ACT Prep: Confused About the ACT with Writing? We're Here to Help!


The ACT with Writing can be awfully confusing for parents, and we handle a lot of calls from students and parents wondering about it. 

Does it impact the overall composite score? Which schools require the ACT with Writing and which schools don't? What's a good score?

If you're wondering what the answer to these questions is, don't worry - you're not alone. Let us help you out and break it down for you.

How does the writing portion of the ACT work?

The ACT Writing test is optional, and students must sign up to the ACT with Writing if they decide they want to complete this portion.

It’s important to note that the ACT Writing score is not factored into students’ overall scores, but it does comprise a portion of their English-Language Arts subscore. The ACT with Writing does cost more than the ACT without Writing. Test results for the Writing portion of the ACT usually come back about two weeks after receiving the multiple-choice ACT results.

How is the writing portion of the ACT scored?

Two different graders read the essay, and they score it on a scale of 1-6 for four different categories: ideas and analysis, development and support, organization, and language use.

Then, the graders take the average of these scores for the final score, which is on a scale of 2-12.  If the graders’ scores differ by more than one point, a third grader will score the essay, and they will use the third scorer’s grade.

What is a good ACT with Writing Score?

Our friends at PrepScholar have an in-depth analysis of the different Writing scores. An average score is a 6 or 7, and only about 5% of students receive the top score of 12. We always tell parents and students to multiply the writing score by three to put it on the 36-point scale, so a 7 on the ACT with Writing is like a 24. Really, the ACT with Writing score should be within a few points of their composite score.

Who should take the ACT with Writing?

It really depends on the colleges that the student is applying to. Some colleges require the ACT Writing test, while others do not or just recommend that it’s taken.

We always recommend that students take the Writing portion of the ACT every time they take the ACT because colleges will accept the ACT Writing score that goes along with their highest composite score. For example, if a student scores a 12 on the Writing ACT and a 24 overall in September but scores an 8 on the Writing ACT and a 28 overall in December, colleges will take the December score.

Here’s a handy list of which schools require the ACT with Writing, which schools only recommend the ACT with Writing, and which schools don’t require the ACT with writing for admission. Obviously this list is limited for space purposes, so we recommend that all students do a little research to see if their school requires or doesn't require the ACT with Writing.

Schools that Require the ACT with Writing

Schools that Recommend the ACT with Writing

Schools that Don’t Require the ACT with Writing

University of Michigan

Central Michigan University

Albion College

Stanford University

Emory University

Columbia University

College for Creative Studies

Grand Valley State University

Cornell University

Dartmouth University

Michigan State University

Eastern Michigan University

Duke University

Pepperdine University

Ferris State University

Harvard University

Purdue University

Kettering University

Princeton University

University of Southern California

Ohio State University

Brown University

University of Texas at Austin

University of Notre Dame

As always, if you ever need to brush up your ACT Writing skills or need some help, contact us and let one of our tutors lend you a helping hand!