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The SAT Writing Section & The ACT Writing Section

The Writing sections of the SAT and ACT are a bit of a mystery to students. What exactly does the Writing section entail, and what role do Writing scores play in the college admissions process? Read on to learn the ins and outs of the SAT and the ACT Writing sections!


What are the differences between the SAT and the ACT Writing sections?

The table below provides basic comparative information about the SAT and the ACT Writing sections.



50 minutes for the essay

Time Length 40 minutes for the essay
One section: 1, 50 minute essay Format One section: 1, 40-minute essay
One essay prompt


Question Types One essay prompt

Essay scored by two readers, each reader giving it a score ranging between 1 and 4 in three categories: Reading, analysis, and writing.


Essays are scored on four domains: Ideas & Analysis, Development & Support, Organization, and Language Use & Convention. Each reader gives the essay a score ranging between 1 and 6. The two scores are added together to get a student's sub-score for each domain, which can range between 2 and 12. The final score is calculated from the domain scores and ranges between 1 and 36.

The essay prompt asks students to read a passage and consider how the author uses evidence to support his or her claims. Students must write an essay explaining how the author builds an argument, analyzing how the author uses techniques to strengthen their logic. Essay Prompts

The essay prompts present 3 perspectives on an issue, and students are asked to evaluate the perspectives; to state their own perspectives; and to elaborate on the relationships among the perspectives. As a whole, the essay calls upon tools of expository writing, evaluative argument and rhetorical analysis.

Writing section is optional Required or Optional? Writing section is optional
www.collegeboard.org Additional Information www.act.org


The Writing section is optional. Should my child take it?

Before making this decision, check the testing requirements for the colleges to which your child will apply. Many colleges require or recommend that applicants take the tests with Writing. If that is the case, it's definitely in your child's best interest to register for and to take the Writing test.


If you're not yet sure which colleges your child will apply to, the best approach may not be clear. We suggest that all students register to take the SAT and ACT Writing test. Because a student cannot take the Writing test by itself, it's probably best to at least register for it. That way, if you realize that the colleges to which your child will apply require this portion of the test, he or she will already be registered for it. Additionally, a student can drop the Writing portion of the test up to a few days before the test date and a receive a refund if it's later determined that the student does not need to take the Writing portion.



How do colleges use Writing scores during the admissions process?

Unfortunately, this question does not have a simple answer. Each individual college determines exactly how it uses SAT and ACT Writing scores during the admissions process. Some colleges use the scores for admissions purposes. Other colleges use the scores for placement purposes. Still other colleges have elected not to consider Writing scores at all.

To determine a college's policy regarding use of SAT and ACT Writing scores, visit the College Board website. To learn more about admissions at many of the nation's most popular colleges and universities, visit StudyPoint's College & University Profiles.

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