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What Is the Difference in the ACT Test & the ACT Test Plus Writing?

by Rebekah Richards, Demand Media

    Many colleges and universities accept the ACT, an achievement test that measures what students have learned in high school, to help them determine the best candidates for admittance. The ACT has four required sections: English, mathematics, reading and science. Some students take the ACT Plus Writing, which has a writing section in addition to the four multiple-choice sections. While the writing section is generally optional, some universities and colleges require it, so it's best to check with your favored school before taking the test.

    About the Writing Section

    The writing section, which is only offered to students taking the ACT Plus Writing, is 30 minutes long and requires you to write an essay. The essay prompt defines an issue, provides two perspectives on that issue and asks you to explain your position on the issue. Your score is based on your writing skills, not the position you choose. A sample prompt on the actstudent.org website asks students to write an essay based on arguments about whether high school should be extended to five years or not.

    Choosing a Test

    Some colleges and universities require applicants to take the ACT Plus Writing. You can determine whether a specific school requires the writing section by checking their website or using the College Writing Test Requirements Search Tool on the actstudent.org website. Even if schools don't require the writing section, they usually will accept the scores. If you're not sure whether you should take the writing test, contact the admissions department of the school you'd like to attend or ask your high school counselor.

    Cost

    As of April 2013, the ACT Plus Writing test costs $50.50. The ACT without the writing section costs $35.00. If you sign up for the ACT Plus Writing but decide not to take the writing test, you can change your mind before you test and receive a refund for the additional fee.

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    About the Author

    Rebekah Richards is a professional writer with work published in the "Atlanta Journal-Constitution," "Brandeis University Law Journal" and online at tolerance.org. She graduated magna cum laude from Brandeis University with bachelor's degrees in creative writing, English/American literature and international studies. Richards earned a master's degree at Carnegie Mellon University.

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