Practice Sat Test Without Essays

The SAT underwent some major revisions in 2016, and one of the biggest changes is that its previously required essay is now optional. This can be confusing for some students and parents. Should you take the essay? Will colleges require the essay or not? Will taking the essay make your application stronger?

Read on for answers to all these questions. This guide will explain what the SAT essay is, what the pros and cons of taking it are, and how you can make the best choice for you.

 

What Is the SAT Essay?

The SAT essay is one of the sections of the SAT. After being required since its inception, the College Board has now decided to make the essay optional. This is similar to the ACT, whose essay has always been optional.

During this section, students will be given 50 minutes to write an essay. The essay for the new SAT is very different than it was for the previous version of the SAT. You can read all about the changes to the SAT here, but, as a brief overview, the essay will give you a passage by an author who is taking a stance on an issue. Your job will be to analyze how the author built that argument.

If you choose to take the essay, it will be its own section of the SAT, and the score you get on the essay will be separate from your score on the rest of the exam. Your main SAT score will be out of 1600 while your essay will be graded across three different categories: Reading, Analysis, and Writing. For each area, your essay will be given a score from 2-8.

Below is a sample prompt from one of the official practice tests released by the College Board. Here you can read the entire prompt, including the passages you would need to analyze.

 

Do Colleges Require the SAT Essay Now That It's Optional?

So, the College Board has now made the essay an optional part of the SAT, but does that change how colleges view the essay (or if they even view it at all)? Kind of. Some schools that used the essays before no longer require them now that both the ACT and SAT have made the essays optional, but other schools continue to require the SAT essay.

Each school makes this decision individually, so there are no patterns to follow to try and guess who will require the essay and who won’t. Even top schools like the Ivy League are divided on whether to require the essay or not. 

This can make things confusing if you’re applying to college soon and don’t know if you should take the SAT essay or not. The following sections of this guide will explain the benefits and drawbacks of taking the essay and walk you through different scenarios so you can make an informed decision.

 

The #1 Consideration: Do Any of the Schools You're Interested in Require the Essay?

The absolute most important factor, the factor that matters more than anything else in the rest of this guide, is if any of the schools you’re applying to or thinking of applying to require the SAT essay.

The best way to get this information is to  Google “[school name] SAT essay requirement,” look directly on each school’s admission webpage, or check out our list of the schools that require the SAT essay.

Find this information for every school you plan on applying to, even schools you’re not sure you want to apply to, but are considering. If even one school you’re interested in requires the SAT essay, then you should take it, regardless of any other factors. There is no way to take just the SAT essay by itself, so if you take the SAT without the essay and then, later on, realize you need an essay score for a school you’re applying to, you will have to retake the entire test.

So, if a school you’re interested in requires the SAT essay, your choice is clear: take the essay when you take the SAT. However, what if the schools you’re interested in don’t require the essay? If that’s the case, you have some other factors to consider. Read on!

 

Benefits of Taking the SAT Essay

If none of the schools you’re thinking of applying to require the SAT essay, why would you want to take it? The two main reasons are explained below.

 

#1: You're Covered for All Schools

Taking the SAT essay means that, no matter which schools you end up applying to, you will absolutely have all their SAT requirements met. If you decide to apply to a new school that requires the SAT essay, that won’t be a problem because you’ll already have taken it.

If you already are absolutely certain about which schools you’re applying to and none of them require the essay, then this may not be a big deal to you. However, if you have a tentative list of schools, and you’ve been adding a school or removing a school from that list occasionally, you may want to be better safe than sorry and take the SAT essay, just in case.

 

Taking the SAT essay means you have all your bases covered, no matter which schools you end up applying to.

 

#2: A Good Score May Boost Your Application Slightly

While it’s highly unlikely that your SAT essay will be the deciding factor of your college application, there are some cases where it can give you a small leg up on the competition. This is the case if a school recommends, but doesn’t require the essay, and that school is particularly competitive.

Having a strong SAT essay score to submit may strengthen your application a bit, especially if you are trying to show strong English/writing skills.

 

Drawbacks to Taking the SAT Essay

There are also costs to taking the SAT essay; here are three of the most common:

 

#1: It's Another Section to Study For

If you choose to take the essay, that means you have an entire extra SAT section to study and prepare for. If you already feel like you have a ton of SAT prep to do or have doubts about staying motivated, adding on more work can make you feel stressed and end up hurting your scores in the other SAT sections.

 

#2: It Makes the Exam Longer

Taking the essay will, obviously, increase the total time you spend taking the SAT. You’re given 50 minutes to write the essay, and, including time needed for students not taking the essay to leave and things to get settled, that will add about an hour to the test, increasing your total SAT test time from about three hours to four hours.

If you struggle with keeping focused or staying on your A game during long exams (and, let’s be honest, it’s not hard to lose concentration after several hours of answering SAT questions), adding an additional hour of test time can reduce your test-taking endurance and make you feel tired and distracted during the essay, likely making it hard for you to get your best score.

 

#3: The Essay Costs Extra

Taking the SAT with the essay will also cost you a bit more money. Taking the SAT without the essay costs $46, but if you choose to take the essay, it costs $14 extra, raising the total cost of the SAT to $60.

However, if you're eligible for an SAT fee waiver, the waiver also applies to this section of the exam, so you still won't have to pay anything if you choose to take the essay.

 

Taking the essay likely means the cost of taking the SAT will be slightly higher for you.

 

Should You Take the SAT Essay? Five Scenarios to Help You Decide

Now you know what the SAT essay is and the pros and cons of taking it. So, what should you decide? Five scenarios are listed below; find the one that applies to your situation and follow the advice in order to make the best decision for you.

 

Scenario 1: You're planning on applying to at least one school that requires the essay

As mentioned above, if even one school you’re thinking about applying to requires the SAT essay, you should take it in order to avoid retaking the entire SAT again at a later date because you need an essay score.

 

Scenario 2: None of the schools you're applying to look at essay scores

If none of the schools you’re thinking about applying to even look at SAT essay scores, then you shouldn’t take it. Even if you get a perfect score, if the schools don’t consider essay scores, then taking it will have no benefits for you.

 

Scenario 3: The schools you're applying to don't require the SAT essay and aren't highly competitive

In this case, you don’t need to take the SAT essay, unless you’re trying to make up for weak writing skills in other parts of your application.

 

Scenario 4: The schools you're applying to recommend the SAT essay and are more competitive

For this scenario, you should take the SAT essay in order to give your application an extra boost, unless you really think you’d perform poorly or preparing for and taking the essay would cause your scores in other sections to decline.

 

Scenario 5: You aren't sure where you're going to apply yet

If you’re not sure which schools you want to apply to, then you should take the SAT essay, just to be safe. This way you’re covered no matter where you end up applying to college.

 

If the thought of figuring out which colleges to apply to has you as confused as this blue panda, your safest option is to take the SAT essay.

 

Conclusion

Because of the College Board’s recent decision to make the SAT essay optional, students are now faced with the decision of whether they should take it or not. The best way to decide is to learn the essay policy for each of the colleges you're interested in applying to. Some schools will still require the essay, some won’t even look at an applicant’s essay scores, and other schools don’t require the essay but will look at your score if you do take it.

Use these school policies to help decide whether you should take the essay. Remember, if you end up needing to submit an essay score, you will have to retake the entire SAT, so make sure you have accurate and up-to-date information for each school you are thinking of applying to.

 

What's Next?

Have you decided to take the essay and want to know how to start studying? We have a step-by-step guide that explains how to write a great SAT essay.

Want more examples of sample prompts? Here are all of the real SAT essay prompts that have been released by the College Board.

Are you aiming for a perfect SAT essay score? Check out our guide on how to get a perfect 8/8/8 on the SAT essay.

 

Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

 

Planning to take the SAT? Before you sign up, you need to decide whether you’re going to take the test with or without the optional Essay. How should you pick? Well, some colleges require that you apply with the SAT with Essay; others don’t care whether you submit an SAT score with or without the Essay.

In this article, I’ll provide you with a complete list of colleges that require or recommend taking the SAT with the Essay.

 

What Is the Optional SAT Essay?

The redesigned SAT debuted in March 2016 along with a now-optional Essay section. For the Essay, you have 50 minutes to read a passage (similar to those you see on the Reading section) and write an essay dissecting how the author made the argument. Did the author use evidence to support the main claim? Appeals to emotion? Specific word choice?

If you take the SAT without Essay, the test length is three hours. However, if you take the SAT with Essay, the optional Essay adds 50 minutes. It also costs more to take the SAT with Essay: $60 vs $46 without the Essay.

Don't automatically assume you must take the Essay. Whether it's important for you depends on which schools (and scholarships) you're applying to, and what the rest of your application looks like. I'll go into more depth later about how to decide which version of the SAT to take.

 

See if you need to take the SAT with Essay to end up here!

 

List of Schools That Require the SAT With Essay

Below, I’ve compiled a list of colleges that require or recommend taking the SAT with Essay. All info is based on the College Board Big Future website.

NOTE: This list is subject to change, so make sure to double-check with each school you’re applying to.

School

State/Country

Require or Recommend

Abilene Christian University

TX

Recommend

Albany College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences

NY

Recommend

Allegheny College

PA

Recommend

Amherst College

MA

Recommend

Augsburg University

MN

Require

Brown University

RI

Require

Bryan College: Dayton

TN

Recommend

Bryn Athyn College

PA

Recommend

Cairn University

PA

Recommend

Caldwell University

NJ

Recommend

Central Michigan University

MI

Recommend

Chapman University

CA

Recommend

Cheyney University of Pennsylvania

PA

Recommend

Claremont McKenna College

CA

Require

Colby College

ME

Recommend

Corban University

OR

Recommend

Cornerstone University

MI

Recommend

Dallas Christian College

TX

Recommend

Dartmouth College

NH

Require

Delaware State University

DE

Recommend

DeSales University

PA

Require

Dominican University of California

CA

Require

Duke University

NC

Require

Eastern Illinois University

IL

Recommend

Eastern Nazarene College

MA

Recommend

Florida Atlantic University

FL

Require

Georgia Institute of Technology

GA

Recommend

Hamline University

MN

Recommend

Harvard College

MA

Require

Howard University

DC

Require

Husson University

ME

Recommend

Lehigh University

PA

Recommend

Madonna University

MI

Recommend

Manhattan College

NY

Recommend

Martin Luther College

MN

Require

Marygrove College

MI

Recommend

Marymount California University

CA

Recommend

Massachusetts Maritime Academy

MA

Recommend

McMurry University

TX

Recommend

Michigan State University

MI

Recommend

MODUL University Vienna

Austria

Require

Montana Tech of the University of Montana

MT

Recommend

Morehouse College

GA

Recommend

Mount Saint Mary College

NY

Recommend

Mount St. Joseph University

OH

Recommend

New Jersey City University

NJ

Recommend

New York Institute of Technology

NY

Recommend

Nichols College

MA

Recommend

North Park University

IL

Recommend

Occidental College

CA

Recommend

Ohio University

OH

Recommend

Oregon State University

OR

Recommend

Pfeiffer University

NC

Recommend

Point Loma Nazarene University

CA

Recommend

Pomona College

CA

Recommend

Princeton University

NJ

Require

Randall University

OK

Recommend

Randolph-Macon College

VA

Recommend

Rhode Island College

RI

Require

Saint Anselm College

NH

Recommend

Saint Michael's College

VT

Recommend

Sam Houston State University

TX

Require

School of Advertising Art

OH

Recommend

Schreiner University

TX

Require

Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania

PA

Recommend

Silver Lake College of the Holy Family

WI

Recommend

Soka University of America

CA

Require

Southern California Institute of Architecture

CA

Require

Spring Hill College

AL

Recommend

Stanford University

CA

Require

Stockton University

NJ

Recommend

Sul Ross State University

TX

Recommend

SUNY Farmingdale State College

NY

Recommend

SUNY Maritime College

NY

Recommend

SUNY University at Binghamton

NY

Recommend

SUNY University at Stony Brook

NY

Recommend

Taylor University

IN

Recommend

Texas A&M University

TX

Recommend

Texas A&M University-Galveston

TX

Require

Texas State University

TX

Recommend

The King's College

NY

Recommend

United States Military Academy (West Point)

NY

Require

University of California: Berkeley

CA

Require

University of California: Davis

CA

Require

University of California: Irvine

CA

Require

University of California: Los Angeles

CA

Require

University of California: Merced

CA

Require

University of California: Riverside

CA

Require

University of California: San Diego

CA

Require

University of California: Santa Barbara

CA

Require

University of California: Santa Cruz

CA

Require

University of La Verne

CA

Recommend

University of Mary Hardin-Baylor

TX

Recommend

University of Miami

FL

Require

University of Michigan

MI

Require

University of Minnesota: Morris

MN

Require

University of Minnesota: Twin Cities

MN

Recommend

University of New England

ME

Recommend

University of North Carolina at Greensboro

NC

Require

University of North Texas

TX

Require

University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown

PA

Recommend

University of San Diego

CA

Require

University of Texas at San Antonio

TX

Recommend

University of the Sciences

PA

Recommend

University of the Virgin Islands

Virgin Islands

Recommend

University of Washington Bothell

WA

Recommend

VanderCook College of Music

IL

Recommend

Virginia Union University

VA

Recommend

Wabash College

IN

Recommend

Webb Institute

NY

Recommend

Webber International University

FL

Recommend

Western Carolina University

NC

Require

William Jessup University

CA

Recommend

William Jewell College

MO

Recommend

Yale University

CT

Require


As you can see, top schools are split pretty evenly. While Brown, Dartmouth, Duke, Harvard, Princeton, Stanford, and Yale require the SAT Essay, Cornell, Georgetown, MIT, NYU, UChicago, and UPenn do not.

Most liberal arts colleges do not require or recommend the SAT with Essay. However, there are a few exceptions: Claremont McKenna College requires it, and Amherst College and Pomona College both recommend it.

State schools are also pretty evenly divided. There tends to be some weird variance even within states. For example, the University of Florida neither requires nor recommends the SAT Essay, but  Florida Atlantic University requires it. In California, all University of California schools require the SAT with Essay, but most of the California State University schools do not.

Regardless of the types of schools you're applying to, don’t assume that they all ask for the SAT with Essay. Check with every school to make sure you understand their testing requirements.

 

To take or not to take, that is the question.

 

How to Decide Whether to Take the SAT Essay

When making your decision about whether to take the SAT with Essay or the SAT without Essay, you'll need to consider the following four questions: 

 

#1: Do Any Schools I Want to Apply to Require the SAT Essay?

If you’re applying to any school that requires the Essay, then you must take the SAT with Essay. If you take the SAT without Essay, your application will be incomplete and you won't get admitted. By contrast, if you apply to any schools that don't require the SAT Essay, you can still take the SAT with Essay since these schools will accept both types of SAT scores (with or without Essay).

To reiterate, colleges that require the SAT Essay won't consider your score if you took the SAT without the Essay. The last thing you want to do is take the SAT without the Essay and get a good score, but then find out that one of your target schools requires you to take the SAT with Essay.

Remember that some colleges change their application policies from year to year, so make sure to double-check the testing policies of the schools you’re applying to.

 

#2: Do Any Schools I Want to Apply to Recommend the SAT Essay?

If you're not applying to any schools that require the SAT Essay section but are applying to some that recommend it, then I'd still suggest taking it. This gives you another dimension schools can use to evaluate your application. However, there are some cases in which you shouldn't take the SAT with Essay as well.

If, for some reason, you do not qualify for SAT fee waivers and paying the extra cost to take the SAT with Essay would be a financial burden to you, then please don't feel like you have to take it; in this case, it's fine to take the SAT without Essay instead.

In addition, if you really struggle to write essays under time constraints (due to anxiety), you might want to opt out of the Essay. However, I only recommend this for students who normally have strong English and writing skills but struggle to write coherent essays when there's the added pressure of a time constraint.

For example, do you get As on essays that you can work on at home but get Cs on in-class essays because you're nervous? If that's the case, taking the SAT with Essay might not be a good idea.

 

#3: Am I Applying to Any Scholarships That Require an SAT With Essay Score?

Many scholarships (such as National Merit) require you to submit SAT scores, and some specifically want SAT with Essay scores.

Therefore, be sure to check the requirements of each scholarship you're planning on applying for. While scholarships that don’t require or recommend the SAT Essay should still accept your SAT with Essay score, scholarships that require the Essay section will not consider your SAT score if you took the no-essay version.



#4: Will the SAT Essay Enhance My Application in Other Ways?

Generally speaking, taking the SAT Essay if it's not required won't add a lot to your application. In truth, colleges that don't recommend or require the Essay really don't pay much attention to it.

However, the Essay might be helpful for international students who want to prove they have strong English skills and who think they'll do especially well on it. If you fall into this category and feel confident that you'll get a high score on it (after doing practice essays, for example), definitely consider taking the SAT with Essay.

On the other hand, if you don't think you'll do well on the Essay, I recommend against taking it.

 

What’s Next?

Need help preparing for the SAT? Read our ultimate study guide to get expert tips on prep and access to the best free online resources. If you're taking the test soon, learn how to cram for the SAT.

Want to learn more about the SAT Essay? Check out our step-by-step guide to writing a great Essay.

Not sure where you want to go to college? Learn how to do college research right and figure out your SAT target score. 

 

Disappointed with your scores? Want to improve your SAT score by 160 points? We've written a guide about the top 5 strategies you must be using to have a shot at improving your score. Download it for free now:

 

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