why your student may not have to worry about the sat writing section student-tutor

Why Your High Schooler May Not Have to Worry About the SAT Writing Section

Disclaimer: This article is for the 2005 SAT. Click here to learn about the new, 2016 SAT.

If you’ve got a kid in high school, chances are, they’re trying to figure out when to take the SAT–Should they take subject tests? Do they need to prepare for all three sections?

Wait, what?

That’s right–three sections.

This SAT might be a little bit different from the one you remember, because in 2005, Collegeboard tacked on a writing section to the standardized test, adding 800 possible points to the score total and bringing essay skills into the mix.

“But my kid hates writing essays!” you shout, alarmed.

Hold on. Take a deep breath. There’s actually a chance your high schooler won’t need to worry about preparing for the writing section.

But why? And when is the SAT writing section required? Read on to find out!

1. Does the SAT Writing Score matter?

Most top-tier schools, such as Ivy League schools and other prestigious private schools, require that your student submit an SAT Writing Score.
So, if your student has their heart set on plan on attending these sorts of schools, I’d advise them to practice those essays and study up on their grammar!

While this may be the case for many top-tier private schools, most public schools typically do not require that your student submit a Writing Score.

For example, Arizona State University (ASU) does not require a writing score with their application. So, if they plan on attending one of these schools, they may only need to worry about their math and critical reading scores.

But–big important note–even though, generally, private schools tend to require writing scores, and public schools don’t, THERE ARE ALWAYS EXCEPTIONS.

Make sure your student knows that they will need to submit an SAT Writing Score unless their school specifically states that they do not consider the SAT Writing Score as a factor of admission.

Also, while the school to which your child is applying may not necessarily require them to submit their writing score, if they want to apply to the school’s honors program or merit-based scholarships, they are more likely to need an SAT Writing Score.

2. Which schools require writing scores?

So you know the general rule–top-tier private schools usually require writing scores, public universities usually don’t, BUT DON’T GET CRAZY NOW.

Seriously, though–you wouldn’t want your student to just blow off the SAT Writing Section only to find out that they actually needed a writing score.

But how can I know if my child’s school of choice requires an SAT Writing Score??

For a brief snapshot, look below!

Screen Shot 2015-01-13 at 1.51.43 PM

…And for a more complete list, click here to use PowerScore’s full list!

Don’t see your child’s college of choice on the list? Check the school’s undergraduate admissions website! Still no luck? Call up the school’s office of undergraduate admissions and ask them yourself.

3. Why do some schools not require writing scores?

So, what’s so controversial about the new SAT Writing Section? Why would some college decide to not take writing scores into account?

Basically, a lot of people, including college admission officials, feel that the new SAT essay grading process to be very subjective. In fact, some studies show that SAT essay graders tend to award points to essays for length, rather than content.

As a result of all the hubbub surrounding the new SAT Writing Section, many college admission officials appear to be approaching the new SAT Writing Section with a “Jury’s Still Out” mindset

That is, they’re not ignoring the scores…but they’re also not giving them the same weight that they afford to the Critical Reading and Math sections.

So even if your student’s school of choice requires writing scores, a slightly lackluster writing score is nothing for them to lose sleep over.

Obviously, a high writing score definitely won’t hurt their chances. But they can also make up for their low writing score with high math and critical reading scores!


So, if writing is your student’s nightmare, and you’re looking to avoid it at any cost… Well, they actually might not have to worry about the writing portion of the SAT. Just to make sure you got everything, let’s do a quick recap:

    1. The SAT Writing Score typically only matters for top-tier private schools and Ivy League Universities.
    2. Public schools often do not require their applicants to submit writing scores.
    3. Most schools that do not look at writing scores choose not to consider them because of the conflict surrounding the way that the essays are graded.

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Got any other questions, comments or concerns about the SAT Writing Section? Let us know in the comments below! Also, if your student finds that they need to prepare for the SAT Writing Section, have them check out our awesome essay guide and grammar tips!

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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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