Should I Take the SAT Essay?


Co-authored by Renae Hintze

If you saw our infographic blog that explains what’s different on the new SAT, then you know by now that the SAT portion is now optional. You do not HAVE to take it.

But, it’s still there.

So what’s the deal? Do you take it or no?? 

Here’s a breakdown that may help you decide.

First, what’s different?

For one thing, you have more time to write. The new SAT essay gives you 50 minutes where the old one only gave you 35.

SAT time change-01

There’s also no more obscure, abstract prompts for you to answer. Instead, there’s a passage that you have to read and analyze.

The prompt for the passage is more or less the same every time, but the reading will vary from one test to another.

What am I graded on?

The new SAT essay is scored based on 3 categories:

  1. Reading
  2. Analysis
  3. Writing

SAT breakdown-01

Some elite universities require it, others don’t.

I bet you’re tired of hearing this buuut… it depends.

It really does! Some schools will require the SAT essay whereas some schools will not. Other schools won’t require it, but will recommend it (in which case you should view it as a competitive requirement)


Not Required

Princeton Columbia
Harvard University of Pennsylvania
Yale Brown University
Stanford Cornell
Dartmouth Auburn University at Montgomery
Anderson University Birmingham-Southern College
California Institute of Technology Concordia College Alabama
Claremont McKenna College Faulkner University
College of Charleston Huntingdon College
College of Southern Nevada Jacksonville State University
Duke University Judson College
Emory University Samford University
Howard University Southeastern Bible College
Marlboro College Stillman College
Pennsylvania College of Technology Tuskegee University
Princeton University University of Alabama at Birmingham
Rice University University of Alabama in Huntsville
Stanford University University of Mobile
Texas A&M University University of Montevallo
Trinity University University of North Alabama
University of California:Berkeley University of South Alabama
University of California:Davis University of West Alabama
University of California:Irvine Alaska Pacific University
University of California:Los Angeles University of Alaska Fairbanks
University of California:Merced Arizona Christian University
University of California:Riverside Arizona State University
University of California:San Diego Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University – Prescott
University of California:Santa Barbara Northern Arizona University
University of California:Santa Cruz Prescott College
Wentworth Institute of Technology University of Arizona
Yale University Arkansas State University
California Baptist University
California College of the Arts
California Lutheran University
California Maritime Academy
 View the complete list here.


1. Full Coverage

If you DO choose to take the new SAT essay, you will be covered across-the-board for college admissions. Whether or not a school requires the score, you’ll have it handy.

In the case of a school that recommends but doesn’t require the score, you may gain a slight competitive advantage over students who opted not to take it.


1. Longer Test-Time

If you choose to take the essay portion of the SAT, then you will be looking at a longer overall test time.

When the non-essay writing students finish their tests, they’ll be given a portion of time to turn in their tests, collect their things, and leave.

You, the essay-writing student, will be given another 50 minutes to complete the essay portion.

The old SAT was 3 hours and 45 minutes long. The new SAT is only 3 hours… Plus 50 minutes if you take the essay portion. So you’re looking at about 4 hours total for you SAT with writing. For some students, an extra 50 minutes may be a strain.

2. Additional Cost

The SAT itself costs $43.00. If you choose to take the essay, there’s an additional fee of $11.50 that gets tacked on to make it $54.50 total.

SAT essay money-01

3. Increased study time

If you’re looking to score well on the essay portion of the SAT, you’ll probably need to practice reading and analyzing different passages of a common nature.

You may even need to invest in a writing tutor.


If you are absolutely positive you won’t be applying to any schools that require the SAT essay, then by all means — skip it. It’s extra money, time, and effort to do it.

However, if your school requires or recommends it, then you should probably take it to be safe!

lm checklist cita with girl test prep grey

Will you be taking the new SAT essay? Why or why not? Tell us about it in the comments below!

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Laura earned a Master's degree in Secondary Education plus Teaching Certification for Mathematics and Psychology in both AZ and CA. Her undergraduate work was in Psychology with a minor in German from UCLA where she graduated magna cum laude. She has been tutoring since the 90's, was a high school teacher 2006-2011, and still teaches for a local college. Laura is passionate about teaching, learning, entrepreneurship, and traveling the world with her husband, their dog Tuck, and her Macbook Pro. -- Join Laura on Linkedin & Twitter!
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I have scored 8 in SAT essay, and my overall SAT score is 1410. I am planning to take the SAT again, but do I have to take the essay again? Will I be able to use the score that I have already obtained?

Todd VanDuzer
Todd VanDuzer

It depends on the college. Some colleges allow you to “super score” meaning taking your best score from each section while others do not.

Evan Weisberg
Evan Weisberg

I definitely feel that the essay for the SAT is useful because it is good writing practice for future classes that you will see in college. Although most colleges require an additional college essay, it is essential for you to show colleges that you are able to use critical thinking and develop a well thought out writing sample in a short amount of time. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to share these words of wisdom.

Tavisen Veeramoothoo
Tavisen Veeramoothoo

I have already taken it and I have obtained 6 out of 8. However my overall SAT results is 1340. I am not sure if I have to take it again or I can stop here itself.