ACT Announces Major Changes

On October 8th, ACT announced significant changes that will take effect in September 2020. These changes include section retesting, digital (instead of paper) testing, and superscore reporting.  While these changes can greatly benefit ACT test takers, the implementation of the changes could prove to be difficult.

Section Retesting. The ACT consists of four sections, English, Math, Reading, Science, each with a maximum score of 36. The average of the four sections comprise the Composite score. Students looking to increase their composite score by improving a score on one section would have to take the full ACT over again. They run the risk of reduced scores on sections they previously did well on which is a problem. Starting in September 2020, students who have already taken the ACT can retake one or more single section tests on national ACT test dates. Individual section retakes can only be done digitally and thus only at test sites that offer online ACT administrations. This gives ACT test takers a significant advantage. They can focus 100% of their attention towards a single subject area that they might not have done well on when they took their initial ACT.

Digital (Online) Testing. The ACT has historically been a paper test here in the United States. International testing sites have been online for the past year and the ACT has been expanding its online testing for schools and districts in the U.S.  Starting in September 2020, schools that are ACT test sites will have the option of offering both paper testing and online testing. Timing, content and format will be the same between the two options, but digital test takers will get their results in as little as two days compared to two weeks or longer for paper test takers.

Superscore Reporting. Superscoring takes the best results of each section from multiple tests to create the highest combined or composite score. Almost all colleges superscore the SAT, while about 70% of schools superscore the ACT. Until recently, the ACT advised colleges against superscoring its test. However, starting in September 2020, the ACT will now report a student’s superscore to colleges, a complete turnaround from its previous position.

Thoughts. The changes being implemented by the ACT alters the landscape with its only competitor, the SAT (College Board). Students that were on the fence between the two tests may lean towards the ACT now that they can retake individual sections to help their overall score. Providing section retakes is also a perfect segue for the ACT to push superscoring to colleges. Since the ACT will self-report a student’s superscore, it saves colleges the hassle of calculating it. The only issue we see with the implementation of these changes is the ability to deliver online testing at enough sites by September 2020. Previous attempts by the ACT to administer online test have run into multiple issues. That being said a move to 100% digital across the board is long overdue from a security standpoint and timely reporting of scores.


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