What you need to know about the Writing sections of the SAT and ACT
While multiple choice questions can cause some concern, students are generally more comfortable with that format. But with the Writing sections of both the SAT and the ACT, students may be a little more apprehensive about taking the test. So, it’s helpful to know as much as possible about the format and the process prior to taking the actual test. There are similarities between both tests, but it’s a good idea to look at the specifics.
Here are the things you need to know.
How long does the test take?
- SAT: 25 minutes for the essay and 35 minutes for multiple choice
- ACT: 30 minutes for the essay
What’s the format?
- SAT: A total of three sections consisting of 1 25 minute multiple choice section, 1 10 minute multiple choice section and one 25 minute essay
- ACT: There is one section consisting of the 30 minute essay
What types of questions are there?
- SAT: Three types of multiple choice questions: Improving Sentences, Identifying Sentence Errors, and Improving Paragraphs. One essay prompt.
- ACT: One essay prompt
How are the tests scored?
- SAT: The multiple choice sections have a possible score of 80 points. Scores range from 20 to 80. The essay is scored by two readers who give the essay a score from 0 to 6. Scores are converted to a scale of 200 to 800.
- ACT: The essay is scored by to readers who give the essay a score from 1 to 6. The essay score and the English score are converted to a scale of 1 to 36.
What are the essay prompts?
- SAT: Prompts are taken from a variety of areas which include: literature, the arts, politics, technology, history and current events. Students are instructed to present their point of view and support that view with reasoning and specific examples. Sample essay prompts are available on the College Board website.
- ACT: Students are asked to write about a social issue relevant to those of high school age. Topics could include: Student GPA, dress codes or driver’s licenses. Students are instructed to present their viewpoint and support that view with reasoning and specific examples. Sample essay prompts are available on the ACT website.
Is the writing section required?
- SAT: Required
- ACT: Optional
For more information:
Is the ACT Writing section really necessary?
Since the Writing section of the ACT is optional, it’s a good idea to look at the requirements for testing for the desired colleges. Many actually do require, or at least recommend, that the student take the Writing portion of the ACT. The ACT Writing Test Search Tool will help you make an informed decision. Remember that a student cannot take the Writing test alone; it must be taken with the entire test. Should the student register for the Writing section and find it not necessary, that can be dropped and a refund issued.
Each college admissions department sets the requirements and expectations for the writing portions of the SAT and ACT. Some use the scores for admissions offers or advanced placement, while some do not consider the Writing scores at all. It’s best to be familiar with the requirements of the preferred college.
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