Retake the ACT? High total ACT but low Writing score

My ACT composite score is 33, but I only got a 6 out of 12 on the essay. Should I retake the ACT Plus Writing?

It depends on what schools you’re applying to. Some schools, like the University of Chicago, don’t even look at ACT Writing scores, while other schools, like Northern Illinois University, are ACT Writing-optional or recommended (for more info on which schools require ACT Writing, check out this article).

Even if you’re applying to a school that’s ACT writing recommended or optional, however, you still might want to consider re-taking the ACT to boost your writing score - a low ACT Writing score in combination with a high composite score can be a warning sign to colleges. This is particularly true if you’re applying to a humanities or other writing-intensive program, especially since a 6/12 is below the 6.9/12 average ACT Writing score for the old ACT Writing test.

I'd advise looking up the average ACT Writing scores for the programs and schools you're thinking of applying to, so you can get a better sense of how you'd fit in. If the average student at the school you're applying to has an ACT Writing score of 6 (or below) out of 12, then you're in decent shape, particularly if your ACT composite is above the school's average. Read our article on what a good ACT Writing score is for more tips on how to determine whether or not your Writing score is good enough as is.

If you do decide to take the ACT with Writing again, you'll be writing a different kind of essay than you did on the old ACT Writing. While the task itself might be harder for some students, there have been some issues with scoring on this new ACT Writing test that mean many schools don't yet have a firm policy on what a "good" score is on the out-of-36 ACT Writing test (and so a lower score on the new ACT Writing doesn't look as bad). Plus, with the SAT moving to an optional essay, more schools may also move towards a Writing-optional policy for standardized tests.

Bottom line: Check with the schools you're interested in applying to and find out if they even require the ACT with Writing. If your Writing score and your composite score are both at or above the average student at that school, then you're in good shape. If not, you might want to consider retaking the ACT with Writing.

1 Like