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Good news! Starting in September 2020, the ACT will get a little less stressful. Last month, the ACT announced a few key changes that will begin next school year:

  • Students will be able to retake individual sections of the exam without retaking the entire test.
  • Students will have the option of taking the test either online or on paper on national test dates across the country. Scores from students who take the computer test will be available in just two days, compared with two weeks for the paper test.
  • The ACT will report a student’s composite “superscore,” which reflects the highest scores on each section of the test.

If you’re a student planning to take the ACT next school year or beyond, this is great news. You can now retake just one section, you won’t have to worry about jeopardizing a high score in one section to make up for a lower score in another, and you can try out online and paper testing and decide which option is right for you. Superscoring should also result in a higher composite score, provided the schools to which you’re applying factor the scores the same way.

Before you celebrate too much, though, keep in mind that there may be a few unintended consequences to these welcome changes. First, some schools might still not factor the superscore into their own admissions criteria. Certain schools, such as the Cal States, already superscore on their own, while other schools might choose not to, even if the ACT puts it into a score report. Second, while allowing retakes for a single section will likely result in higher superscores, these scores will be higher for students across the board. As a result, the average test scores for the most competitive schools will likely get even higher.

How might these changes affect your test preparation plans? If you’re planning to test in September 2020 or later, here are some steps to take:

  • Try out both the online and the paper test and decide which option you prefer. You can try the paper test by purchasing an ACT book, printing a test from Crack ACT, or taking a proctored diagnostic test at LA Tutors. You can try an online test for free at the official ACT Academy.
  • Choose a test date that allows for one or more retakes before your applications are due and leave ample preparation time before that first test.
  • Register early. Now that students can just retake one section, retakes will likely become more popular. Plan ahead so you get your preferred location and test format (paper or online).
  • Find out whether the colleges to which you’re applying will accept the super score or will still use a composite score from a single test date, and adjust your plans accordingly.

The final piece of advice is the same as always: practice and prepare for the test. Whether you’re preparing for the entire test or getting ready to retake a weaker section, practice and good instruction are the keys to reaching your personal best.

Katherine Friedman

Author Katherine Friedman

As the Program Co-Director at LA Tutors, Katherine is responsible for developing LA Tutors' curricula and contributes to the LA Tutors educational resources and blog. She has over ten years of classroom teaching experience in a variety of settings with diverse groups of learners: in the United States and internationally, special and general education, and public and private school. With a Masters degree in Education, she has been tutoring throughout her career and loves the opportunity to reach students in a one-on-one or small group setting. She began working as a test preparation tutor in graduate school and enjoys helping students build their understanding and confidence of standardized tests, including the ISEE, SAT, GRE, and CBEST.

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