Last Updated On: April 12th, 2021
The ACT recently announced an exciting development with regard to superscoring: ACT will now automatically calculate a superscore for every student who takes the ACT more than once. Whereas previously students had to figure out what their own superscore was and rely on colleges to accept it, now the ACT will do it automatically. You may be wondering what this all means for you, and how this change should influence your college admissions process. Luckily we’re here to break it all down for you below!
What is superscoring?
First, before we get too ahead of ourselves, a brief reminder of just what is superscoring. We already covered this in more detail in an earlier blog, but essentially superscoring is taking your strongest subscores (scores for each section of the ACT) and using them to make a new score that can often be higher than your original score. So, for example, if a student took the ACT in January and did about the same in each section, coming out with a composite score of 25. Then, they studied hard and retook the test in March. If they improved significantly in the first three sections, but then, in the science section at the end, they got unlucky, ran out of time, and actually did worse than their first test, so their score only ended up improving to 26. With superscoring, they would be allowed to take that science score from the first test and combine it with their new, improved, other scores. Without their one unlucky section, that student might then score a 27, a major score increase (since the ACT is only scored from 1-36, each point increase is a significant change). If you’d like to see more detail on how the math for superscoring actually works, check out our blog ACT Superscore: What is it? for more info. In a quick summary, what you need to know is that superscoring allows you to take your best scores in each section (regardless of when you got it) and combine them to maximize your point total.
What does this change mean for me?
There are a few important things this change means for you. First, the change means it will be even easier for you to figure out your superscore. While before your score report from the ACT wouldn’t list the score, now it will. As simple as that! Previously, you had to calculate it yourself or hope colleges did it for you on their own (which many do).
This change might seem minor, but, in fact, it’s part of a larger push from the ACT to get more colleges to accept superscoring. They have backed this push by making superscoring automatic, releasing research that supports the value of superscoring, and encouraging colleges to accept these scores.
While this new announcement is so recent that we haven’t heard anything from colleges yet about how they will respond to it, our expectation is that more of them are likely to start accepting superscores. That means it’s even more important that you check with the schools you are applying to in order to determine their policies on superscoring. Most schools list that answer somewhere on their admissions department website. For example, here are policies for Villanova (which does accept superscores) and Rutgers (which does not). If your superscore is significantly higher than your best composite score, then it may make sense to apply mainly to schools that accept superscoring depending on your situation.
If you’ve already taken multiple ACTs, it is worth checking the ACT website and logging into your account to see if the new policy makes a difference for you. You might find that your best score has been raised by a point or two!
Should I change the way I study?
Superscoring advantages students who take the ACT multiple times, which is something we strongly recommend even for students who are not applying to schools that take superscoring. Multiple tries at the ACT means multiple chances to get your best score. You can also take your first ACT score, look at the problems you missed and areas where your score was weakest and use that information to help devise a study plan (either on your own or with a tutor) that can help you score even higher. All of this has been true since the ACT started, superscoring makes taking multiple ACTs (again, something we strongly recommend) even more of a good idea.
With or without superscoring, our recommended process for preparing for the ACT is largely the same: Start prepping early, take practice exams, get help from a tutor or prep course to improve your test-taking skills and knowledge, and plan on taking the test multiple times. Keep in mind that superscoring can help you make a gain of 1-2 points, but most of your score increases will still come from studying and learning the material.
Where superscoring can make a difference in your study strategy is if you have taken an official test and gotten very good scores in one or two sections but are not happy with your overall composite score. In these scenarios, particularly if you have limited time to prepare for your next official ACT, it might make sense to focus almost all your studying on the test sections in which you are weakest, knowing that if you forget a few math concepts and do worse in that section than you did on a previous test, you still have your old scores in that section to fall back on.
How should I change how I apply to schools?
With this new policy, there are a few things you should be aware of when it comes time to apply to college. First, as we mentioned above, we expect that the new ACT policy on superscoring is going to encourage even more colleges to adopt superscoring. For students currently thinking about or applying to schools, that means that even if you already checked whether or not your dream school accepts superscoring, it is worth checking back on their website frequently to ensure you don’t miss a change in policy.
If you are still deciding which schools you’d like to apply to, or if you’ve already made a list of target schools based on your old ACT composite score, make sure you take your new superscore into account when you figure out which schools are realistic targets. It may be that a previous “reach” school is now a more realistic option if your superscore helps you. If you have a number of schools to which you’d like to apply but your ACT is still a point or two lower than their typical accepted student, then it may make sense to take the ACT again with the knowledge in mind that you now have the opportunity to raise your score even higher.
The final thing to keep in mind with regard to superscoring, is that as schools adopt superscoring, their average ACT scores will likely increase as well. More students superscoring means more students raising their scores so admissions may get slightly more competitive. That means that even if you got a pretty good score your first time taking the ACT, keep in mind that other students in similar positions will have the opportunity to raise their score by taking the ACT again and superscoring, so you would be wise to do so as well.
All in all, ACT’s new superscoring policy is an exciting announcement that has positive impacts for both students and higher education institutions! For more information about how we tutor the ACT content and strategies, check out our ACT tutoring page.