, a small number of colleges continue to require or recommend them. Compass believes that students should no longer take the SAT Essay or ACT Writing unless they are applying to (or thinking about applying to) one of the few colleges that still requires the essay. Students who have already taken the essay should not be overly concerned about scores. One reason the essay is fading away is that the scores simply aren’t that accurate or useful. Colleges never really found a use for them, and the essays created an unnecessary obstacle for some applicants.
Rather than worrying about an essay score that is mostly ignored by colleges, Compass believes students should spend their time strengthening the more valuable pieces of their academic portfolio: high school GPA and, more specifically, success in rigorous courses like APs. Compass offers AP and academic tutoring in over 50 subjects to help students stay on pace with their coursework. Our team of subject specific expert tutors will guide the program from start to finish. We also offer a Study Skills and Organizational Coaching program to provide students with the tools they need to excel in the classroom.
The following table of popular colleges provides a wide range of institutions and policies.
Colleges with essay optional policies often do not specify whether submitted essay scores will be used for admission. When the college explicitly states that scores will not be evaluated, we have listed the policy as “Not Considered.” “Optional” should not be interpreted as meaning that the college uses submitted scores. We recommend contacting the school if you have specific questions.
ACT and SAT Essay Requirements - Class of 2019 and Beyond
|School||Region||SAT Essay Required||ACT Essay Required|
|Martin Luther College||Midwest||Required||Required|
|United States Military Academy||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Required|
|University of Montana Western **||West||Required||Optional|
|University of Minnesota—Twin Cities||Midwest||Optional*||Optional*|
|Abilene Christian University||South||Optional*||Optional*|
|Soka University of America||West||Optional*||Optional*|
|Agnes Scott College||South||Optional||Optional|
|Amherst College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Appalachian State University||South||Optional||Optional|
|Arizona State University—Tempe||West||Optional||Optional|
|Babson College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Baldwin Wallace University||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Bates College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Bennington College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Bentley University||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Boston College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Boston University||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Bowdoin College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Brandeis University||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Brigham Young University—Provo||West||Optional||Optional|
|Brown University||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Bryn Mawr College||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|California Lutheran University||West||Optional||Optional|
|Carnegie Mellon University||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Case Western Reserve University||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Christopher Newport University||South||Optional||Optional|
|Clark University||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Colby College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|College of Charleston||South||Optional||Optional|
|College of New Jersey||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|College of St. Benedict||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|College of the Holy Cross||New England||Optional||Optional|
|College of William and Mary||South||Optional||Optional|
|College of Wooster||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Colorado School of Mines||West||Optional||Optional|
|Colorado State University||West||Optional||Optional|
|Connecticut College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Dartmouth College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University||South||Optional||Optional|
|Emerson College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Fairfield University||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Florida Institute of Technology||South||Optional||Optional|
|Florida State University||South||Optional||Optional|
|Franklin and Marshall College||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|George Mason University||South||Optional||Optional|
|George Washington University||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Georgia Institute of Technology||South||Optional||Optional|
|Gustavus Adolphus College||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Harvard University||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Harvey Mudd College||West||Optional||Optional|
|High Point University||South||Optional||Optional|
|Hobart and William Smith Colleges||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Illinois Institute of Technology||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Illinois Wesleyan University||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Iowa State University||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|James Madison University||South||Optional||Optional|
|John Brown University||South||Optional||Optional|
|Johns Hopkins University||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Lake Forest College||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Lewis & Clark College||West||Optional||Optional|
|Louisiana State University—Baton Rouge||South||Optional||Optional|
|Loyola Marymount University||West||Optional||Optional|
|Loyola University Chicago||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Loyola University Maryland||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Massachusetts Institute of Technology||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Michigan Technological University||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Middlebury College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Milwaukee School of Engineering||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Mississippi State University||South||Optional||Optional|
|Missouri University of Science & Technology||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Mount Holyoke College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|New College of Florida||South||Optional||Optional|
|New Jersey Institute of Technology||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|New York University||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|North Carolina State University—Raleigh||South||Optional||Optional|
|Northeastern University||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Ohio State University—Columbus||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Ohio Wesleyan University||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Oklahoma State University||South||Optional||Optional|
|Oregon State University||West||Optional||Optional|
|Pacific Lutheran University||West||Optional||Optional|
|Pennsylvania State University—University Park||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Point Loma Nazarene University||West||Optional||Optional|
|Presbyterian College (SC)||South||Optional||Optional|
|Providence College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Purdue University—West Lafayette||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Queens University of Charlotte||South||Optional||Optional|
|Quinnipiac University||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Rhode Island School of Design||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Rochester Institute of Technology||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey—New Brunswick||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey—Newark||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Saint Louis University||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Sam Houston State University||South||Optional||Optional|
|San Francisco State University||West||Optional||Optional|
|San Jose State University||West||Optional||Optional|
|Santa Clara University||West||Optional||Optional|
|Sarah Lawrence College||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Seton Hall University||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Sewanee—University of the South||South||Optional||Optional|
|Simmons University||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Smith College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Southern Methodist University||South||Optional||Optional|
|St. John Fisher College||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|St. John's College Annapolis||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|St. John's University (NY)||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|St. Lawrence University||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|St. Mary's College (IN)||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|St. Mary's College of California||West||Optional||Optional|
|St. Mary's College of Maryland||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|St. Michael's College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|St. Olaf College||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Stevens Institute of Technology||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Stonehill College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Stony Brook University—SUNY||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Texas A&M University—College Station||South||Optional||Optional|
|Texas Christian University||South||Optional||Optional|
|Texas Lutheran University||South||Optional||Optional|
|The Catholic University of America||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Thomas Aquinas College||West||Optional||Optional|
|Trinity College (Hartford)||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Truman State University||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Tufts University||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Union College (Schenectady, NY)||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|United States Air Force Academy||West||Optional||Optional|
|United States Coast Guard Academy||New England||Optional||Optional|
|United States Naval Academy||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|University at Albany—SUNY||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|University at Buffalo—SUNY||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|University of Alabama||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of Arizona||West||Optional||Optional|
|University of Arkansas—Fayetteville||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of Chicago||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|University of Cincinnati||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|University of Colorado—Boulder||West||Optional||Optional|
|University of Connecticut||New England||Optional||Optional|
|University of Dallas||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of Dayton||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|University of Delaware||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|University of Denver||West||Optional||Optional|
|University of Florida||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of Georgia||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of Hawaii at Manoa||West||Optional||Optional|
|University of Illinois—Chicago||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|University of Illinois—Urbana-Champaign||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|University of Iowa||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|University of Kansas||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|University of Kentucky||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of La Verne||West||Optional||Optional|
|University of Mary Washington||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of Maryland—College Park||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|University of Massachusetts—Amherst||New England||Optional||Optional|
|University of Michigan—Ann Arbor||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|University of Mississippi||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of Missouri||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|University of Nebraska—Lincoln||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|University of New Hampshire||New England||Optional||Optional|
|University of North Carolina—Chapel Hill||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of North Carolina—Wilmington||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of North Texas||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of Notre Dame||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|University of Oklahoma||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of Oregon||West||Optional||Optional|
|University of Pennsylvania||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|University of Pittsburgh||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|University of Portland||West||Optional||Optional|
|University of Puget Sound||West||Optional||Optional|
|University of Redlands||West||Optional||Optional|
|University of Richmond||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of Rochester||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|University of San Diego||West||Optional||Optional|
|University of San Francisco||West||Optional||Optional|
|University of South Carolina||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of South Florida||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of Southern California||West||Optional||Optional|
|University of St. Thomas (MN)||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|University of Tennessee||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of Texas—Austin||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of Texas—Dallas||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of the Pacific||West||Optional||Optional|
|University of Tulsa||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of Utah||West||Optional||Optional|
|University of Vermont||New England||Optional||Optional|
|University of Virginia||South||Optional||Optional|
|University of Washington||West||Optional||Optional|
|University of Wisconsin—Madison||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Virginia Commonwealth University||South||Optional||Optional|
|Virginia Military Institute||South||Optional||Optional|
|Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Wake Forest University||South||Optional||Optional|
|Washington and Jefferson College||Mid-Atlantic||Optional||Optional|
|Washington and Lee University||South||Optional||Optional|
|Washington State University||West||Optional||Optional|
|Washington University in St. Louis||South||Optional||Optional|
|Wellesley College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Wesleyan University||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Wheaton College (IL)||Midwest||Optional||Optional|
|Williams College||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Worcester Polytechnic Institute||New England||Optional||Optional|
|Yale University||New England||Optional||Optional|
|California Institute of Technology||West||Not Considered||Not Considered|
|California Polytechnic State University--Pomona||West||Not Considered*||Not Considered*|
|California Polytechnic State University—San Luis Obispo||West||Not Considered*||Not Considered*|
|California State University--Fresno||West||Not Considered*||Not Considered*|
|California State University--Fullerton||West||Not Considered*||Not Considered*|
|California State University--Long Beach||West||Not Considered*||Not Considered*|
|California State University--Los Angeles||West||Not Considered*||Not Considered*|
|California State University--Monterey Bay||West||Not Considered*||Not Considered*|
|California State University--Northridge||West||Not Considered*||Not Considered*|
|Humboldt State University||West||Not Considered*||Not Considered*|
|San Diego State University||West||Not Considered*||Not Considered*|
|Loyola University New Orleans||South||Not Considered*||Not Considered*|
|Michigan State University||Midwest||Not Considered||Not Considered|
|University of California—Berkeley||West||Not Considered||Not Considered|
|University of California—Davis||West||Not Considered||Not Considered|
|University of California—Irvine||West||Not Considered||Not Considered|
|University of California—Los Angeles||West||Not Considered||Not Considered|
|University of California—Merced||West||Not Considered||Not Considered|
|University of California—Riverside||West||Not Considered||Not Considered|
|University of California—San Diego||West||Not Considered||Not Considered|
|University of California—Santa Barbara||West||Not Considered||Not Considered|
|University of California—Santa Cruz||West||Not Considered||Not Considered|
|Claremont McKenna College||West||Not Considered||Not Considered|
|University of Miami||South||Not Considered||Not Considered|
* In response to COVID-19, these schools have announced temporary test optional or test blind policies, which also effects their essay requirements and recommendations. Please check with the individual schools for more information.
** University of Montana Western has students submit ACT Writing in order to satisfy English proficiency requirements.
Post a comment or send an email to email@example.com with questions or recommended changes.
ACT Writing scores have gone through multiple changes. To try to clear things up, Compass has published ACT Writing Scores Explained. A similar analysis for the SAT is also available.
Our College Profiles page provides SAT and ACT scores for some of the most competitive colleges in the country.
Score choice and superscoring policies can be found for more than 400 popular colleges and universities.
Subject Test requirements continue to evolve, so Compass keeps an up-to-date list.
Mr. Sawyer-Wanting some advice. My junior just took the ACT and scored a 33 composite with a 35 in English and a 34 in reading. Our school had recommended the writing test so he took it and bombed it with a 6/12. He has taken all honors and AP English classes offered and done excellent. GPA is 3.95 unweighted. I wonder if his horrible handwriting played a role but now he is stuck with a 6 on writing. Should he retake the test just to improve that score? If so does he take it with writing again or simply try to score a 33 without writing and submit that score. He’s looking at Carleton, Pomona, Grinnell along with some others.
One of the reasons the essay has been abandoned is just how fluky the results can be. I would not recommend retesting only to raise his Writing score.
Hello Mr. Sawyer,
I have an SAT score of 1510 and my essay score is 5/4/6 should I consider taking the SAT again to improve the essay score if I plan to apply to the top universities such as Harvard, Yale and Duke.
You should not repeat the SAT just because of your Essay score. You may have seen the news yesterday that College Board is phasing out the Essay. It is simply no longer a concern.
Mr. Sawyer, what are you thoughts on the ACT writing (essay). Do you expect it to follow suit and discontinue it like the SAT essay?
My first thought is that — ACT’s decision aside — students should not take the Writing test. It is disappearing for good reason — it’s just not very good or useful.
ACT will make a business decision, just as College Board did — although not necessarily with the same immediate result. ACT may want to retain the fees it is receiving for the Writing test. It may also try to wait just long enough not to seem that it is following College Board’s lead. ACT typically implements changes during its school calendar year of Sept – July. I would not be surprised to see the essay discontinued after the summer administrations.
Duke: “Recommended” Duke website: “We do not require the optional essay.” https://admissions.duke.edu/apply/ I don’t see anywhere that they recommend it.
Also, on your Subject Test page: Duke: “Recommended Strongly ” Duke website: “We do not require Subject Tests.” I see nothing that would indicate it is “Recommended Strongly”. https://admissions.duke.edu/apply/
Caltech – “Optional” Caltech website – “Caltech also does not require the SAT Essay or ACT Writing exam sections. These sections will not be considered in the application review process.” http://admissions.divisions.caltech.edu/apply/first-yearfreshman-applicants/standardized-tests
I believe the vast, vast majority of the colleges you list as “Optional” similarly don’t even consider a writing score.
Thanks for reaching out! And thank you, in particular, for the Duke update. Just a few weeks ago we checked their site and they still had Subject Tests listed as recommended strongly with the “or ACT” twist. We’ve updated the Subject Test page to reflect that. We still have Duke listed as recommending the essay because of this: https://today.duke.edu/2018/07/duke-makes-sat-essay-act-writing-test-optional-applicants (this announcement is from almost two years ago, but we haven’t heard anything to specifically counter it.)
We recognize that the essay is becoming increasingly less relevant in admissions, and we have plans to revisit this list and put the “Optional” schools in better context.
If I’m understanding correctly, the only students who need to be taking the writing/essay exams are those applying to the first 9 schools on your list that are “required” or “recommended”? In this wild west post-Covid era of college testing where it seems the only constant thing is change, it is hard to understand why anyone would still take the essay portion if they aren’t applying to any of those 9 schools. We are in CA so it used to be needed for the UC’s but as you noted even that has changed. So now post-Covid, do you still advise most of your students to take the writing exams, or feel that there is “more upside than downside” to taking them? My 11th grader previously did the SAT w/essay and scored 760 R&W, 650 M, and 4/4/5 on the essay. He’ll be retaking it to improve his math score, or possibly switching over to the ACT since SAT isn’t offered this summer (He was scheduled for the March exam that was cancelled the day before, so we are re-evaluating our options). Thanks very much for your insight.
I’d go even a step further and say that — except for students applying to West Point — the essay can finally be retired. I’m not sad to see it go!
Given that your son is already considering the ACT, I’d recommend looking at July ACT and August SAT dates. Not that he needs to take both, but the strategy is a hedge against cancellations. Registration for some students just opened up for the SAT dates, but it sounds like your student will need to wait until registration goes wider on June 3.
Hope you are staying safe. Son is sophomore who will be taking the September ACT. He is not a great writer, does not like writing, and does not want to take the writing portion. He likely will score in the 33-35 range and apply to a variety of schools (a couple top [sub-10% acceptance rate] privates and top publics, as well as some less competitive universities and colleges). Not applying to any UC schools. Do you think lacking the writing score — which likely would be average — will hurt him? Put another way, would doing the writing help him at schools where it is “optional” assuming his score is not great but not terrible? Thanks.
If colleges were completely honest, they would admit that the Writing test is dead. Some won’t state it so bluntly because it sounds like writing is not important. I don’t think there will be any colleges that care about your son’s Writing score by the time he applies. He should pass on it in September.
Thanks Art — appreciate the great advice here and on this web site generally!
Hi Mr. Sawyer,
I’m a junior in high school and I just took the ACT without writing and received a 31. I would like to take the ACT again to eventually superscore. However, my top school is Duke which is one of the few that recommend taking the ACT with writing. Should I take the ACT with writing the next time I take the test? And if I do take it with the writing, can I superscore the two composite scores together even though one is with writing and one is without? Thanks
I don’t know of any superscoring school that will not superscore across ACT and ACT with Writing. As you may have read, the essay is becoming less important every year — even at Duke. If you feel that you would do well or would like to keep all of your options open, then I would encourage you to spend the extra time to take Writing. Either way, it will not hurt your ability to superscore.
My son is a junior and he took ACT for the first time. He received a 35 Composite and 8 on essay. He feels 8 is not good enough to apply to UCs. He wants to retake in January 2020. What do you recommend?
8 falls within the 25th-75th range of enrolled students at even Berkeley and UCLA. More important, the UCs are likely to drop the essay requirement this year. That said, I don’t like to stand in the way of students motivated to retest. If he has the time and the desire, he could take the ACT again on Feb 8. He shouldn’t count on his Writing score making a difference.
My son took the ACT without writing as a junior and received a 34 composite (32 STEM score). He retook it as a senior with writing and also received a 34 composite (33 STEM), but only received an 8 on the writing portion. The only other difference between the 2 scores is that he got a 36 Reading/35 Science on the first ACT, and 35 Reading/36 Science on the second. For competitive schools that don’t require (or recommend) the writing portion, would you recommend that he submit his first score without the writing, or the second? I’m thinking the first is probably a better choice for him (especially for liberal arts colleges/universities), but wanted to get your thoughts.
The 8 score is not that out of the norm, so I wouldn’t give it much weight in the decision. About 2/3 of colleges superscore the ACT, so I would send both scores in those cases (that way he has a 36 Reading / 36 Science). It’s less important at schools that do not superscore, but I would still be comfortable submitting both scores.
Thanks so much for the helpful advice, Art!
Thanks for all the great information.
My junior son just got back his ACT score of a 35 but an essay score of 7. His first ACT in June was a 31 with an essay score of 8. Most of the schools he will apply to are test optional or not required. Will the 7 hurt his chances at highly selective schools and do you think he should send both ACTs to show the better writing score of 8?
4.3 GPA W/3.92 UW, World history AP 5/subject test 800, Bio E/M subject test 730
5APs this year
The 7 will not hurt his chances. Submit only the 35. The difference between a 35 and a 31 is significant. The difference between a 7 and 8 is immaterial.
Mr. Sawyer – thanks so much for your opinion! Last question: the UC’s – more specifically UCSD is a target for him. Do you have any idea how closely the UC’s look at the writing score. I know that they use the ELA for English placement but can’t find much about how much they look specifically at the writing score since they are one of the only schools (all UC’s) that still require writing (his ELA is slightly above 50% for last year’s admitted students with the writing score of 7).
There is a very strong chance that the UCs will have dropped the essay by next year. It already plays a minimal role in admission. Given the strength of your son’s other scores — especially for UCSD — I would not worry about his 7.
Hi, Mr. Sawyer,
I scored 1560 on SAT with the essay (6/4/7). Should I retake it to improve the essay score, if I want to apply the top colleges, like Princeton?
The SAT Essay is increasingly irrelevant. Your score is not out of the norm, so I would not recommend retesting.
I got a 7,6,7 on my SAT essay, and plan to retake the sats this summer. I got a 5 on my AP Lang exam and was wondering if that was enough to prove my writing ability to colleges? Or should I retake the essay this summer?
7/6/7 is an excellent set of scores for the SAT Essay. I would certainly not retest to improve them.
My daughter is a rising junior. She just took ACT this past June the first time. Her composite score is 35. However , the writing is only 8. Do you think she should retake the ACT just to improve the writing part? Reading your other comments sounded like she may not need to do that but would like to confirm. My daughter’s targets are the Ivy’s. She does have 4.0 unweighted GPA so far, SAT Math II 790, SAT Bio 770.
Thanks much.. George
The essay is becoming increasingly irrelevant. I would not recommend that your daughter retest just to improve her 8.
My daughter scored a 34 on her first ACT and we just received her writing scores. She did very well; 12,10,12 and 12, for an average of 11.5. I have just come to realize that most of the schools no longer require the writing portion. I’m just wondering why she wasted her time taking the writing portion. I don’t know if she will take the ACT again. Will the schools where writing is optional even care that she did well in writing?
As much as I rail against the essay, I still recommend that students take it — at least once. Your daughter didn’t waste her time, she created some options. Policies on viewing essay results are all over the place at essay optional schools. Many admission officers would view it as a “plus factor.” It’s wonderful that your daughter did so well.
Hello Mr. Sawyer!
I am currently a Junior and recently took the ACT w/ Writing and received a 29 Composite Score and a 9 on my Essay.
My Math and Science scores brought down my composite so I will be re-taking the test to raise those to try to get into the 30’s.
I feel confident about my writing score and don’t see the need to take it again.
Does that mean that I can just retake the ACT w/o Writing to focus on raising my composite?
In other words, will colleges consider my essay score from my older test and “superscore” my new composite scores or do I have to retake the entire test with the essay again?
Let me know. Thank you!
Among schools that superscore the ACT, I don’t know of any that will not superscore across w/ and w/o Writing test dates. The University of California system does not superscore but requires that Writing be taken for scores to be considered. The UCs are the only colleges I know of with this policy. Good luck!
I took the ACT with writing and got a 32 and 8. I then took the ACT again without writing and got a 34. I want to apply to Dartmouth (which requires the writing). Should I take the entire ACT with writing again, or does the essay from my initial test (32) carry over to my 34 test.
I’m fairly certain that Dartmouth does not require Writing. In fact, they no longer even talk of recommending it. So the good news is that you don’t need to worry about your 32 or your essay.
can I superscore a reading and writing score from an SAT W/O ESSAY with a math score from an SAT WITH ESSAY and vice versa?
I don’t know of any superscoring colleges that will not superscore across SATs W/ and W/O Essay.
If I have a 9 in the ACT essay, what does that score equals to SAT writing? Thank you!
They are so different that they can’t really be compared. A 9 is a good score. Only about 7% of students score higher. Also, we know that the 25th-75th percentiles scores at the most competitive colleges are 8-10, so your essay score should not be a concern.
Looks like essay scores are now optional at Binghamton, based upon their web site: https://www.binghamton.edu/admissions/info/test-policy.html
Also, Georgia Tech now says they don’t consider the writing section for either test: https://admission.gatech.edu/first-year/standardized-tests
Thanks, Aimee! We’ve updated our table.
Where do you see that Stanford “strongly recommends” the writing? I have their website up and specifically it says “Required testing:
ACT or SAT (Writing/Essay not required)
I do not see any other verbiage on their website using the words that you do. Could you please let me know as soon as you can? Thank you
Thank you for drawing our attention to Stanford’s change. We’ve updated our list to reflect that the essay is now completely optional at Stanford.
Hi, I scored 36 on ACT but only 8 on ACT writing, will the writing score hurt my application to top colleges, like IVYs? do you recommend me to retake the test?
Congratulations on your 36. Do not repeat the exam because of your Writing score. Your essay score will not hurt your application.
Hi Art. It appears that Rutgers no longer requires or recommends the SAT Essay or ACT Writing (according to their website).
Thanks for the heads up! We’ve updated the page.
Hi, I scored 1500 on the SAT with Essay (7 6 7). I’m thinking about taking the ACT to just try it and see if I can score better on it than SAT. Let’s say I take the ACT without writing and scored better on it than SAT and I send both scores to a school that requires the writing part. Will they look at my ACT score and my SAT Essay score or I have to take the ACT with writing in order for the score to be considered.
I am not aware of any college that allows the fulfillment of the essay requirement with one test while using the scores from a different exam. You will need to take the ACT with Writing if you are considering colleges that require the essay.
My daughter is trying to get in as an out of state student to University of North Carolina and University of Michigan as her top 2 choices. She scored a 33 on ACT with a 6 writing, which she took because Michigan said it was required. She clearly wasn’t prepared for the writing section, so she just took it again and scored a bit lower on her composite but the same on the essay. Then we went to a college fair and spoke to a Michigan Admissions Officer who said Michigan has decided NOT to require writing. She wants to apply to both as Early Action, but doesn’t have time to retake ACT without writing for that deadline. Her SAT is a 1450. Do you think reporting her 33 ACT with the poor writing score will hurt her at UNC or Michigan, even though they say it is not required, and UNC says it is discouraged? OR should we send her 1450 SAT without a writing score? Thank you for your insight.
It seems like your daughter already has a nice alternative in her SAT score. Her 1450 is concordant with her 33 ACT and doesn’t come with any essay baggage. I really doubt that the 6 would impact her, but I also don’t see the need to report her ACT.
Hi Mr. Sawyer,
If I did well on the SAT essay, can I just retake the SAT without essay when applying for the University of California schools?
The UC system will only accept scores that include the Essay, so you should include it when you retest.
My essay writing is not strong so I originally planned not to take the SAT essay. However, for schools that recommend the essay, is it better to not take it or is it better to just take it ?
That’s a difficult question to answer because of all of the potential factors. Have you had a practice essay scored to know where you stand? If you haven’t, I recommend it. Also, don’t expect an essay score to stand out in the same way that your ERW and M scores might. Even a “not strong” essay score can be fine. Some colleges feel that removing “recommended” would mean that they are diminishing the importance of writing as a skill. That’s not the same thing as saying that it is important to them in the admission process. If you really feel that you will do poorly or that the anxiety might negatively impact the rest of your test, you should be OK without it.
So just to clarify: you cannot super score individual composite scores of ACT tests, if the ACT tests you have taken were with the essay. So if I am taking the ACT again (second time) with essay but I do not feel confident that I will get a better writing score, I should not take it with the essay. But rather take the second test without the essay so i can super score all of my composite scores (from my first and second try) to get the best score.
Of the colleges that superscore ACT scores, I am not aware of any that will not superscore between ACT W/Writing and ACT W/O Writing. If you are applying to the University of California system, I would recommend repeating the essay. Otherwise, you should be able to save yourself the headache.
Looks like Miami has changed the wording on their website to say not required for admission and no longer says anything about placement (I just noticed it this summer), do you have any updates on that?
This is their old statement:
3. Send Official Test Scores
All testing must be completed by November for Early Decision I and Early Action applicants and all testing must be completed by December for Early Decision II and Regular Decision applicants.
Test scores will only be accepted if they are submitted directly from the testing agency. If you take the test more than once, please ensure that the testing agency sends all of your scores so that we have your best performance on record. The Admission Committee will consider all official test scores from multiple test dates. We will use the highest composite score from among each test that you’ve taken. This is called super scoring. There is no limit to the number of test scores you may submit to us for your application.
We consider only the critical reading and math sections of the SAT for admission. Beginning Fall 2017, the ACT Plus Writing or the Redesigned SAT with optional Essay will be required for new undergraduate applicants with fewer than thirty transfer credits for English course placement.
Beginning in Spring 2016, applicants may submit scores from either the current or redesigned SAT. Students who take both tests will be evaluated on their best score. We will continue to super score the SAT. A concordance table is used to determine your highest critical reading and math scores, regardless of when the test was taken.
This is their new statement:
3. Send Official Test Scores
We only accept official scores directly from the ACT and/or the SAT. For the ACT, we only consider the English, Math, Reading, and Science sections; for the SAT, we only consider the Reading and Math sections. The Essay and/or Writing sections for both exams are not required for admission. There is no limit to the number of test scores you may submit with your application. If you take the test more than once, please ensure that the testing agency sends us all of your scores as we will superscore your test results. Be sure to complete all testing by the following dates:
When we contacted them in June, they still said that the essay was needed for placement. I agree with your interpretation of the new page, which went live sometime in July. It sure seems definitive. We are going to reach out to Miami to get final confirmation. Thanks for bringing this to our attention.
We contacted Miami, and they are still maintaining that it is required for placement. Given their testing page, I find it hard to believe that they are rejecting students for not having an essay score. We will be leaving it up, however, until we get clearer guidance from the school. The did say that a single test with an essay is fine.
Interesting because I contacted them as well and was told they are no longer requiring for placement and at students do not need either…i find it difficult to believe they would have reworded their website so drastically while still requiring. I am going to continue to dig into this further.
I agree with you. I’d feel much better about dropping it if we were getting consistent answers. If you got the name of who you talked to, I’d be interested in following up. I won’t post it here.
How much weight is given to SAT Essay scores at schools with no Essay requirement? Are there any unspoken rules that it’s best to submit an Essay score no matter what? Or do Optional schools really just not care?
Keep in mind that every college is different and individual admission officers may be influenced by different factors. With that said, the Essay is dying a quick death. Most schools fall in the “just don’t care” box at this point. Having at least one essay score is helpful in case a student decides to apply to a Required college, but it is unlikely to play a role at Optional colleges.
Thank you for your website and all the information you provide. My daughter is interested in physics, engineering STEM. Her subject test scores: Chemistry 730, Math 800. She took the ACT and received a 35 Composite ( 35-Math, Science, Reading. 34 English) however only a 6 on the essay. (This was her second ACT, first ACT 33 composite no essay) Do you think the essay score have a will have a negative consequence on colleges that do not require the essay? Of the few that do require the essay do you think she should retake it? Is the Chem subject test score ok for the selective schools?
Again, thank you!
The essay is quickly disappearing from colleges’ radar, and I do not think her 6 is a reason to retake. I look at Subject Test scores this way: Does the score improve my test portfolio, hurt my portfolio, or fit in with the rest of my portfolio? In the case of the Chem 730, I think it fits with the rest of your daughter’s profile.
Hi Mr. Sawyer,
I’m in an interesting situation with my test scores. I took both the SAT (1550) and ACT (35) last fall as a junior without the essay component but took the ACT (33) this summer with the essay (10). For schools that recommend/require the essay AND superscore, can I send in my essay score with the final superscored composite (35) or must it be submitted with my original composite score? If so, would you recommend that I retake the SAT this time in hopes of receiving a high essay score?
Also, most of the schools I would like to apply to have the essay portion as ‘optional,’ but is it advantageous to send the scores in or does it have no impact on my application?
You can only report an essay score by reporting all of your scores (at least via an official score report). Likewise, if you report your ACT scores, your Writing score will be included. You can’t opt out. I would not worry about it. If a school superscores, they will not downgrade you because of the 33. If the essay is optional, I don’t see any reason to submit that test date.