Should You Take the ACT With or
Without Writing

Wondering if the ACT writing test is for you? You're not alone. Taking the ACT with writing can give you an edge in college admissions by showcasing your writing skills and adding depth to your college applications with a special ELA score (English language arts).

Let's explore the ins and outs of the ACT Writing Test to help you make an informed decision. 

What is the ACT Writing Test?

The ACT writing test is an optional 40-minute essay that comes after the main ACT exam. It's designed to measure your writing skills — skills you've been honing in high school and will need in college. 

You'll get a prompt with a complex issue and three perspectives. Your job? Craft your own viewpoint and analyze how it relates to the given perspectives. 

Your writing sample will be evaluated on these four components:  

Ideas and Analysis

Show you understand the issue and can generate relevant ideas.

Development and Support

Back up your argument with solid reasoning.


Structure your essay clearly to guide the reader through your argument.  

Language Use and Conventions

Use clear, effective language that resonates with your audience.  

The writing test complements the English and reading tests, offering colleges a fuller picture of your skills. 

Is the Writing Portion of the ACT Required?

The ACT writing test is optional, but some colleges and school districts do require it, so do your homework. Check the requirements for your target schools and your district's graduation policy. 

What is the Difference Between Taking the ACT with Writing vs. Without Writing?

Taking the ACT with writing won't affect your Composite score, but it does add an English Language Arts (ELA) score to your report. Opting out means you'll miss out on this additional score. Learn more about ACT writing scores

Why You Should Take the ACT With Writing

The ACT with writing offers a unique platform to articulate your thoughts and viewpoints, and it's a chance to go beyond grades and scores, allowing you to connect with admissions officers on an intellectual level. Whether you're set on a dream school or still charting your course, the ACT writing test is a valuable tool in your college application toolkit. Here are a few more factors to consider:  

1. Your School or State Requires It

Some colleges, highs schools, and states require the ACT writing test. Check this early on to avoid surprises. 

2. You Want Your Application to Stand Out

A strong writing score can make your application more competitive. It's a chance to showcase your logical reasoning skills. 

3. Your Grades in English or Language Arts Aren’t the Best

If your grades in English or language arts courses are not stellar, a high score on the ACT writing test can help balance your academic profile. 

4. You Aren’t Sure Where You Want to Apply Yet

If you're still exploring your options, taking the ACT with writing keeps all doors open, as some colleges may require it. 

Why Take the ACT Without Writing

If none of the above reasons apply to you, and if none of your target schools require the ACT writing test, you might opt to take the ACT without writing. This can also save you time and reduce test-day stress.

How To Prepare for the ACT Writing Test

Crafting a standout ACT essay is all about strategy and focus. Allocate time for planning, writing, and reviewing. Understand the prompt and use optional planning questions to guide your thoughts. Keep your argument focused and support it with sound reasoning. Before submitting, review your essay for clarity and accuracy.  

By following these guidelines, you'll be well on your way to writing an essay that not only showcases your writing skills but also makes your college application stand out.  

Additional ACT Writing Test Resources

Explore these resources for more information on producing your best work on test day.