A Guide to Deciphering Super Scoring

There are so many “terms” to learn when you’re applying to college that it can feel like an entirely different language. Super scoring, ACT, SAT, Subject Tests, Common App, reach, target, early action single choice, early decision II, score choice, word count, and the list goes on.

WHAT IS SUPER SCORING?

For this post, we’ll focus on super scoring. Super scoring is a way of viewing and organizing your test scores that some schools offer as a courtesy in an effort to help you put your best foot forward in the application review process. Super scoring is essentially taking your highest scores from each test that you sat for and compiling them for colleges to review.

When you take the SAT, ACT, or even SAT Subject Tests, you’ll likely take them more than once in order to get the highest scores possible. You sit, receive your scores, study harder, and then sit again. If you take it twice, let’s say, you may think that you have two composite scores to choose from. With super scoring, every section matters.

DECIPHERING THE ART OF SUPER SCORING

Below is an example of how super scoring would work for the ACT.

Let’s say you took the ACT in September and then again in December and received the below scores in September:

English: 31
Reading: 30
Science: 34
Math: 35
Writing: 7

After receiving these scores, you naturally take it again in an attempt to improve your English, Reading, and Writing scores. Your December scores are:

English: 34
Reading: 33
Science: 33
Math: 34
Writing: 9

With super scoring, you are evaluated as if the below are your scores for your ACT:

English: 34
Reading: 33
Science: 34
Math: 35
Writing: 9

 

super scoring ACT SAT

TAKING ONLY THE BEST OF THE BEST

Now, as you can see, your highest scores in each section, regardless of the date that you took the exam, make up your new composite score. You are evaluated based on your best performance on each section, not based on your test date overall. It’s a super score.

In order for colleges to consider all of your exam sittings and compile your super score, you have to send in all of your testing results from each sitting to each school. Colleges oftentimes ask that you submit all of your exam official reports and then they commit to consider only your highest scores in each section. You yourself would not super score your results, but rather report all of your test scores and then they would isolate the highest scores.

super scoring FAQ

SUPER SCORING FAQS ANSWERED

Is the SAT included in this practice?

Yes, the SAT is also included in super score practices at colleges. However, you cannot super score both the ACT and the SAT—you have to commit to one. This is best practice for test-taking regardless of whether the schools you are applying to will super score your testing results. In other words: you cannot mix and match, even if you got an 800 on the math section of the SAT that you sat for before you switched to the ACT, where you got 35s in English and Reading.

What if I sat three times but only want colleges to super score two of the three?

This all depends on the college’s test reporting policy, as schools have different policies for reporting. Some are alright with self-reporting scores, some are alright with you sending in some but not all of your test scores, but some colleges require that you send in all of your testing (even if you’re not happy with it), and then they can commit to super scoring for you. Make sure that you are diligent in checking a college’s website on this topic, because it would be an unfortunate technicality to overlook. This is also where score choice can come in, which leads us to…

What is score choice? Is it the same as super scoring?

As you might have guessed, the answer is no. Score choice is a policy that some colleges have that places the power of reporting in the student’s hands. In other words, you can choose which scores and exams to report from the ones you sat for. This doesn’t mean that you can super score yourself, as discussed above, but rather, if you sat three times for the ACT and you only want to report your composite for two of those three and leave that first fluke completely out of your application, that is allowed. There are typically one of three policies that schools adopt when it comes to reporting, so make sure that you know which camps your colleges fall into:

  1. “Require all scores”: self-explanatory. You are required to send in all scores.
  2. “Recommend all scores”: You aren’t required to send in all scores, but oftentimes schools that use this wording will exercise super scoring, which means that it works to your benefit to send in all of your scores so that you can be evaluated on your highest sections across all test dates.
  3. “Accept score choice”: Colleges will accept the scores that you choose to submit. Traditional score choice.

Can I choose to send just one of my SAT Subject Test scores from a day when I took two SAT Subject Tests?

Unfortunately, when you send test scores from a test date, it’s all or nothing. This is why it makes sense to get your testing done early so that you have time to isolate and re-take a certain SAT Subject Test, ACT, or SAT test if you need to, as well as review your scores before you send to your colleges.

How do I optimize for super scoring?

The best way that you can optimize your studying and test taking for super scoring is to be intentional about your studying. With super scoring, you can focus your attention on one particular section going into an exam. For both super scoring and score choice, it’s in your best interest to take the exam more than once in order to improve your scores as much as you possibly can.

Should I ever not use score choice?

You should really only use score choice if you absolutely bombed or aced on one particular test day. If your scores are varying, as they often are, it’s best practice to send in all scores, even if you have to reveal that you didn’t do as well as you had wanted to on one particular test day.

What schools offer super scoring?

Good question. We’ve compiled a list of schools that offer super scoring for their applicants. Please note that this is not a complete list and that even if it is listed here, you should read your college’s testing policy directly on their website in order to understand it thoroughly!

American University Northeastern University
Amherst College Occidental University
Bard College Pomona College
Bates College Purdue University
Boston College Sarah Lawrence College
Bowdoin College Stanford University
California Institute of Technology St. Lawrence University
Claremont McKenna College Swarthmore College
Colby College Syracuse University
Colgate University University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
Colorado College Trinity College
Connecticut College Trinity University
Cornell University Tufts University
Davidson College University of Chicago
Dickinson College University of Colorado, Boulder
Duke University University of Connecticut
Emerson College University of Maryland, College Park
George Washington University University of Massachusetts, Amherst
Georgia Institute of Technology University of Pennsylvania
Grinnell College University of Rochester
Hamilton College University of Vermont
Harvey Mudd College University of Virginia
Haverford College Vassar College
Johns Hopkins University Villanova University
Kenyon College Virginia Tech
Lafayette College Wake Forest University
Lehigh University Washington University, St. Louis
Massachusetts Institute of Technology Wellesley College
Middlebury College Wesleyan University
New York University Williams College

EXPERT ADVICE

Our ace ACT/SAT tutor Amy says, “As long as students are clear that they should ALWAYS check the admissions policies of the schools to which they are applying and NEVER assume anything about scores, etc., they should be good to go!”

As always, let us know if you have any remaining questions or feel like you need a bit more guidance on your testing schedule.

2 Comments

  1. AH

    Posted on November 14, 2018 at 1:50 pm

    I would like to point out a correction: You can actually isolate and choose a single SAT subject test score to send to colleges even if you take three on the same day.

    • Deanna

      Posted on November 21, 2018 at 11:12 am

      It depends. While College Board allows you to select individual scores to send, some schools require you to send in all of your scores (the ones that do NOT honor “score choice”). So in that case, if you sat for three SAT IIs on one day, you’d be required to send all of the scores. For other schools, you can indeed pick and choose (for schools that honor score choice). There is a step-by-step guide to doing this here on the College Board website. This is why it’s important to pay close attention to a school’s testing language. It’s also important to get your testing done early so that you have time to isolate and re-take a certain SAT Subject Test, ACT, or SAT test if you need to, as well as review your scores before you send to your colleges.

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