ACT/SAT with or without the Essay?

Would it reflect my application better if I took the essay portion of the ACT or SAT? Would Ivy League colleges (particularly UPenn) take a good essay score into account as a determining factor, or can I do without it? Basically, does the essay really matter in the admissions process?

No it probably won’t make a difference on getting in or not but if the school requires it you have to do it.

Prepscholar has on their blog a complete list of colleges that require sat subject tests
I am not sure who wants the new SAT essay.

UPenn no longer requires the essay portion of either test (their testing policy changed last summer). I just wanted to know if doing it would look better on my application.

if they don’t require it i doubt they’re looking at it

I would recommend that you take it because if there is a school that requires it and you didn’t take it then you have to go back and take the whole test over just for the writing…unless you are absolutely terrible at writing, do it.

@AHeyes I’ll give an argument for no writing. UPenn doesn’t require it and thankfully it seems more colleges are coming to their senses that a 30 minute opinion piece with a bad rubric is not a good measure of writing. I believe the essay is first increasing the length of exam. My daughter has taken it both ways and she think she had more energy for science (last) without doing the essay. Still waiting on results to see if it had an impact.

Do writing. It’s worth it in my opinion (one for the reason that @dnstudent26 listed above, and two, because you don’t ever want a school to wonder why you didn’t take it if it was already part of the test (an admissions representative told me this once)).

Will you say admission rep for what school? UPenn is clear in a blog why they feel the writing portion of ACT isn’t valuable. It’s also known scores are tending to be much lower in writing than a student’s composite. One person argued as long as you follow the rubric you are fine but the rubric is evaluate three position then present yours in 30 minutes. That is editorial, not an essay and definitely not enough time to give a well though out position.

Some schools require it but four on our list either don’t or require it only with one testing. I think this is different from SAT subject tests that are recommended but not required.

From U Penn:

Sorry, I didn’t see your comment about how your daughter feels more focused on the science section if she skips the essay - if this is the case, then she shouldn’t (necessarily) take the writing section. I was saying to take it because I hadn’t seen any indication in this post that she was “bad” at the writing section, and therefore didn’t see the harm in taking that portion of the exam. However, I still believe that having an ACT with the writing section may come in handy, should your daughter choose to apply to schools that require/strongly suggest it. As for the admissions representative, she was from Amherst.

Thanks for answer on admissions officer. I’m not the OP asking for advice on whether to take writing portion.

I was offering my D as a practical example of why not to take it on every sitting. My D took ACT with writing twice. High score on old rubric and lower score on new rubric. My focus on this thread was U Penn, not in general although our two safeties offe merit aid strictly from ACT composite and only require writing once. My D took without writing this week because all juniors at her HS took the ACT this week and writing wasn’t an option.

Thank you for your help @Sportsman88 @bobchillax and @dnstudent26 ! I took the ACT without writing for the first time in April and got a 32. My school also had us take the version for district testing, and the essay was required. I feel pretty confident about that essay but I won’t get the scores back until summer. Either way, I’ll have at least one essay on my app for admissions counselors to see if they are really that curious.

Great. I wish good luck. Actually I’m going to take mine…in a year (well less than in a year)…but still I’m so worried already, especially about the essay part. I’m not that good at writing. And I’m trying somehow to get better at it. Not sure whether I’ll be. Still, I heard that reading essays like [url="<a href=“”>"]these[/url] or [url="<a href=“”>"]these[/url] or [url="<a href=“”>"]these[/url] could help become better at essay writing. What do you think?

@walt33 These sites are kind of weird because I feel like they are telling you what the writer did wrong but not how to improve upon it.
I have taken several English courses where there was a heavy focus on essay writing. The most important thing to remember when writing any essay is that you should always 1) create a thesis that answers the prompt (it’s okay to restate the words of the question in your thesis in answer form if that helps you keep a better focus of the end goal) and 2) make sure your evidence and commentary relate directly back to the thesis (ask yourself, “How does this statement prove my argument to be true?”). Make sure you have AT LEAST two points, but three is even better.
If you can do that, you’re three-quarters of the way to a good essay. The rest lies in the rhetoric, how you present your argument, and its validity or lack of fallacies.
Also, because, of the time limit, try to keep your essay concise and to the point. You can leave space between paragraphs if you want to add some details in after you’ve finished initially.

Don’t doubt yourself! If you truly believe what you are saying and can effectively communicate your points,your essay will shine! I wish you the best!

(P.S. These are links for the AP English Language Exam Essay Prompts, but pay the most attention to the “Sample Responses Q3” of every year. Question 3 is kind of similar to the type of question they ask on the ACT, but the essays seen here usually display a higher level of writing skill than the sample essays you provided. The College Board provides detailed explanations as to why a person received or did not receive points. )