high school student writing an sat essay in the library

Effective June 2021, the SAT essay section is no longer offered.


Should You Take the SAT Essay?

Unless there simply isn’t sufficient time to prepare for the essay, most students will benefit from taking the SAT with essay.

Although few colleges still require the SAT essay, many well-regarded schools recommend that students submit SAT essay scores. Any such recommendation ought to be treated as a requirement by potential applicants – if a school recommends something, its admissions officers would prefer to see it.

Students who score well on the essay will have an additional positive data point to weigh in their favor during the admissions process. Particularly at highly selective schools, where the applicant pool often includes many applicants with similarly impressive academic backgrounds, every positive data point helps.

How the SAT Essay Is Scored

Contrary to popular belief, the SAT essay is not in fact scored by a computer. Instead, your essay is scanned into a computer and sent to two human essay graders. Each essay grader awards a score from 1 to 4 in three areas:


Graders look for evidence that you fully understood the passage, including the nuances and complexities of the issue presented and the author’s purpose in writing. Essays should not simply summarize the passage but should reference the passage thoroughly enough to indicate an in-depth understanding of the author’s argument.


The primary essay task is to analyze the passage author’s use of persuasive elements. Essay graders will look for evidence of critical and analytical thought. Essays must go beyond simply identifying persuasive elements in order to explain how these elements affect the reader and why the author chose to incorporate these elements into the passage.


One of the purposes of the SAT essay is to evaluate how well you write, so essay graders will look for evidence of strong writing ability, including a good grasp of standard English conventions, facility with a variety of sentence structures, application of a variety of transitional elements, a logical progression of ideas, and an appropriately informative style and tone.

Colleges that Require the SAT Essay

There are few colleges that require the SAT essay for admission:

  • Claremont McKenna College
  • Martin Luther College
  • Soka University of America
  • S. Military Academy
  • University of California, Merced
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of California, Irvine
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • University of California, Riverside
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • University of California, San Diego
  • University of California, Santa Barbara
  • University of California, Santa Cruz
  • The University of Mary Hardin-Baylor
  • University of North Texas

Keep in mind, however, that there are many more schools that recommend the SAT essay for admission – and schools, in most cases, wouldn’t recommend a piece of information that they didn’t deem useful. Schools that recommend the SAT essay include some top schools, such as Georgia Tech, Occidental, Rutgers, and Stanford. Check the essay policies at colleges where you intend to apply at the College Board’s website.