Well...yes, no, and maybe! As yet, there isn't any one rule. Each school makes its own decision about requiring this portion of the ACT -- some require it, others don't, and still others will accept it, but not require it. Sound complicated? It isn't, really. If the school you want to attend requires the scores, then you're going to have to take it to be considered for admission.
Even if you wrote an essay as part of your college application, that doesn't mean you're off the hook. Although several colleges feel that their pre-existing writing requirement is adequate, some have decided they want to see how you do on the ACT Writing Test, too. Why? It provides an example of your writing without hours and hours of editing. Schools like this want to have as much data as possible on which to base their decision.
Other schools might only use the ACT test as a reflection of your writing skills, but that's not to say that this couldn't change. If you aren't applying for school for a while, and the schools on your list currently require the test, check back with them before you apply. Some are evaluating the effectiveness of the new test in assisting with admission decisions and will decide later whether to continue to use it or lose it.
If the school you're applying to doesn't require the test, but will accept the scores, decide for yourself if it's in your favor to take it. It never hurts to put in a little extra time and effort, especially if you're an awesome writer and really excel in that area. It could further your chances for admission because most schools are very interested in learning about the areas in which you excel. If timed writing totally freaks you out, don't count yourself out just yet. It might be a good idea to practice -- you could surprise yourself!
Really, there are no hard and fast answers. Check out search engines, surf your school's site, or just give them a call; you'll need to know what's required first. If it turns out that you have the option of not taking it, you can then decide how to proceed.
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