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ACT With or Without Writing: Consider This Before Choosing

Choosing between the ACT with or without writing? Explore factors that can impact your decision. Understand college requirements and make an informed choice.
ACT with or without writing what is better

Everyone who’s looking into taking an ACT has their doubts. Many of them arise because of the optional writing test. Will you actually need it, or will it be nothing more than a waste of time? I understand your hesitation. Of course, the final decision will greatly depend on your college requirements, but there is more to that. In this article, we’ll cover the details of the ACT writing section, its scoring, pros and cons, and other helpful tips. Let’s dive straight into whether you need ACT with or without writing. 

ACT Writing: The Basics

The American College Testing (ACT) was created in 1959 by the University of Iowa’s Everett Franklin Lindquist. It started as an alternative to the Scholastic Assessment Test, aka SAT. Colorado and Illinois pioneered by mandating all students to take the ACT. Though the SAT was the first admission test, the ACT gained equal recognition with time. Notably, the last university adopted ACT only in 2007. It was Harvey Mudd Engineering College. Today, this exam is widely used for college admissions. It’s a multiple-choice, paper test managed by a non-profit, ACT Inc. It has four main sections: English, reading, mathematics, and science. Writing is the fifth optional part of the exam and the main topic of this blog.

What Is ACT Writing?

The ACT writing test is an essay assessment that evaluates your writing skills. This exam, alongside English and reading tests, showcases your grasp of grammar, vocabulary, and ability to create a written sample. The top ACT writing result is 12 points, while a solid score is generally anything above 8. In 2022, the average grade was 6-7, with 50-66% of all results in this range. As the ACT writing test is optional, only some colleges require it. That’s why always consider your school’s of choice requirements before making the final decision.

What Is the ACT Writing Test Format? 

You will need a pencil and lined paper for the ACT writing test. This exam includes a prompt description of a complex issue from three perspectives. Your essay should develop your view of the subject. Besides, you need to analyze its relationship with other outlooks. Just keep in mind that your viewpoint won’t impact your score.
Here is an example of the topic you could get for the ACT essay:

Source: ACT

If you want to get more sample tasks to prepare for your ACT, try for free the unlimited questions and personalized guidance without even leaving your home. 

How Long Does the ACT Writing Section Take? 

The general  ACT lasts 2 hours and 55 minutes. But if you also choose writing, the total time goes up to 3 hours and 35 minutes. You only get 40 minutes for your ACT writing test. If it follows the science section, the student will get a 5-minute break in between. To finish your essay on time, you could follow this simple strategy: 

  1. Spend 7 minutes reading and considering the prompt. 
  2. In the next 6 minutes, try to organize your thoughts. 
  3. Leave 20 minutes for writing.
  4. And finish with 7 minutes for reviewing and revising.

What Is the Cost of ACT Writing?

The ACT with writing costs $93.00. It covers reports for you, your high school, and four colleges. Do not forget that late registration adds $36.00 to the price. You can request additional score reports online after registration, which will cost an extra $18.00. The more detailed prices you can find on the official ACT website.

ACT With Writing or Without: How Can It Influence Your Admission Chances? 

Since 2005, students choose between ACT with writing or without. Often, students are uncertain about adding the extra 40 minutes to the test. Yet, the earlier you decide, the better because the writing section requires additional time and practice. To simplify the preparation process, you can take a pre-ACT test. So, shall you choose ACT with or without writing? The answer is simple – it depends on whether your desired colleges demand a writing score. Still, both options have their advantages. Let’s go through them.

Benefits of Taking the ACT With Writing

  • Having more college alternatives. The ACT writing section broadens college options for you. Besides, having a good writing score can significantly increase your admission and scholarship prospects.
  • Demonstrating your writing skills. This part of the exam showcases clear and persuasive writing, which is vital for college essays and assignments. As a result, taking the optional section of your ACT can strengthen your profile, compensating for other things (if applicable).
  • Developing critical thinking. Preparing for the ACT writing section cultivates critical thinking and argumentation. Crafting reasoned responses sharpens these skills that will certainly be useful in your future studies and career. 
  • Helping you to stand out. In competitive admissions, the writing section can become your additional winning point to set you apart from other applicants. A strong writing score doesn’t only highlight your academic dedication but also your personal characteristics.

Benefits of Taking the ACT Without Writing

  • Allowing you to focus on core preparation. Opting out of writing helps concentrate on essential test subjects, such as English, math, reading, and science. Having more time to study for the obligatory sections can enhance your composite scores and admission chances.
  • Shortening the exam duration. Skipping writing reduces fatigue and stress during the exam simply because it gets shorter. This allows you to focus better, which is particularly helpful for test-anxious students.
  • Skipping unnecessary learning curve. Some students just aren’t into writing. And it is more than okay. Besides, many colleges don’t demand a writing score and won’t even pay attention to this part of your application. That’s why in some cases, you might want to focus on your Grade Point Average (GPA), extracurricular activities, and recommendations instead.
  • Saving time and money. Skipping the writing section saves $25 for the examination and any extra preparation expenses. This is a small bonus you get when opting for the ACT without writing.

What Colleges Require ACT Writing?

The truth is that not that many colleges have an ACT writing section as an obligatory requirement. You might be surprised, but as of 2023, no Ivy League Schools actually ask their applicants to submit their writing scores. And we’re talking about some of the world’s best universities here, such as Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, Yale, Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, and the University of Pennsylvania. 

Why do some colleges still require ACT writing, then? The answer is pretty simple. This exam assesses academic potential through reasoning, critical thinking, idea development, and persuasion. Experience shows that a strong ACT writing score can slightly enhance admission chances, even if not required by the school. But many colleges don’t only skip the ACT writing test but any examinations at all. At least, it was like that for the 2022-2023 admissions. To date, only a few colleges demand ACT writing scores:

  • The Martin Luther College
  • US Military Academy

Note: All college requirements might change. That’s why ensure to check any updates before deciding whether you need to submit your ACT writing score.


As you can see, taking the ACT writing test is mostly up to you. In most cases, it will be an extra bonus when applying to a college or university. Successfully passing the writing part will help you stand out among other applicants. Yet, keep in mind that taking the writing section requires extra effort and time. So, consider all these factors when deciding whether to take your ACT with or without writing.



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