ACT’s New Superscore Policy — thoughts from Ted

BIG NEWS from ACT this week: starting in September 2020, students who have taken the full ACT before will be able to re-take any of the sections in isolation. Say you had a bad Reading test in April 2020—no problem. Just study up for that one section and take it in September by itself! ACT will combine your scores to create a testmaker’s “superscore”—the cherry-picked highest version of your score based on your individual best scores per section.

I thought I’d share some of my thoughts and insights into this new policy and how it’s likely to impact students and admissions.

Here goes:

-This changes the nature of the test. The ACT Reading and Science are both fast and dense sections that require a student’s full energy and attention. Taking either one of those or both as the only sections of the day will significantly increase each student’s energy and attention level… making it much easier to score higher on both sections.

-Will colleges accept these superscores? As of now, we have no idea. Each college will have to formulate a policy. Since the superscoring is “baked in” by the testmakers, it seems to have some more legitimacy than the more casual superscoring performed by the colleges within their admissions offices, but we have not heard yet. We don’t know what we don’t know, in other words.

-I’m not sure ACT has thought about how the implementation is going to work at the test centers. You might be surprised at how disorganized test centers are already. Starting in September 2020, you’ll have students taking tests on—get ready for it—ten different potential timetables. And that’s in addition to the standard timing. Wait, no, hang on, it’s more than that… that’s just for the multiple choice sections. When you factor in the essay, there are TWENTY-ONE different timing structures that are possible.


I’ve been giving practice tests for nearly two decades, and let me tell you—it’s not as easy as you think.

You can either divide the students up into as many different classrooms as you have timing structures—which would require up to 21 extra rooms AND 21 proctors in addition to the ones administering the test traditionally.

You could administer multiple time settings within the SAME classroom, which, if not done VERY CAREFULLY will end in a gigantic nightmare.

Or you can administer the exam via computer so each student takes just the tests they want to take. ACT has said that computer testing WILL be available on that test date. But they’re also saying that you can take it on paper. And the secure environment required for taking a computerized test will not be available on the same day for the volume of students who will want to take that test.

Amazing resource for trying to answer these questions:

Note the sheer number of FAQs that need to be answered.

So, conclusions:

• It’s possible that ACT might not know what they are getting into.

• Look for news stories on Sunday, September 13th, 2020 about how colossally effed-up the administration of the first ACT Section Retest date went. Or maybe by the afternoon of Saturday, September 12th. You heard it here first.

2 thoughts on “ACT’s New Superscore Policy — thoughts from Ted

  1. You’ve pinpointed the coming chaos exactly right, Ted. This was obviously planned by people who only work with score that come to them as numbers. Give Michael Moore a call and suggest he have cameras at various kinds of test sites that first day!

    • Thanks for the comment, Sue! I was just writing back and forth with Uma, my right-hand-woman. I told her that my prediction was actually a guarantee. There are lots of words I could use to describe what that scene is going to look like but I can’t use any of them in print here…

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