I am often asked by parents and students for guidance in navigating the test prep waters. As a nationally sought after test prep expert specializing in the ACT test, I have seen a little of everything in my twelve plus years in test prep—and 22 years in the high school English classroom. Although there is no “one size fits all” answer, there are some pieces of advice that pertain to 90% of students.
The quick answer is that very few students need the writing portion. In fact, the SAT no longer offers the writing portion on their test. As a general rules of thumb, students interested in the Service Academies should plan to add the 40-minute writing portion to their ACT test. Students who are homeschooled also might be asked to submit the writing portion to show writing aptitude.
However, it is always best practice to research EACH college to which your student will apply to see if that section is required for admissions.
Consider these options:
If even one of the schools you want to apply to requires the ACT with Writing…
…take the ACT with Writing. You won’t be able to get in without it, so it’s worth the slightly higher fee and extra time commitment. If your list of schools is uncertain & you are casting a wide net of emails to multiple schools at multiple levels for recruitment, I would add the section to be safe. However, you can always sit for a test even mid to late senior year if the school you decide to commit to requires it.
If you’re applying only to schools that won’t consider ACT Writing scores…
…skip taking the ACT with Writing. If schools won’t even consider it, it’s just a waste of time and money.