Do colleges care about the test essay?

When taking the ACT, strong writers have the option to showcase their skills with an essay. The test gives a prompt on a given topic and the test taker has 40 minutes to construct a compelling stance on it. The essay is graded on a scale of 1—6 alongside the composite score for the multiple-choice sections.

Colleges seem to care less and less about the writing portions of standardized tests every year. The SAT used to require their essay section, but discontinued it in June 2021. The ACT essay has always been optional, but very few colleges require it as part of their admissions process. So, it’s fair to say that colleges don’t care about the test essay like they used to, especially not when most request that applicants write separate essays anyway.

But, it certainly doesn’t hurt to write one. The ACT is extremely dry and objective, which has its merits, but the multiple-choice format doesn’t leave any room for students to show their creativity or personality. Many students find that the essay gives them a chance to show off skills that standardized tests can’t capture, like persuasive ability and abstract thinking about complex topics. Plus, colleges always like to see applicants go the extra mile and challenge themselves.

Test-takers on the fence should try the essay and see how they do, even if they don’t really need to. That little bit of extra time and effort can make a big difference to admissions officers.


Do colleges look at subscores?
What does the ACT Writing test measure?
What does the ACT cover?


Brainstorming and Free Writing
Revision and Completion

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