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Students Get More Options on the ACT Test: Four Fast Takeaways

When enough students have opportunities, our society changes for the better.

Our new, student-focused options for ACT test-takers beginning in Sept. 2020 are meant to meet the current generation of learners where they are—in a personalized, online environment.
Simply put, we are committed to opening every door possible to help today’s students succeed and leveling the playing field for all.

We introduced these options based on feedback from students, parents, teachers, counselors, administrators and higher education officials. Here’s what you should know:

1.) It’s about showing what students have learned.

These new options are designed to provide students with a better testing experience that encourages more personalization and choice. But the most important thing they do is create opportunities for deeper learning and content mastery with section retesting.

ACT Section Retesting allows students to retake one or more section (subject) tests once they have taken the full ACT test, rather than having to take the entire test again. This gives students the option to focus on areas that may need improvement and better master the content they need to succeed.

We are committed to providing everyone with the opportunity they deserve to show what they know and pursue their unique path to success.

In this vein, we are doubling the number of fee waivers we provide to students from low-income families. Students who currently test with a fee waiver will now receive a total of four fee waivers to use on a full ACT test or up to three section retests per waiver. It will be up to the student to decide how they would like to use their four waivers, as long as they have taken a full ACT test before they register for a section retest.

2.) Superscoring is the best, literally.

Superscoring—averaging the best section (subject) scores across test attempts to provide the highest ACT Composite—is an existing practice already used by many colleges and universities for admissions and scholarship decisions. The number of institutions that superscore continues to increase as more students choose to retest.

We have conducted research on section testing and superscoring across test administrations to ensure these new options are valid and reliable.

We know from research that:

These studies informed our decision to allow students to retake individual sections of the ACT. And our latest study on superscoring showed that it was more predictive of first-year college success than any other scoring method.

We believe these new ACT test options, combined, will help students reach their maximum potential, showcase their academic readiness, and put their best foot forward in the college admission process.

We continue to advocate for colleges and universities to dig into the data on superscoring to make the best decision for their institution. Students can determine if the college they’re applying to accepts superscores by visiting the college’s admissions page.



Senior Director of Validity & Efficacy Research, Krista Mattern, explains the ins and outs of superscoring.

3.) Online testing—we’ve been doing this for a while.

Our experience with online testing began in 2015 with our state and district testing program, and expanded last September when international test-takers began using computer-based ACT testing.

We know the ultimate benefit—faster score reporting—is important for students as they make decisions about their future. It’s also important for higher education institutions who use standardized test scores in admissions and scholarship decisions that scores are comparable regardless of test mode (paper versus online) in order to make “apples-to-apples” comparisons when evaluating applications from students across the country and around the world.

There are two primary reasons why we announced the online testing option one year in advance:

  •  It allows students to take practice tests in an online format so they can decide if they prefer online or paper testing.
  • It provides test centers administering the ACT on a national test date time to confirm their readiness.

4.) Same test; better experience.

Since ACT’s inception 60 years ago, we’ve believed in measuring what students know, based on what they’ve learned in the classroom. With our new options for students, the ACT test content, reliability and validity will not change. Only the administration and reporting methods will be different.

What’s important to know about these changes is that they all lead to more choices and a better experience for students, giving them greater opportunities to succeed. When our students succeed, our society will have a brighter future.

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ACT is a mission-driven, nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people achieve education and workplace success. Grounded in 60 years of research, ACT is a trusted leader in college and career readiness solutions. Each year, ACT serves millions of students, job seekers, schools, government agencies and employers in the US and around the world with learning resources, assessments, research and credentials designed to help them succeed from elementary school through career.

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