Should I Take the SAT Essay?

By Kevin Kwok

(ACT, SAT, TOEFL, ESL tutor at The Edge Learning Center)

Something our consultants and instructors often get asked about is whether a student should take the Essay portion of the SAT Reasoning Test. This is unsurprising given the scant amount of advice that College Board, the administrator of the SAT, offers in this regard:

You don’t have to take the SAT with Essay, but if you do, you’ll be able to apply to schools that require it.

Cue the barely concealed glee of many a student. “I don’t have to take the SAT with Essay? Yay! More time to spend on Insta!” And indeed, one may be lulled into thinking that to be the truth, upon reviewing some of the notable schools that do not require the SAT Essay:

In July, a number of colleges said they will no longer require SAT essay or ACT writing scores from undergraduate applicants. Among the schools that made this announcement were Brown University, the California Institute of Technology, Duke University, Princeton University, Stanford University and the University of Michigan—Ann Arbor. Earlier this year, Dartmouth College, Harvard University… and Yale University also said they were dropping the requirement.

So why is it that The Edge still recommends that our students take the SAT with Essay? Read on to find out:

  1. Changing Application Plans

    Even if students don’t plan on applying to schools that require or recommend an Essay score, they may change their minds later, and College Board does not allow students to take the Essay separately. Play it safe and write that essay to avoid the unnecessary heartbreak of your dream school slipping out of your grasp – through your own doing!

  2. A Nice Subliminal Message to Colleges

    Taking the optional Essay section reflects positively on the student’s academic attitude. Picture this: you’re putting together a beautiful, well-rounded college application profile. Your grades are on track, your application essays will include great examples of your sterling academic attitude, and you’re confident that your references will emphasize your hardworking and diligent nature. To add the cherry on top, show those admission officers that no challenge is too great for you, and no optional academic assignment is too inconvenient for you, by taking that optional Essay section.

  3. Bolster essay writing skills

    Taking the Essay section lets us practice essential and transferable essay structuring skills. Are you attending a school that follows the U.S. curriculum? You’ll find that the SAT Essay prompt is a close cousin of the Rhetorical Analysis prompt from the AP English exam. Taking the IB? You’ll have to comment on two unseen texts in as much detail as possible for the IB Language and Literature Paper 1. Take the SAT Essay section and practice efficiently analyzing a writer’s use of evidence, reasoning, and persuasive features.

  4. Learning to Write Cohesively and Confidently While Under Time Pressure

    Should you take the SAT Essay section, you’ll have 50 minutes to read a passage, plan a response, write your essay, and proofread it. Entering the exam room with a tried and trusted plan for how you will partition that time is an invaluable experience that you can draw on for future exams that are even more writing-intensive, such as the IB History exam papers or a written exam for any humanities or social sciences courses that you take in college.

Want to know more? Still not convinced? Call or email us if you would like more insight on the SAT Essay section, the test in general, or to sign up for a course or a FREE SAT mock at The Edge!


About The Edge

The Edge Learning Center is Hong Kong’s premier Test Preparation, Academic Tutoring, and Admissions Consulting services provider. Founded in 2008, The Edge has helped thousands of students improve their ACT and SAT scores as well as their IB and AP grades. The AC team has just finished off another successful period in which students gained early acceptance to schools such as Columbia, MIT, UChicago, and more! Check out the rest of our 2018-9 Admissions Results!

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