ACT coronavirus COVID-19 Standardized Testing

Big Changes Coming for ACT

Post by TTA tutors: Steven and Amy

As we all struggle to find some stability in a chaotic world created by the Coronavirus, it seems that the only constant is change. In many cases, the change is welcome, even necessary.  Such is the case, we believe, with the proposed three major changes coming to the ACT beginning with the September 2020 test date.


  1. The ACT will be available as an online test at select locations in September, 2020. Of course, this is slightly questionable as shelter in place orders continue to extend.

The sections, question types, timing, and scoring will remain the same. The online test may be more comfortable for some students. For others, it might prove more stressful or distracting. Colleges will not know whether you take the online or the paper test — it is strictly a matter of personal preference. The scores for online tests will be available as quickly as two days later. This is significantly faster than the paper test and may be helpful for students who are up against application deadlines.

The online test will be given at specified locations on ACT computers. It will not be available for home testing, or on your own laptop, even at a testing center. Scratch paper will be available, and the testing software will include highlighting tools. You will be able to go back and change answers if there is time remaining in the section.

Some students prefer the comfortable environment of working on a computer screen. Others prefer to have the ability to mark on the page with their pencils as they work through the material. We advise you to try both environments before making your decision. The Official Beginner’s Guide for ACT (a publication of ACT, Inc.) includes access to an online practice test so that you can see for yourself which option is best for you.

  1. ACT will report a “superscore” for those who take more than one ACT.

About one third of all institutions currently allow superscoring. The change is that, now, ACT will automatically report the best score on each of your English, Math, Reading, and Science sections across all of the ACTs you take, and calculate your hypothetical composite score as though each of your best section scores were on the same full ACT. Colleges and universities will still each decide how to handle this information. Some will not consider the superscore in making admission decisions. Be sure to check with the schools and programs you are applying to for more information.

  1. If you have taken one complete, or “full-battery,” ACT at any time since 2016, you may choose to retake individual sections.

You may retake one, two, or three sections as an online test at select locations on any of the seven annual national test dates beginning with September 2020. You may NOT take individual sections as paper-and-pencil exams. In our opinion, this is the most exciting change. It means that, with proper planning, you could take your “full-panel” ACT on one day, and then do the writing section as a stand-alone test at a later date without the fatigue that is a major factor for many students. Some students will benefit from the reduced fatigue and stress when retaking only one, two, or three sections rather than an entire ACT exam.


As always, talk with your tutor to determine whether to take advantage of the new ACT testing format.  Preparedness is still critical, so be sure to work out a plan well in advance of your test date.

The situation with COVID-19 remains a fluid and fast-changing one wreaking havoc on all scheduled testing. Be sure to regularly check testing websites to stay on top of the most recent developments regarding closures or travel restrictions. For more information read our prior post about COVID-19 and admissions.

2 replies on “Big Changes Coming for ACT”

It is unclear to me how the option to retake only select sections coincides with diverging university policies on superscoring the ACT. If a university does not superstore, how does it absorb a retake of math or science, not the entire exam?
I would love to know how that works.
Thank you for your excellent support!

As we understand from participating in ACT-sponsored webinars, the ACT, when it reports the superscore to colleges, will also include the student’s highest composite score. Colleges can then select the approach to score reporting that is consistent with their policies. Thanks!

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