The SAT Essay vs ACT Writing Section

In last week's blog article, the question of whether you should be writing the optional SAT Essay or ACT Writing invoked more inquiries and questions by our parent and student readers.

Now that you have a better grasp of whether you should consider taking the college entrance writing examination, what are the differences between the two writing essays?

In today’s blog post, we will explain the key differences between the SAT Essay and ACT Writing. Read on to learn more about their major distinctions alongside with tips on what is the ideal option for you as a student.

When it comes to preparing for the SAT or ACT test, it is a common recommendation that high school students understand the nuances of each individual examination. While the SAT Essay and ACT Writing are optional on the complete examination, they are still highly advised for reputable colleges, top schools, and Ivy League admissions.

In order to receive high marks on either of writing essays, it is important that students understand what to expect on each separate prompt.

The ACT Writing

The ACT Writing essay allows high school students with forty-minutes to completely brainstorm and write an opinion-based prompt.

The essay challenges test-takers’ reading and writing expertise while asking tasking students to not only brainstorm but fully construct and outline an essay in a limited amount of time.

With the intention of acing this written test, students need to first figure out the conventional formatting of the ACT Writing. The essay prompt typically outlines an issue or problem with three variations of perspectives presented to the reader.

Given the different point of views provided alongside the prompt, students are asked to complete specific goals in their writing:

Given the different point of views provided alongside the prompt, students are asked to complete specific goals in their writing:

  • "Evaluate and analyze the three given perspectives"

  • "State and develop" their own point of views

  • "Explain the relationship" between their original viewpoints and those provided by the prompt

A student’s score will not be negatively impacted by the perspectives that they provide on the writing assignment.

Students that plan to take the optional ACT Writing portion should understand that the prompt is not interested in the writer’s personal opinion or standpoint, but more so in the student’s expertise in answering the prompt’s primary argument alongside with their own perspective and the three other point of views provided in the prompt.

In order to achieve high marks on the ACT Writing for college applications, students should keep in mind the grading rubric as such:

  • Establish a strong and accurate comprehension of the prompt

  • Illustrate full understanding of the three viewpoints described in the writing essay

  • Provide a sensible answer to the prompt with solid proof and examples

The SAT Essay

If you are a student who intends on taking the SAT Essay, the format and nuances of the writing examination differ from the ACT Writing.

Students registering for the optional SAT Essay should anticipate the writing portion to take fifty minutes. With its newly re-designed structure, the SAT Essay section will introduce a nonfiction prompt to students.

Learn about the best time to take the SAT to maximize your test scores in last week's blog article, here.

Generally, the text is excerpted articles from the Time Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, etc. In length, they are usually between the 650–800-word mark.

The writing prompts asks students to construct a five-paragraph essay in which the writer is expected to complete the following:

  • Identify, explain, and evaluate the rhetorical and logical elements of the article that assists in conveying a message or meaning

High school students should expect to see a similar instructional format for the SAT Essay writing prompt:

“Write an essay in which you explain how [the author’s name] builds an argument to persuade his/her audience…your essay should not explain whether or not you agree with [the author’s] claims, but rather explain how [the author] builds an argument to persuade his/her audience.”

A core purpose of the SAT Essay prompt is not to acquire a student’s thoughts on the passage argument; the prompt is intended to test a student’s reading comprehension of the written argument while assessing whether the student understands how the author is making the argument.

Keeping the SAT Essay’s objectives in mind, students working on the prompt will be evaluated on their abilities to read, analyze, and write regarding the article provided.


Through this blog post, we hope that the distinctions between the SAT and ACT essay prompt is now a little less confusing for students and parents.

Just remember that the major contrast between the two writing prompts are:

  • The SAT Essay will test a student's comprehension of how a passage argument functions

  • The ACT Writing will test a student's ability to construct a argument

Read all about how a student got admitted into Yale University with this essay, click here.

If you are looking to read our Mandarin-friendly version, written by 7EDU founder Jun Liu, click here.

Join us tomorrow for our weekly live webinar, Consulting Jun from 5:30pm - 6:00pm PST. The guest speaker and topic of discussion will be posted in tomorrow's blog so don't forget!

7EDU Impact Academy offers many college preparation services including one-on-ones, counseling, and specific courses. Feel free to contact us at (408) 216-9109 or if you have any questions or comments.

As always, follow us on Instagram @seveneducation. If there are other topics you would like us to cover, send us a message! We also post daily blog alerts and any 7EDU-related updates on our feed.

The SAT Essay vs ACT Writing Section
7EDU Impact Academy 7 July, 2021
Share this post
When To Take The ACT For The Best Score