Readers React: Don’t eliminate the optional SAT and ACT essays — make them requirements

A student uses a test preparation guide to study for the SAT.
A student uses a test preparation guide to study for the SAT.
(Joe Raedle / Getty Images)

To the editor: James Murphy writes that the optional SAT and ACT writing sections should be eliminated. (“California, kill the SAT and ACT essay,” Opinion, April 10)

No, they should be required.

The added cost to write the essay (up to $16.50) is hardly adequate compensation for the essay readers — this is not money piled up in company coffers. The $25-million figure he provides is therefore misleading.

But there is a more important reason to make the essays mandatory. If they were, high school educators would once again have to teach writing skills. Many intelligent high school graduates cannot write a complete sentence, let alone construct a paragraph or anything that remotely resembles an argumentative essay.


The reversal of this massive educational oversight would more than compensate for the cost of the compulsory essay — we would approximate general literacy, which would benefit academic institutions and employers. More importantly, it would ensure that more of our young adults possessed the ability to give their reasons for the ideas they embrace.

Lawrence Udell Fike Jr., Whittier

The writer teaches philosophy at El Camino College.


To the editor: Murphy’s well-written essay does nothing to relieve the need of colleges to assess the writing ability of students who want to be admitted.

If the current essay tests fail to predict academic success, perhaps they should be replaced by a requirement to write several short paragraphs — one summarizing data, one comparing and contrasting characters, and one explaining a procedure — like the exercises we had in junior college.

Michael Helperin, Los Angeles


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