act exam
The new changes will take effect next September. Source: Shutterstock

Earlier this month, officials at the organisation that runs the standardised college preparatory exam ACT announced a change that will soon be implemented.

Here are the key things high school students need to know:

1. Individual retakes will take effect next September

Starting September 2020, instead of sitting for all five parts of the three-hour ACT exam all over again, students will soon be able to retake only single sections of it.

“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.

“With these changes, ACT is evolving to meet students in the digital world in which they live. We want to do a better job of helping them succeed,” said Suzana Delanghe, ACT Chief Commercial Officer.

2. Online testing

You will be able to opt for online testing. Those who choose this medium will obtain faster test results, receiving their multiple-choice test scores and ACT Composite score as early as two business days after the test date.

“This allows students to make better, more informed, and timely decisions about the schools and scholarships to which they apply,” ACT said on its website.

This change will take effect from September 2020 too.

3. A new ‘superscore’

The ACT exam is made up of five subsections — reading, math, science, English and writing, which is optional.

Scores for each of the first four sections are averaged into a composite score. If they do badly in an individual section, their composite score would be lower. Students currently have to submit multiple test results if they want to show colleges their best subscores earned at retakes.

The new change will bring about a new “superscore,” where their highest scores from each subsection will be combined.

4. The purpose

Retaking individual sections would allow students to not jeopardise the marks earned in sections taken earlier in the retake.

By allowing only their best scores to be combined, candidates would likely end up with higher scores, test experts predict.

Ed Colby, an ACT spokesman told the New York Times: “They might think, ‘Why do I have to sit through and take all these tests again if I only need to improve my math score?”

“We’re trying to save them time. We’re trying to save them money.”

5.  More intense exam prep predicted

Many top higher education institutions in the US are moving away from requiring standardised test results in their admission policy as it unfairly disadvantages less privileged students and does not provide a good measure of a student’s ability.

However, this new change would likely increase the importance of standardised tests, encouraging students to continue retaking individual sections until they earn the highest scores possible. Richer students would benefit from this further as they would be the ones who are able to afford more test fees and tutors.

Sally Rubenstone, senior contributor at College Confidential said: “I worry that most of the high-achieving kids in my orbit will retest and retest until they can bump subsections of 33 and 34 up to 35 and 36. So standardised testing will become even more of an extracurricular activity than it already is”.

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