ACT Changes


The ACT announced that beginning in September of 2020, they will be introducing significant changes such as section retesting, ACT superscoring, and online testing. While Suzana Delanghe, the ACT Chief Commercial Officer, states that, “Students come first at ACT, and these groundbreaking new options will directly benefit them, providing more choices, an improved testing experience, and a better opportunity to showcase their readiness and reach their maximum potential,” and that the ACT “want[s] to do a better job of helping them [students] succeed,” there are still benefits and disadvantages to these changes.


Section retesting: According to the ACT, “section retesting will be available to all students who have taken the full ACT test. It is the same test, just one subject at a time.” This allows students to spend more time preparing for each subject because they no longer must divide their study time up for each subject per test, which could lead to improved superscores. Additionally, this can save students money because they will not have to pay to retake the full test when they are only seeking to improve, for example, their English and Science scores. Students will be able to take up to three retests per test date, and students may take as many retests total as they wish, giving students a better chance improve their superscore and be accepted to more competitive colleges.

ACT superscoring: Colleges usually calculate a student’s superscore, a new composite score created by taking a student’s highest sub score from each subject, by the student paying to send the college each ACT test the student took. Now, the ACT will calculate an official superscore for the student to pay to send to colleges. This can save the student a great deal of money because he or she can pay one, lower price to send the superscore rather than paying $13 per test. This also saves colleges some of the work of calculating superscores and gives more students access to superscoring.

Online Testing: ACT will provide students with the choice of taking the test online or on paper, which will likely save a great deal of paper, which is better for the environment. Students who choose the online version can also receive their test scores “in two business days” rather than waiting 2 to 8 weeks after testing, which is helpful for students deciding whether to register for the next test date. Additionally, students will use laptops and computers provided by the testing center rather than their own personal devices, which can bring more equity between students of different socioeconomic statuses and prevent cheating. Some might also argue that online testing better prepares students for their futures as online administration of other tests becomes more popular in the digital age. Also, according to ACT, they will make a “future announcement about cost”, but “it will be the same as the pencil and paper test.”



Section retesting: First, section retesting is not helpful for students interested in colleges that do not consider ACT superscores, and it disproportionately impacts students who do no have the means to continue to retake the test many times. As students with more disposable income can find tutoring and retake each section, which will likely raise the average composite score and superscore, this raises what a “competitive score” would be when applying to a college, making it more difficult for a student of a lower socio-economic status to contend with other test-takers. To combat this issue, the ACT offers fee waivers to many students. For international students, “ACT is evaluating the availability of section retesting for students who test at international test centers in the future but it won’t be offered at international test centers next year” (ACT).

ACT Superscoring: Overall, this is a very beneficial program for students of all income levels; the only disadvantage could be that it does not really help students who are applying to schools that do not superscore.

Online Testing: For most students, the ability to annotate the questions and passages is key to staying focused to fully comprehend everything, so moving to a digital version, although there will be “line reader and highlighter” functions on the online version, will still likely be a different experience to the pencil and paper test. Even though students are not asked to provide their own computer, taking the ACT online can still disadvantage students without access to faster, newer computers – or even computers at all – because of the increased likelihood of malfunctions and the inability to practice for the test on the same platform that it will be administered. According to the ACT, they aim to solve this issue by allowing students to choose between the paper and digital test with “no plans to discontinue paper and pencil testing” and  “through a combination of hardware requirements and software design, ACT will create a fair and consistent user experience for all participants in ACT National online administrations.”

         In recent years, many people including students, teachers, and college admissions teams have begun to doubt that standardized testing truly tests whether the student is “college ready” as the ACT promises rather than the student’s ability to take tests. But regardless of the true value of the ACT, many colleges still require – or at least encourage – each applicant to submit standardized test scores, so these changes to the testing process will still impact many students even if colleges are trending towards “test optional.”