About the Essay

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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.

An Authentic Essay Experience

The SAT Essay has been reimagined to closely reflect the analytical writing that will be required of students throughout their college experience. The SAT Essay asks students to read and analyze a high-quality source text and produce a cogent, clear analysis of the text supported by critical reasoning and evidence drawn from the source.

Consider these key facts about the SAT Essay:

  • The SAT Essay task emphasizes and assesses command of evidence.
  • Students have 50 minutes to complete the essay (twice as long as they did before March 2016).
  • Essays are scored using a three-part rubric that details criteria in reading, analysis, and writing.
  • Scores for the SAT Essay are reported separately from other scores and do not factor into the total SAT score.

Learn more about the SAT Essay.

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.

To update or share your SAT Essay policy, email us at collegesurvey@collegeboard.org. We’ll add it to our list of college SAT Essay policies.