If you are planning to take the ACT or have already done it, then you are probably wondering if you should take up the optional ACT writing test as well. Do colleges actually require it? Would it make a good impression and add value to my application?
Before we answer those questions, let’s focus on the main and most basic questions.
What is the ACT?
The ACT is a standardized test administered by ACT Inc that is widely recognized for admissions in the United States. It costs $46, whereas the ACT with the optional writing component costs $62.50.
For international students, there will be an additional cost of $55.50. So, if you think you are ready to take this up, financially, and if the additional cost doesn’t bother you, keep reading this article to discover which colleges require the optional writing component.
The ACT has a total score of 36 points. It consists of English, Maths, Science and Reading sections. The ACT writing component is not a part of this. It has a total score (12 points) and only consists of English and Reading.
This is known as an ELA score (English Language arts). The duration of the ACT writing component is 40 minutes and you are recommended to write over a page. Tight, right?
So, what does the ACT writing look like?
You will be presented with one prompt regarding some issue. Along with the prompt, it provides three different points of view. It is up to you to either pick one of the perspectives and further build on it or come up with a completely different fourth point of view.
This test is important as it acts as a measure of one’s writing skills but is optional as students are usually assessed similarly in English as their school subject.
Taking up the optional writing component will definitely help you further enhance your writing and critical thinking skills, which can be highly beneficial for the university.
So you might be wondering, if the writing component is optional, then why do some universities require it? While most universities do not make the writing component mandatory, some do. For good reason, of course. The essay not only tests your writing skills but also your way of thinking.
This, combined with the reading and English scores provide a holistic assessment as it tests various areas at once, such as comprehension, writing under a tight time constraint, etc.
The reason why this skill is particularly different from what is demonstrated in the other aspects of your application is because of the way it puts your ability to think and write in a limited amount of time. On the other hand, when it comes to essays, you have plenty of time to write them, brainstorm, ask your friends and family to proofread, etc.
Colleges want to see how you can independently think from a different point of view if you can avoid all kinds of spelling and grammatical errors without external help from software. The writing component tests all these skills, and this is your chance to prove to them that you are capable of all the things listed above.
Now that we have established how the ACT writing component can be beneficial to you, let’s get to the main question.
The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe. – Gustave Flaubert
Also Read: When Should I Take the ACT for the First Time?
Which colleges require the ACT writing component?
This might come off as a bit of a surprise to you, especially after having read through how important the ACT writing component is, but top-ranked colleges do not require it.
The ivy leagues including Harvard, Brown, Yale, Princeton, and Duke stopped accepting the ACT writing component. Other top-ranked colleges such as the UCs, University of Texas, University of Michigan, and more also do not require the ACT writing component.
So you might be thinking to yourself, if the top-ranked colleges don’t require the writing component, then the only area it might come in handy maybe in English-related programs, right? Well, not exactly. Even the top college for humanities, the University of Chicago, does not require it. Georgetown and College of the Holy Cross (two great colleges for English degrees) do not require it either.
So if universities that are known for English degrees and English-related degrees do not require it, then it would be obvious that the technical schools would not require it either, such as MIT, Caltech, etc.
The colleges that have explicitly stated the requirement for the ACT writing component in 2021 are
- Wyoming Catholic College
- Soka University of America
- United States Military Academy- West Point
- University of Montana Western
- University of Mary Hardin- Baylor.
So, if you are planning to attend one of the colleges mentioned above that make the ACT writing component a requirement, better start preparing for it!
Here are some tips for you to score well on the ACT writing component:
- Pick one side. Don’t argue for multiple sides. Make your arguments strong and back them up with evidence. If you do not have facts to provide evidence to your claim, try to reason it out logically.
- Language usage: you don’t need complex words to score a 12 on the essay. While your vocabulary needs to be strong, varied, and relevant, keep it simple. Ensure that your points are clear and precise.
- Structure: Your essay needs to be well organised and have a proper structure. Once you make a statement, provide evidence to that claim and conclude it. Do not bring it up in another paragraph. This will reflect poorly on your ability to organise your essay well. You must also make proper transitions when moving from one point to another. It cannot seem abrupt. So, ensure that you are familiar with various transitional words.
Even though many colleges, including the top-ranked ones, do not require the ACT writing component, is it highly recommended to take it up. As we have seen, it can be greatly beneficial to furthering your skills and can add to your college application.
If you decide to take it up, good luck!