Does the SAT Writing Section Matter?

Students taking exam, teacher in background
SAT writing section. Peter Cade / Getty Images

Does the SAT Writing Section Matter?

Does the SAT writing section matter? Do colleges and universities consider the SAT writing score during the college admissions process? 

The score does matter. 

In 2005, the College Board changed the SAT exam to include a multiple-choice grammar section and a 25-minute essay writing component. This new SAT writing section immediately came under significant criticism because of the short time allowed for writing the essay, and because of an MIT study showing that students could raise their scores by simply writing longer essays and including bigger words.

In the first couple of years after the change in the SAT, very few colleges and universities placed significant (if any) weight on the SAT writing score. As a result, the general impression has remained that the SAT writing score doesn't matter for college applicants.

This advice is often untrue. In 2008, the College Board released a study showing that of all the SAT sections, the new writing section was the most predictive of college success.

Today, while very few colleges are happy with the idea of a 25-minute essay, more and more schools are giving weight to the SAT writing section as they make their admissions decisions. Some colleges also use the SAT writing score to place students in the appropriate first-year writing class. A high score will sometimes place a student out of college writing altogether.

In general, then, the SAT writing score does matter. Some colleges are slower than others to change their policies, and hundreds of colleges are now test-optional, but the best advice is to take the writing component seriously.

Below are SAT writing scores of the middle 50% of enrolled students for a few colleges and universities (learn more about these numbers). Click on a school's name to see the full admission profiles.

  • SAT Writing: 510 - 620
  • SAT Writing: 660 - 750
  • SAT Writing: 680 - 780
  • SAT Writing: 710 - 800
  • SAT Writing: 690 - 780
  • SAT Writing: 650 - 750
  • SAT Writing: 690 - 780
  • SAT Writing: 690 - 780
  • SAT Writing: 590 - 710