Should You Take the ACT Plus Writing?

Most high school students plan to take either the ACT or the SAT, but once you choose an exam, your decision is not yet complete. The ACT, for instance, offers an optional writing component—the ACT Plus Writing. But should you take this sub-test? 

First, consider the basics

The ACT Plus Writing lengthens the ACT by thirty minutes, and it currently costs an additional $16.50.

You will be presented with a single prompt. This prompt will describe an issue and two opposing viewpoints. You must then support one of the two provided perspectives, or alternately, present your own. Of course, your score will not reflect the side you choose, and you do not have to argue for the viewpoint you actually hold—just the one about which you can write the most effective essay.

The case for completing the ACT Plus Writing is fairly compelling: 

It may be required

While the writing portion of the exam is technically optional, certain schools require it for admission. If you are sitting for the ACT during your junior year, you may have little idea about which colleges you will ultimately apply to—which means it may or may not be required. Some schools simply “recommend” that you take it - follow their advice. Colleges that do not require the ACT Plus Writing may still accept and examine your results, which could strengthen your portfolio.

It can highlight key skills

Though the ACT may feel like a mere means to an end, it is designed to allow you to showcase your skills to colleges. This is also true of the Writing section. By completing a short essay, you can demonstrate your communication skills—and schools are deeply interested in your ability to read, write, and thoughtfully argue. 

It is not multiple-choice

The ACT Plus Writing is scored by two human readers. These individuals review and evaluate your essay, and then they assign it a score between 2 and 12. If you do not excel at multiple-choice testing, the ACT Plus Writing can be a wonderful way for you to stand out to colleges. You may also find these tips on how to improve your ACT score helpful.

It may improve your ability to write well

While studying for the ACT Plus Writing, you may realize that you are becoming a better writer. Often, the ability to write well is developed by continual practice. As you complete sample prompts, your skill set in writing quickly and clearly will improve. Writing tutors can also be of great use, as they can offer excellent feedback and direct your prep efforts accordingly. Remember that ACT practice tests may help you improve your overall score as well.

This will work to your advantage as you enter college, where you will be expected to write coherently starting the first day of your first semester. Thus, sitting for the ACT Plus Writing may make you a more successful college student—if you prepare appropriately.

If you plan to review for the other sections of the ACT, it may make logistical sense to proceed one step further—in other words, to complete the ACT Plus Writing as well. While you might regret not taking it, it is unlikely that the reverse will be true. 

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