ACT Test Announces New Changes

Claire Killian

Radical new changes were announced by the ACT board on Tuesday. Starting next September, students who want to retake individual portions of their test to improve their scores will be allowed to, without having to go through the whole three-hour exam again. The ACT, which is graded out of thirty-six possible points, is broken into five sections, reading, math, science, English, and an optional section for writing. The way the test has been traditionally graded is by taking a composite score of all the sections, but the new changes would permit students to submit a ‘superscore’.

This happens when an individual takes the ACT multiple times, and can combine their scores from multiple tests to maximize their point total. For instance, if one were to take the test twice, and do better on the math portion but poorly on English, and the second time they took it they did well in English but poorly in math, they could cherry-pick their scores to only show their good math and English scores on an application. Colleges have yet to respond with how they will view applicants who superscore, and whether they will be treated differently than people who only took the test once.

This decision comes after recent criticism for the testing process, and even the very concept of standardized tests. Growing movements seek to remove such high-pressure tests because of the stress they cause, and as many claim, they don’t show the entire capacity of a student. The ACT says that allowing students to retake individual sections will reduce anxiety, be more cost-effective, and allow them to achieve their highest potential. While the developments may have been well-meaning, those opposed to the changes say it only highlights the wealth gap in the testing process. Professionals predict that these changes only benefit wealthy students who can afford tutors and test coaches, and that disadvantaged kids will only be left further behind. They anticipate that this will only heighten the pressure on test prep, and increase the need for outside of school help, which many kids don’t have access to.

In the world of test politics, the ACT just changed the game, for the most part, they have made their test more forgiving. Now, your future doesn’t hang in the balance of a single three-hour exam. If you have a bad day, you’re given the opportunity to make it up without sacrificing any good scores you did manage to get. Many colleges already allow super scoring, because it heightens their standings and metrics, however institutionalizing it for all students is uncharted territory for applications committees, who have yet to respond. So while the true weight of this decision is yet to be understood, this year’s sophomores have something new to consider going into their junior year.