SAT Exam

Everything You Need to Know About the SAT® Essay

When signing up for the SAT exam, you will find that the essay portion of the exam is optional. Similar to the ACT®, the College Board® decided to make essays optional for the SAT exam as well.

If you are wondering whether completing the essay section of the SAT is worth it, there are several things you should consider.

Here is what you need to know to decide if taking it is the right choice for you. 

What is Tested by the Essay Section

The 50-minute essay segment of the exam assesses your ability to analyze a text and provide evidence. You will read a passage between 650 and 750 words, then respond to the text. To score well on this part of the SAT exam you must display an understanding of how the author uses evidence, develops ideas, and builds their argument.

Deciding to Take the Exam

SAT essay policies vary from school to school, so if you are struggling to choose whether to register for the essay, it is important to research the policies for each of your prospective colleges.

  • Many schools require that you submit the essay portion of your exam with the rest of your scores.
  • Other schools will recommend that you complete the essay portion of the SAT, but they do not list it as a requirement for your application. 

You should research which colleges require the SAT essay as part of their application and consider whether the score you receive on the essay portion of the exam can set you apart from other applicants. If all of the schools you are applying to list the essay as optional, you may still consider submitting the essay to make you more competitive amongst other applicants.

One policy you should be aware of is that students must take the essay section and the rest of the exam at the same time. You may not take the SAT essay on its own, and there is no option to write your essay independently from the entire exam.

Impact of the Essay Score

You should know that the score you get on the essay will not affect the overall score you receive for the other sections. So regardless of whether you flop in the essay section or receive a perfect score, the results will not change the score you get out of 1600. But, if you do well on the essay section, it could boost the impression you make as an applicant. It is a great chance to show off your rhetorical and analytical skills!

Essay Policies for Colleges

While deciding whether to complete the essay section, the most important thing you need to find out is whether the schools you are applying to are considering the SAT essay score during the admissions process. If none of the schools you are applying to assess the essay, then you may not need to take it. But if even one school notes that the essay will be considered with your application, then completing this section is essential. You should also know that taking the essay can boost your impression as an applicant.

Completing the SAT essay is the safest bet to ensure you meet any school’s SAT scoring requirements. Skipping the essay section is a reasonable choice only if none of the schools you are applying to are considering the essay score in their admissions process.

Testing Policies

You should also know that you cannot take the essay section of the SAT independently from the other sections, so if you are considering a school that requires it, you will want to complete the essay along with the other parts of the exam. If you decide later that you want to apply to a school that requires essay scores, you will have to retake the entire exam to meet the essay requirement. You may save yourself some time and stress by signing up for the essay now, instead of stressing to make accommodations for it later. 

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