In a news release on October 8, 2019, the ACT announced several key changes that will take effect next September, including:
- Students will have the option to retake specific sections of the ACT, in addition to sitting for the entire exam.
- The ACT will now enable students to send an official report that includes a “superscore.”
- Students will have expanded options for online testing on national test days and test score results from online exams will be available in two days, rather than the current two weeks.
So, setting aside any cynicism about for-profit companies trying to get more market share and grow their bottom line, this added flexibility will help you make smart decisions about your testing strategy.
After taking your first ACT, typically in the early fall of your junior year, you’ll then have the ability to retake only those specific sections where you need to improve your score. Your prep strategy will now be to zoom in on one or two sections, versus spending additional hours to make sure that your scores on the other sections don’t drop.
Rather than using precious hours during the all-important junior year on test prep, you’ll be able to devote more time to your courses, deepening your academic niche, and contributing to your school and community in meaningful ways. Yes, testing is still a factor at top colleges but once you have the scores to be in range, it’s the quality of your achievements and contributions that matter more.
Talk to any current senior or their parents today and they’ll share the hopelessly confusing and non-standardized score policies. Which schools superscore? Are colleges that say they only look at your best scores really being honest about that? Which schools allow score choice? What are the different variations of score choice across schools?
The decision by the ACT to allow students to send official reports that include a superscore helps simplify the reporting process for students. Let’s hope that all colleges and universities will now accept this streamlined reporting process and cut down on the confusion that students and parents now have to contend with.
We’re pleased with the expanded online testing options on national test days, especially because of the faster turnaround time for results. With results available more quickly, students can get a jump on any sections that need further work and get those retakes done in a more timely manner. They can also submit scores to schools in time for early deadlines.
It’s likely that this set of policy changes by the ACT will lead to a counter-set of policy changes by the SAT. We wouldn’t be surprised if the opportunity to retake specific sections of the SAT is announced later this spring, along with online testing and faster score turnaround times.
It’s also likely that this latest round of testing changes leads more schools to move to test-optional or no-test admissions policies. If students can take the “pitch ‘til you win” approach with testing, then you’ll end up with lots of students who, one section at a time, build the foundation for a 36 or a 1600. Testing, then, becomes even less of a differentiator if everyone’s scores fall within a narrower and narrower band.
We’ll keep an eye out for further announcements but in the meantime, our bottom line is this: An officially reported superscore, along with the flexibility to retake individual sections and faster results, will minimize the time and money students spend on testing.
Isn’t that what we all want?