SAT/ACT Update: New Writing Sections
As if the thought of getting into college isn’t stressful enough, enter the new SAT and the new writing test on the ACT. By far the biggest change: an essay.
The new SAT, which was launched in March 2005, was revised to incorporate not only an essay, but also more advanced math problems, including concepts from Algebra II. Gone are the analogies from the verbal section and a type of math problem known as quantitative comparison. The new format adds 45 minutes to the old version’s three hours. No longer is 1600 the highest possible score – the top score now is 2400.
The ACT, a widely accepted rival test, introduced an optional writing portion in February 2005. The remainder of the ACT, which includes tests on English, math, reading and science, was unchanged. The test takes about three hours, not including the optional 30-minute writing portion. Scores range from 1 to 36.
Students taking the new SAT will have 25 minutes to compose an essay on a given topic. They’ll have to take a position on an issue and use examples to support it. The new SAT’s writing section also has multiple-choice grammar and word usage questions.
The new writing portion of the ACT is 30 minutes long. It consists of an issue presented with two points of view. Students are then asked to write an essay on the issue. In doing so, they can adopt either of the views presented, or present a totally different point of view of their choosing. The essay score will not be affected by the point of view taken.
While the SAT’s writing section is a required part of the test, the writing section on the ACT is optional. The ACT has indicated that about 18% of the schools require the writing portion while another 21% recommend the writing portion, with 61% not requiring or recommending it. Of course, these percentages are likely to change, so check directly with the institutions you’re considering to find out their requirements as to which test you’ll need.
College officials emphasize that tests such as the SAT and the ACT are just a piece of a student’s application. A student’s academic record is still the strongest factor in college admission, and that’s not likely to change.