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Has anyone gotten in with an 8 on the essay? Should I retake a 35 ACT?

Multiverse7Multiverse7 Registered User Posts: 551 Member
I am a junior and I took the ACT last fall and was very happy to learn that I received a 35 composite score. Unfortunately, when my writing score came back two weeks later, it was an 8. It was my fault because although I prepped for four weeks for the exam, I never even looked at how to write the essay. I just figured that I was a pretty good writer and didn't need to prepare for it. After getting the 8, I read over the writing section in the review book and realized that answering the essay is pretty formulaic, none of which I followed.

I have always felt that I didn't want to be one of those test warriors you see on CC but my English score was a 33 and now my combined English and writing score is a 30 according to ACT. This is on the very low end for Harvard and especially troubling for me because I am Asian.

Has anyone had experience with submitting a low writing score and been successful in being admitted? Have any of you that applied RD this year submitted an 8 or lower writing score? Should I retake the test? I really don't want to but I don't want Harvard to think I can't write well. Any help you can provide me would be very much appreciated!

Replies to: Has anyone gotten in with an 8 on the essay? Should I retake a 35 ACT?

  • gibbygibby Registered User Posts: 10,418 Senior Member
    edited February 2015
    I don't want Harvard to think I can't write well.
    Admissions Officers will judge your writing based upon the quality and content of your essays and NOT on your writing score for the ACT/SAT. Admissions will pay more attention to what your teachers say about your writing than your writing score on the ACT/SAT. I think Admissions understands that students are often judged on ACT/SAT writing not on content, or accuracy, but on the length of their essay and whether they've hit all the marks in the rubrics.

    FWIW: http://oir.harvard.edu/files/huoir/files/harvard_cds_2013-14.pdf. In Harvard's Common Data Set, an ACT writing score of 8 is at the 25% percentile, meaning that 25% of students had that score or lower. So, hundreds of students (about 400 or so in 2013-2014) were admitted with 8's (or lower) on their writing. But, some of those students may have been recruited athletes, legacies, URM's or developmental cases (high $$$ donors).

    The question you have to answer: Will submitting an 8 on your ACT writing give you anxiety through the admissions process? Will you always wonder, "What if I had taken the test again and scored a 10 or 12 on the writing section? If so, for your own peace of mind, you need to retake the test concentrating on the writing section. Keep in mind though, while Harvard superscores the SAT, they DO NOT superscore the ACT. So, you would need to score a 35 again and achieve a higher writing score. And the whole effort may not pay off if you score a 33 with a 12 essay. Then, you would have to weigh sending in the 35 with the 8, or sending in both scores and letting Admissions see your lower overall score, but higher writing score. Lots of things to consider and none of us can make the decision for you.

    If you were my kid, I'd say let it go. You scored a 35 and that's what important. You can prove your writing ability in other ways, such as taking an AP English test, spending months writing and editing essays or picking an English teacher who loves your writing to write your recommendation letter.
  • Multiverse7Multiverse7 Registered User Posts: 551 Member
    Thanks @gibby, you've given me a lot to think about. I am fairly certain I can score higher on the essay but as to whether I can score a 35 again, I don't know. I will probably take one or two practice tests and see how I do. Since I only took three full practice exams before the actual test, I still have three more I can take (plus the essays this time). If I think I can score higher on the English section and get at least a 10 on the essay, I might go for it. I would even have a chance for a 36 if I can get my English score up to a 35.
  • oxoxhawja3xoxooxoxhawja3xoxo Registered User Posts: 309 Member
    if you have a 35, however you got it is fine...
    You've submitted other essays, so they should know your writing abilities based upon those.
    Don't worry about it.
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