When it comes to the ACT, colleges come in two varieties: those that require or recommend that you take the optional ACT Writing Test, and those that say that the test is not needed. You can see which colleges require, recommend, or do not need you to take the ACT Writing Test.
Let’s begin by determining what the ACT Writing Test is all about: It’s a 30-minute essay-writing exercise. You are given a “prompt,” which is the topic on which you should write your essay. You will also be given two points of view on the prompt. Your assignment will be to take a point of view on the topic (either supporting one of the views provided, or coming up with one of your own), and then write an essay discussing your perspective. View sample Writing Test prompts and assignments .
The purpose of the writing section is to test your English composition skills as well as your reasoning skills. This is how colleges use it, both those who require it as well as those who do not require the Writing Test.
Colleges which do not require you to take the ACT Writing Test will not place as much importance on the results of the test as they do on the other four tests on the ACT (English, Math, Reading, and Science). However, if you provide them with the results of the Writing Test, they will consider them alongside the other four tests and may give it just as much weight as the others. For that reason, if you are considering taking the ACT Plus Writing and submitting your results to schools that do not require the test, it is in your best interest to practice by writing sample essays, and becoming familiar with exactly what will be required of you on test day.
Schools which do require you to take the ACT Writing Test will give that section just as much weight as all the others, and will use the results of the test to gauge your command of the English language, as well as your ability to reason, defend, and articulate a point of view. They may also compare your actual ACT essay to the essays in your application.
There may, of course, be some schools that disregard the Writing Test results altogether if you submit them. However, do not take that chance—if you are planning on taking the ACT Plus Writing, make sure you practice, practice, practice so that you can put your best essay forward!