ACT Test Change

Matt Larriva
Oct 09, 2019

ACT Test Change

Beginning in late 2020, high schoolers will be greeted by an ACT test change sure to improve their experiences: single-section tests.

The ACT announced Tuesday that students who have previously taken a full-length ACT will be allowed to sit for single sections at later dates. This will allow students to retake certain sections of the test without sitting through the entire exam. A student would have the option to sit for the 35-minute Reading or Science section, the 60-minute Math section, or the 45-minute English section.

The pros:

These ACT test changes create risk-free upside. Even if a student scored worse on the individual section retake than s/he did on the first test, his superscore would be unchanged.

This will decrease anxiety and increase scores: it is far easier to focus for 35 minutes than 3-4 hours.

Students scores will increase.

The cons:

This ACT test change favors those who can afford to take the test multiple times.

The average ACT superscore will increase for all students, creating a more competitive benchmark.

Just because the ACT offers this option does not mean all schools will accept it. Georgetown has submitted an initial reaction stating that it will not accept superscores or individual-section testing.

What else:

  • The ACT is introducing a formal ‘superscore’ ability, allowing students to report only their best sections from multiple sittings. The effects of this should be minimal as many schools were already superscoring students submissions. And many colleges, especially more selective ones, will ask to see a full record of all tests taken anyway.
  • Our view is that the SAT will incorporate this single-section-retest policy within the next two years.

The second large-scale change announced was the introduction of the nationwide option to take the ACT by computer. Details are few, but  the ACT says students will have the option of testing online or via paper and pencil. The advantage of online testing is scores will be returned in two business days.

Our take:

On the individual level, this ACT test change is student-friendly and will make the ACT a lower-stress experience. More broadly, this may open the door to a four-year testing horizon, making it difficult to ever feel ‘done’ with the testing experience (English section Freshman year, Science, section Sophomore year…) adding pressure to the already stressed student. Finally, this will certainly cause score inflation, making the testing process more competitive. The online test is a first step toward a much more secure, expedient, and tamper-resistant process.

For additional information see The ACT’s release. And as always, we’re here to help with any questions.