Quite a few students have told me something like “I heard that colleges don’t care about the Writing score. Why should I waste time on it?”
Let me begin with my answer: Yes – you should try to get your best Writing score! Here are four reasons why:
1) Studies did indeed conclude that the majority of colleges ignored the Writing score for determining who they accepted. But those studies were performed prior to 2008.
A little history: the Writing Section was added to the SAT in March 2005. Although it was based on the SAT II (Subject Test) in Writing, which had been administered previously, colleges were leery of using a new type of score for admissions, since there wasn’t enough data to confirm its usefulness. But The College Board released a study in 2008 that indicated that the Writing score was a better predictor of college grades than were the Reading and Math scores. Furthermore, the colleges have a lot more data available 6.5 years after the first Writing Section was included.
Of course, you can find out a college’s policy by reading its website and/or calling its admissions office. But even if you’re applying to a college that says it doesn’t use the writing score, consider that they may use it to resolve borderline cases.
2) This is a simple one – many colleges use your Writing scores to determine placement in freshman English. Of course, if you don’t mind taking a remedial college English course, you don’t need to worry about this. However, be aware that such a course might not count toward your major.
3) A Writing score that is much lower than your Reading and Math scores could raise a “red flag,” and cause your rejection.
4) Many colleges look at your Essay score to determine if your writing abilities match those indicated by your application essay(s). Today, nearly every applicant has someone edit his essays; many students stoop to having someone else write them from scratch. Wonderfully written application essays accompanied by a low Essay score are another red flag.
There is one other reason to work on improving this score, but I won’t give it a number, since it doesn’t relate to college admission. Studying for this section will indeed boost your writing ability, and that can go a long way toward helping you get a good job, keep your job, or receive a promotion. In today’s fast-paced industrial/technical society, writing has become something of a lost art, so accomplished writers have a marketable skill.