It’s easy to feel like the cards are stacked against you in applying for college in the age of corona.
How can you go on college tours and select the schools you’ll apply to? When will you be able to take, or re-take the SAT or ACT and any SAT Subject Tests? How are these strange at-home AP Exams going to be graded? And will colleges even count standardized test scores as important, given the restrictions around gathering in groups? Before you throw up your hands, consider this: since internships, sports teams and summer programs are less possible this year, your SAT or ACT scores may be more important in college admissions, even if colleges and universities are saying that the exams are now optional. Undoubtedly, those with SAT or ACT scores will stand out from those with no scores.
Thankfully, the ACT has three major changes up its sleeve, coming in September 2020, that could result in improved scores and a less exhausting testing experience.
1. Re-take a partial test
Most students take the ACT exam 2-3 times. Students tend to come out of the first test with learnings they can apply to test number 2. However, after 2 or 3 tests, there are definitely diminishing returns. If you decide to re-test to edge up your score, the ACT will now allow you to re-take only the sections you want to improve, saving you from taking the whole 3-hour test again. This will reduce the amount of studying, save time on test day, and reduce the risk of seeing your score drop on re-tests. That way, you can focus your studying on problem areas. With strategy, discipline and the help of test prep experts, you'll see your section scores improve.
2. Faster turnaround in scores
Get ready to ditch the paper bubble sheet, as starting in September, the ACT will have an option to take the test online at the test center. The benefit? You can get your scores in as little as two days, helping you to fast-track your applications — or make a plan to retest. Rumor has it that the ACT is gearing up for at-home computer-based testing as early as October, which even gives rising seniors the opportunity to take the test one last time before ED and EA applications are due! So don't put away your ACT study materials this summer; we suggest you retake that section or two where you could use a few more points in the Fall.
3. Your best foot forward
The ACT composite score is calculated by averaging your scores across the four sections, taken on a single test day. Now that you can re-test one section at a time, the ACT score report that is sent to colleges will now include your "superscore."
Simply put, the superscore averages the four best section scores across multiple test days. Suppose you receive a mediocre math score on your first test. Now you can focus your studying and re-take only the math section - helping to raise both your math score and the overall superscore. Previously, colleges and universities would be able to see all 4 of your section scores from a particular test date, while now, the ACT promises to include the superscore on the test report instead.
Before you cancel your June or July test date to take advantage of the changes coming in September, consider whether it makes sense:
- Your college application deadlines may require you to take an earlier test. Or the quick turnaround for scoring the online test may help you meet a fall deadline.
- With all the time spent at home this spring due to social distancing, you can use it to your advantage and study for a June or July test date. If you wait to take your test in the fall, your schedule is likely to be full, and studying extra hours won't be appealing.
- If June and July test dates are not canceled, these may be the perfect dates to take your first ACT, followed by a Sept. ACT exam to improve one or more sections after some summer test prep.
- The online testing format may not be for you, particularly if you are most comfortable with paper practice tests.
These three changes to the ACT - online testing, section re-testing and the superscore - make taking its standardized test ever more appealing, as they can help you craft a test prep strategy molded to your unique needs. With so many restrictions this year due to the pandemic, we can all appreciate a little flexibility.