As you read about the different sections on the ACT, you’ll notice that the essay(or Writing section) is optional. So should you do the ACT Writing section or opt out of it?
The best way to answer this question is to check out both the pros and cons of signing up for the ACT without the essay:
Pros of Skipping the ACT Essay
One of the advantages of signing up for the ACT without the essay is you can reduce the amount of time you spend preparing for the exam. Preparation for the ACT Writing section means learning the scoring rubric to find out the elements necessary to achieve a high score. Also, you must spend time practicing your essay-writing skills to ensure that you’re ready to create an impressive essay. Skipping the ACT essay means you have more study time to dedicate to the other sections on the test. Plus, taking the ACT without writing time means your total testing period is shortened by 40 minutes.
The official website for the ACT displays one fee for taking the test with the Writing section and another for taking the ACT without the essay, so if you decide to skip the essay, you can save a little money on your testing fees. This can be important, especially if you have a tight budget for standardized tests taken in your junior and senior year in high school.
Sticking With Your Strengths
Perhaps essay-writing is not one of your strengths – when you take the ACT without the Writing section, time can be spent studying for the other sections of the test. You can focus on the Math, Reading, Science, and English sections to achieve scores that will impress college admissions officials. However, if you want to improve your essay-writing skills, our capable instructors can help you to achieve that goal. We can teach you strategies for how to set up a logical, well-organized essay and provide you with guided practice to help make your essay the best it can be.
Cons of Skipping the ACT Essay
Lacking a Requirement?
One of the cons of taking the ACT without the essay is that you may want to apply to colleges that list a score for the Writing section as an admissions requirement. In order to apply to those colleges, you would have to go back and take the entire test again to get an essay score. Checking to see if the ACT essay is a requirement for the colleges you plan to apply to is a wise idea. But keep in mind that you may want to add a college to your list later or even transfer to another school that requires an ACT essay score.
Skipping the Opportunity to Make an Impression
Another con of skipping the essay section on the ACT is that you’ll miss out on an opportunity to show off your writing skills. Earning a high score on the essay is sure to capture the attention of college admissions officials. If writing is one of your strengths, why not take the time to highlight that talent to colleges?
Missing Out on an Intro to College-Level Work
If you skip the ACT essay, you miss out on the chance to become familiar with college-level work. The task of writing this essay is similar to what you’ll be doing in your English classes as a college freshman. You’ll be writing a lot of papers for classes once you start working toward a degree, so why not give yourself the opportunity to dip your toe into the type of academic work you’ll be doing as a college student?
Whether you decide to take the ACT with or without the essay, we are here to help you prep for the test. You may want to start by trying a free ACT trial class taught by one of our professional, 99th percentile instructors. This will give you an idea of all that we have to offer you at Veritas Prep. Sign up for our test prep services and you have the choice of online tutoring, in-person courses, or On Demand instruction. At Veritas Prep, we make it easy for you to learn what you need to know to ace the ACT!
Still need to take the ACT? We run afree online ACT prep seminar every few weeks. And be sure to find us on Facebook, YouTube, Google+ and Twitter!
Should I take the ACT with or without writing? That is the question. Today, I’ll give you a practical guide on how to make the decision.
"Would You Like to Order Your ACT With or Without Writing?"
One way to approach this decision is to imagine you are purchasing a good. And in a sense, you are. The ACT is an educational product that you pay for.
Just as you'd carefully consider any "extras" when you buy a computer, car, or restaurant meal, you need to think of the ACT essay as an "extra" when deciding if you would like the ACT with or without writing.
How much extra money does the ACT Writing test cost? $17 extra. If you just take the main ACT test, you pay a registration fee of $39.50. With ACT Writing, you pay $56.50.
If you're on a really tight budget (and many college applicants are), remember that the ACT alone can still potentially get you into university. Only a few universities absolutely require the writing test. At most other schools, having a good ACT Writing score is not necessary, but may make you more competitive. But you'll still have a chance of getting in without that writing score. If you truly had no chance, then the school wouldn't make ACT Writing optional.
ACT with Writing or Without?! Consider Your Writing Ability
Suppose you do have the extra $17 and are comfortable spending it on the optional writing test. The next thing to consider is just how well you can do on ACT Writing.
As I just told you, a good Writing score will make you competitive. But a bad score on the ACT essay can actually hurt your chance of getting into a university. At any school where ACT Writing is optional, you don't want to needlessly hurt your chances of acceptance.
So take a look at your own writing skills. But don't just assume you'll do well in ACT Writing because you're "a good writer." The ACT essay has a unique format. You need to see if you are specifically good at writing essays within ACT constraints.
So try practicing some actual ACT Writing prompts. Quesbook's sample ACT Writing question is a good place to start. And you can look on the official ACT website and in the official ACT Prep Guide for even more examples.
Do some practice ACT essays and see how you do. If you can, show the essays to a teacher or tutor for feedback. If you prove to be good at ACT Writing, then by all means take the ACT Writing test. But if you simply can't seem to get comfortable with the task and really excel, don't worry. You can skip ACT Writing if need be. This section is, after all, optional.
David Caleb is a test prep expert at Quesbook. He has a Master's in TESOL and has been working in admissions blogging and academic counseling since 2010. As an online test prep tutor, he coaches students form around the world. David's specialties include ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT, TOEFL, IELTS, and others.