The SAT and ACT essay tests were introduced in 2005 to evaluate writing skills of college-bound students under a pressure of a clock. At that time, education policy makers were encouraging schools to introduce the tests because of their relevance and effectiveness in assessing students’ ability to write.
A requirement to write an essay as a part of the SAT and ACT seems like a good idea. For example, in the modern workplace, the ability to write is very important, so students should learn it before they graduate and enter the workforce.
However, there’s one problem. According to A-Writer, a leading international writing service, students’ scores on these exercises pretty much say nothing about how they will perform in the classroom, which is the main goal of the exam. Simply explained, their usefulness for determining the performance of the test taker as a college student is very low.
This was the main reason behind the decision of the College Board to make the SAT essay optional in 2016.
Since then, the vast majority of colleges in the U.S. dropped this requirement as well. However, thousands of students complete them every year, with many of them stressed out about writing about turning to tutors for assistance.
The Current Situation
Just a couple of years ago, millions of students thought about SAT/ACT essays: “This is a critical requirement. There’s no way I should refuse to write my essay because it may help me to get accepted.”
However, the recent developments suggest that it may not.
One by one, major colleges have been dropping their requirements for applications to submit SAT/ACT essay writing scores. The list of schools that ended the mandate includes such names as Duke University, the University of Michigan, Manhattan College, Princeton, Stanford, Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth College, the California Institute of Technology, The University of San Diego, Brown University, and others.
The schools that have made this major decision have provided a number of reasons. The first reason was that the SAT/ACT essay tests add unnecessary expenses and stress for prospective students. For example, many states and school districts now pay for SAT tests but they don’t include the essay writing. As the result, those who think they need the essay must write it at another time.
While it’s hard to calculate the total cost of taking SAT/ACT for U.S. students, it’s sufficient to claim that it adds some significant cost for them. In more than half of the states, the test is taken during school hours so the local taxpayers foot the bill. However, writing an essay requires an extra session, so the students are the ones that have to pay for it.
For each student, it costs $16.5 to add the essay to the ACT and $14 to add the essay to the SAT. Also, don’t forget that each of the tests costs $46. So, writing an essay may present a problem to students who cannot afford to pay for them.
The second reason cited by schools is that they don’t need the SAT/ACT essay to judge the writing skills of prospective students. According to the 2014 report by the College Board announcing revisions to the SAT, their decision was driven by the fact that
“One single essay historically has not contributed significantly to the overall predictive power of the exam.”
So does that mean that all that “There’s no way I should refuse to write my essay” thoughts weren’t justified? Well, yes and no, because the next reason cited in the report is a lack of consistent positive feedback from member admission officers. Accordingly, some of them found the SAT essay helpful, but many did not share their viewpoint.
Moreover, unfortunately for SAT/ACT essays, there are no published studies demonstrating their effectiveness for evaluating state writing standards.
Should You Write the Optional SAT or ACT Essay?
As you can see, the future doesn’t look so bright for SAT/ACT at this point. With most of the elite schools dropping this type of college paper, one thing is clear: U.S. colleges and universities no longer consider SAT/ACT essay score essential for screening applicants.
It’s a humbling and remarkable fall for a project that was started to revolutionize college admission testing, providing a tool for assessing students’ writing potential.
For you as a student, this means that you shouldn’t assume that you must take the optional essay section. The ultimate decision depends on which schools and scholarships you’re applying to.
For example, there are still some schools that require or “strongly recommend” to submit SAT/ACT essay scores. This means that you should check the application requirements of the school you want to apply to before essay writing an essay.
If your school requires the SAT essay, they won’t consider your application if you took the test without it. So, to be on the safe side, it’s recommended that you check the testing policies of the schools you’re applying to.
So does that mean that you should forget about the request “could you please help me write my essay?” and stop emailing your tutor? Well, at this time, you maybe shouldn’t.
If your school recommends SAT essay writing, taking this test would still be a good idea. Despite the recent trend of eliminating the essay requirement, it still provides the school with an extra dimension they can use to assess your application.
Taking the SAT/ACT essay is also recommended for international students. It’ll help them prove that they have strong English and essay writing skills, which could be an important requirement