ACT writing

Should I Take the ACT Writing Test?

The ACT writing portion is optional. 

We know what you’re thinking — what exactly does “optional” mean?

Optional as in: You won’t stand out if you do not take it?

Optional as in: It’s in your best interest to skip it?

OR, it doesn’t matter either way?

Here are a few helpful pointers on why some students may or may not want to take their ACT writing portion.

What exactly is the ACT writing section?

The ACT has 5 sections total:

  • English
  • Math
  • Reading
  • Science
  • Writing

The writing test is the only portion of the exam that is “optional,” meaning, it is your choice to take it. You can also choose to skip it entirely if you think your GPA and extracurricular activities are enough for you to get admitted.

The test is composed of a 40-minute essay writing test that is somehow similar to the SAT. ACT, Inc. decided to add an optional writing section to match the difficulty of the new SAT which dramatically changed in 2016.

As to whether you should take the ACT writing section or not, it depends upon the college that you are applying in. Some schools require an essay score for both SAT and ACT while other schools do not. It would be best to communicate with your dream school about their college admission requirements so you can match the test that you will take.

Which colleges require ACT writing score

When it comes to the writing portion of the ACT, any college will accept it, but not every college requires it. So if your question is “should I take the ACT with writing,” here are some of the schools that recommend or require the ACT writing score:


  • Alabama A&M University
  • Auburn University
  • Oakwood University
  • Spring Hill College


  • Scripps College
  • Soka University of America
  • UC Berkeley
  • UC Davis
  • UC Irvine
  • UC Los Angeles
  • UC Merced
  • UC Riverside
  • UC San Diego
  • UC Santa Barbara
  • UC Santa Cruz


  • Art Institute of Colorado
  • Colorado School of Mines
  • Johnson & Wales University—Denver
  • Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design
  • University of Colorado—Colorado Springs


  • United States Coast Guard Academy

New York


  • Molloy College
  • SUNY Maritime College
  • United States Military Academy (West Point)


  • Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences
  • Binghamton University—SUNY
  • CUNY—Medgar Evers College
  • Canisius College
  • College of New Rochelle
  • Cooper Union
  • Culinary Institute of America
  • Dominican College
  • Farmingdale State College
  • Globe Institute of Technology
  • Hobart and William Smith Colleges
  • Iona College
  • King’s College
  • List College—Jewish Theological Seminary
  • Mercy College
  • Morrisville State College
  • New York Institute of Technology
  • Parsons The New School for Design
  • Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)
  • Rochester Institute of Technology
  • St. John’s University
  • SUNY College at Buffalo
  • SUNY College at Old Westbury
  • Stony Brook University—SUNY
  • Touro College
  • University at Buffalo—SUNY
  • Webb Institute of Naval Architecture
  • Wells College

This list is somehow limited. If you want to see the full list of schools that recommends or requires the ACT writing test, visit the ACT website or PrepScholar.

Fee for the taking the ACT writing section

The cost of taking the ACT writing test is $16. It is not that expensive so if you would really like to impress schools or it is required by the university you are targeting to apply, tell your parents about the extra fee.

Pros and Cons for taking the ACT writing section

If you are still asking “should I take the ACT with writing?” we have weighed down the pros and cons for you.


You can apply to more schools

A lot of colleges recommend taking the Writing section. There are only a handful of schools that do not recommend them. Research whether your dream school recommends or requires the ACT writing test.

It is an opportunity to impress college admission committees

Whether the school you are applying for requires it or not, do not miss the opportunity to impress them by taking the test.

You get an intro to college-level work

The ACT writing test will give you an idea of the actual writing that you are going to do once you enter college. Who knows, you might learn a thing or two by taking the test that you can also apply if you are interested to be a freelance writer.


It would require extra time

The writing test would require you to sit and write for another 40 minutes. If you have to finish early or you have an important appointment that day, this may be a big problem. It is also important to note that this will applies too for students with disabilities that applied for extra time on the ACT.

It has an additional fee

There is an additional fee for the writing test as we have mentioned earlier. For financially challenged students, this is just another burden.

You have to allot time to practice writing

Since it is another section of the test, it would require you to invest more time in reviewing and practicing. For instance, you must learn how to write a good thesis statement to explain your perspective or you can also check out some tips to improve the SAT essay that might apply to ACT as well.

ACT writing sample prompts

For you to have an idea of how the SAT writing section looks like, we have curated some prompts from the official website of ACT. In the actual test, you would have to read the prompt and then choose from the three perspectives given to write your essay.

Writing Prompt 1: Intelligent Machines

Many of the goods and services we depend on daily are now supplied by intelligent, automated machines rather than human beings. Robots build cars and other goods on assembly lines, where once there were human workers. Many of our phone conversations are now conducted not with people but with sophisticated technologies. We can now buy goods at a variety of stores without the help of a human cashier. Automation is generally seen as a sign of progress, but what is lost when we replace humans with machines? Given the accelerating variety and prevalence of intelligent machines, it is worth examining the implications and meaning of their presence in our lives.

Perspective one: What we lose with the replacement of people by machines is some part of our own humanity. Even our mundane daily encounters no longer require from us basic courtesy, respect, and tolerance for other people.

Perspective Two: Machines are good at low-skill, repetitive jobs, and at high-speed, extremely precise jobs. In both cases, they work better than humans. This efficiency leads to a more prosperous and progressive world for everyone. 

Perspective Three: Intelligent machines challenge our long-standing ideas about what humans are or can be. This is good because it pushes both humans and machines toward new, unimagined possibilities.

Writing Prompt 2: Public Health and Individual Freedom

Most people want to be healthy, and most people want as much freedom as possible to do the things they want. Unfortunately, these two desires sometimes conflict. For example, smoking is prohibited from most public places, which restricts the freedom of some individuals for the sake of the health of others. Likewise, car emissions are regulated in many areas in order to reduce pollution and its health risks to others, which in turn restricts some people’s freedom to drive the vehicles they want. In a society that values both health and freedom, how do we best balance the two? How should we think about conflicts between public health and individual freedom?

Perspective One: Our society should strive to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of people. When the freedom of the individual interferes with that principle, freedom must be restricted.

Perspective Two: Nothing in society is more valuable than freedom. Perhaps physical health is sometimes improved by restricting freedom, but the cost to the health of our free society is far too great to justify it.

Perspective Three: The right to avoid health risks is a freedom, too. When we allow individual behavior to endanger others, we’ve damaged both freedom and health.

Writing Prompt 3: Kid Stuff

Toys are for children, right? Not anymore. In recent years, things that used to be considered “kid stuff” have grown in popularity among grownups. Nowadays, adults regularly play video games, watch animated movies and television shows, purchase dolls, and other collectible figures, and read comic books for their own enjoyment. Is adult enjoyment of children’s entertainment merely a sign of immaturity? In what ways can playing with kid stuff change the way adults understand today’s youth? Given that toys, games, and publications that used to be exclusively for children are growing in popularity among adults, it is worth considering the effects and implications of this trend.

Perspective One: It’s good for adults to be familiar with kid stuff. They’ll understand the lives of children better and be more responsive to their needs, interests, and problems.

Perspective Two: Adults need to be models of maturity and responsibility. When they act and think like children, kids have no one to look to for guidance.

Perspective Three: Children need their own cultural space—their own books, their own toys, their own movies—in which to explore their ideas. When adults start to take over the space, kids lose out.

Here are other essay prompts from Kohen Educational Services:

Writing Prompt 4: Accelerating Globalization

Only a few hundred years ago, communication between countries on opposite ends of the globe was painstakingly slow or non-existent. Most people knew little about distant lands, peoples and cultures. What they thought they knew was frequently erroneous or ill-conceived. Within the past hundred years, however, the pace of globalization has accelerated rapidly. Today travel across the globe in less than 24 hours is a real possibility for many people. Individuals and nations can instantly communicate with one another across great distances. For better or worse, the world has become more connected than was ever imaginable before, and it continues to become more connected every day. Has globalization made the world a better or a worse place?

Perspective One: Globalization, despite its lustrous promises, has created more problems than it has solved. It has allowed rich countries to get richer at the expense of poorer countries, and it has increased, not decreased, the number of armed conflicts in the world.

Perspective Two: The world is undoubtedly a better place today because of globalization. It has allowed critical resources to be distributed to the governments and people that need them the most.

Perspective Three: While I celebrate the productive exchange of cultures globalization has facilitated, I worry about how globalization is homogenizing those cultures. Take languages—do we really want to live in a world where one day everyone only speaks only one global language?

Writing Prompt 5: Technology and Everyday Life

Technology has radically changed the way we interact with the world. Not long ago, individuals who wanted to get in touch had to do so either by meeting in person or sending messages through postal mail. In order to perform most types of research, people were forced to visit physical libraries, bookstores, or archives. Over the past two decades, technology has rendered many of these time-consuming tasks obsolete. Messages can be sent anywhere in the world via email in only a matter of seconds. All sorts of information are available with the click of a smartphone button. People can not only call individuals anytime, but they can also access their geolocation on demand. It seems like everyone is on his or her smartphone every waking minute.

Perspective One: Today’s technology has greatly bettered our lives. Individuals are more connected to the information and people they want to connect with, and the result is smarter, happier, and more fulfilled human beings.

Perspective Two: Technology promises to “connect” us with one another. But look around and you’ll see how disconnected it’s made us—individuals no longer interact with one another because they’ve become so consumed by their phones and devices.

Perspective Three: Technology may have made the world a better place for those who have access to it, but its prohibitive costs have made it inaccessible, and consequently unhelpful, to too many people.

You have nothing to lose — right?

On a College Confidential forum, one High Schooler commented the following:

“Okay, so I ended up with a decent ACT score, but totally bombed the writing portion. I got a 34 composite, but a 4 (GAH!?!?!?!) on the writing portion. I really want to use my multiple-choice score, but my writing is totally unacceptable. It’s weird because I’m in AP English, and my essays aren’t THAT bad… I normally get 7s or higher, and I got a 10 on the SAT writing. I’m hoping to apply to some more competitive colleges…any advice?”

So to rephrase the student’s question, if your writing score is less than satisfactory and you submit that score in addition to a high composite score for college admissions, what will happen?

Well. The University of Chicago says they don’t require the ACT writing portion, but will still consider it.

“The writing section of the SAT or the ACT is considered supplemental.” – UChicago Admissions

Here’s the thing. If you submit your ACT essay to a school that doesn’t require it, you are asking them to draw their attention to it.

As a general rule of thumb, if you plan on submitting your ACT writing portion as supplemental admissions criteria, you should plan on doing well!


As you can see, there is no point-blank answer for whether or not you should take the Writing portion of the ACT. It really comes down to:

  • your writing skills
  • your desired college’s admissions requirements

I hope that this short but sweet article has helped you to better discern where you stand.

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Todd VanDuzer

Co-Founder & CEO at Student-Tutor
Hello! My name is Todd. I help students design the life of their dreams by ensuring college, scholarship, and career success! I am a former tutor for seven years, $85,000 scholarship recipient, Huffington Post contributor, lead SAT & ACT course developer, host of a career exploration podcast for teens, and have worked with thousands of students and parents to ensure a brighter future for the next generation. I invite you to join my next webinar to learn how to save thousands + set your teenager up for college, scholarship, and career success!
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6 years ago

That is a tough call on whether or not to take the writing portion or not. You would really have to be confident in your writing skills. Or, maybe seek some outside help (perhaps a tutor) and practice a lot to improve your writing skills ahead of time. Great tips, thanks for sharing.