Why the Essay Is Optional

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The College Board now offers the SAT with and without essay. We remain committed to the importance of analytical writing for all students, and before we decided to make the essay optional, we discussed it with hundreds of our members in admission and enrollment. Feedback was divided: Some found the essay required before March 2016 useful but many did not.

In the past, a single essay has not contributed to the overall validity of the assessment. The multiple-choice Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section, on the other hand, is deeply predictive of college success.


Set Your Essay Policy

How has the SAT Essay changed? Go to Setting Essay Policy for the facts before setting your policy.

A Continued Commitment

Writing skills are critical for college success. We will continue to emphasize the importance of writing through the SAT’s Writing and Language Test as well as the SAT Essay, providing students with two opportunities to show their proficiency.

We’ll also provide instructional support to teachers to help them develop effective strategies for teaching writing skills.

Predictive Power

The Writing and Language Test (half of the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section) puts students in the active role of an editor who is improving the clarity of a written passage. Students will be tested on their:

  • Command of evidence
  • Word choice
  • Expression of ideas
  • Understanding of standard English conventions

Learn more about the required Writing and Language Test.


Although some states and school districts will require the SAT Essay, most students will decide for themselves whether to register for the SAT with or without Essay, taking college policies into consideration.

Colleges and universities should consider how to use the SAT Essay in their admission processes and make strategic decisions on whether to require or recommend it. Go to Setting Essay Policy and learn how the redesigned SAT Essay reflects typical college writing assignments.