scholastic aptitude test

Will the recent changes to the ACT help or hurt you?

What is superscoring?

For students who take the ACT or SAT more than once, many colleges and universities allow students to submit their best subject scores across multiple test dates. The recalculation of these subscores results in what is known as a “superscore.” A superscore acknowledges that students may perform differently on their standardized tests on different test dates, so it combines their best performances into one score that best reflects their abilities and, ultimately, allows them to put their best foot forward when applying to college.

For example, let’s say a student takes the ACT in April and scores a 30 in English, a 34 in Math, a 30 in Reading, and a 34 in Science. Their Composite score will be a 32.

Test Date English Math Reading Science Composite
April 30 34 30 34 32

Then let’s say the student takes the ACT again in June and, this time, scores a 34 in English, a 30 in Math, a 34 in Reading, and a 30 in Science. Their Composite score will still be a 32.

Test Date English Math Reading Science Composite
June 34 30 30 34 32

However, by combining their best performance across the four subjects, the student’s superscore becomes a 34.

Test Date English Math Reading Science Composite
April 30 34 30 34 32
June 34 30 30 34 32

At present, many college application portals allow students to self-report their test scores. However, they do not allow students to recalculate and self-report their superscore. This new option by the ACT allows students to send their supercore directly to the college.

What does the latest ACT announcement mean in regards to superscoring?

The ACT has recently announced that all score reports which it sends to a college will now include the student’s superscore. From the ACT website:

“Colleges set their own policies regarding superscoring. However, ACT will supply them at least one full composite score with each superscore, plus all the scores from the test events that are part of the superscore composite.”

This announcement has no effect on whether individual colleges will utilize this superscore or whether they will continue to consider scores from a single sitting. Many colleges have already been computing superscores based on the information provided by students and the ACT, so in a sense all this does is eliminate the need for colleges to do the calculation themselves. The ACT benefits from this as well since it encourages students to take the exam multiple times and perhaps encourages students to order more score reports from the ACT — versus simply self-reporting their scores — if they feel that these reports will make their applications more competitive.

How does this affect students in their test preparation?

One of the challenges that students face with the ACT is that it consists of 4 sections that differ considerably in the skills and/or knowledge that are tested. Succeeding on all 4 sections during the same sitting requires preparation both in terms of learning content as well as mental endurance. Superscoring provides a significant benefit to students since it allows them to focus their preparation specifically on the test sections they are seeking to improve without having to worry about their scores dropping on other sections.

However, because the latest announcement merely changes how the ACT will be reporting scores and not how colleges use the scores, students should still begin their ACT preparation in the same way which is to obtain a high score in a single sitting in order to keep their college options open. Additionally, trying to be too strategic from the outset can backfire if students don’t achieve the scores they want in the sections they have targeted. Now they will have to retake the exam with added pressure to do well.

Once students have achieved their target scores on some sections of the ACT, however, it may make sense for them to retake the exam with the aim of improving only specific scores provided that their colleges all accept superscores. The ACT is more susceptible to a strategic approach relative to the SAT where improvement generally comes from the slower process of improving ability and skill. FLEX ACT classes can help give students the key strategies they need to achieve their target scores. Our instructors have extensive experience working with students to improve their scores in this targeted manner.

To learn more about our ACT classes, visit our ACT and SAT Test Prep registration page.

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Visit our Events & Webinars page to register or to view a current schedule of events designed to address your questions and concerns about middle and high school education and the college admission process.