Students Rethink Testing After ACT Announces Changes

Elisa D.
November 18, 2019

On Tuesday, October 8, ACT officials announced two new changes to the ACT. Beginning in September 2020, students will have the ability to retake certain sections of the college admissions exam. Students will also be able to take the exam online. The ACT’s partial retake option will provide a new and exciting option for students; the SAT, the only alternative standardized test, does not offer partial retakes. The new policy has raised questions amongst students across the nation and at Westridge.


The ACT, a standardized test and entrance exam that colleges use in the admissions process, has five sections: English, math, reading, science, and an optional essay. The maximum score on the ACT is a 36, which is a composite of all the scores of the four sections. The writing section has a separate score out of 12.


According to the ACT website, 45% of the 2015 graduating class took the test more than once. Retakes enable individuals to show improvement and progress as more and more colleges are allowing students to send in superscores. Superscores are a combination of the highest section scores on multiple SAT or ACT tests. Instead of sending in one test, students have the option to retake the test various times and send in the highest section score within each test.


Additionally, CollegeRaptor reports that 57% of those who first take the ACT as a junior and then retake it as a senior show improvement and score higher on the retake. The new policy will let students avoid redoing the entire four-hour test by making individual sections available for retakes, saving time and money for students and their families. Currently, the ACT costs $52 or $68, depending on the optional essay portion. Although the ACT board has yet to determine how much the individual section retakes will cost, ACT spokesperson Ed Colby confirmed that taking an individual section will cost less than retaking the entire ACT.


 “Although I plan on taking both the SAT and ACT, I like the idea of taking certain sections,” said Kelly S. '21. “It would save me time, money, and energy to retake certain sections in the test-taking and studying process.”


The policy has also created a shift in favor of superscoring standardized tests. Superscores have become more and more popular, with 68% of schools accepting ACT superscores. Retaking sections would allow students to focus more on improving certain parts of the test instead of the whole ACT.


“As someone who doesn’t know too much about the SAT/ACT, the new policy definitely makes the ACT seem more preferable because it might be a more accurate measure of the student’s abilities in each subject,” said Sophia C. ’22. 


The ACT has also opened up the option of online testing. Testing online rather than with pencil and paper will reduce the waiting period and allow students to get their results within a few days rather than the three weeks it typically takes to score tests. 


With online testing and individual section retaking, how does it affect current seniors, juniors, and sophomores? Seniors are not eligible for the new ACT policy because it doesn’t go into effect until next year. 


“Before I decided to take the SAT or ACT, I took practice tests for both and scored about equally. I ended up taking the SAT, but if the policy to take individual sections at a time was in place when I was testing, I would have definitely chosen the ACT,” said Jaya S. ’20, who was surprised by the news. “I think the new ACT policy makes scoring higher easier. The problem will now come from the SAT versus ACT choice because of score disparities, so colleges may just have to start expecting higher ACT scores.”


“With the ability to retake individual ACT sections, most students will be able to achieve higher scores, raising the score needed to get into most schools. I don’t foresee this change making taking the ACT over the SAT a better option to get into more competitive schools, because everyone will be scoring better,” predicted Anelise P. '20, who has already taken the SAT. 


For some Westridge students, the new policy won’t change their approach to testing. “I feel like my overall performance on the SAT outweighs retaking one section for the ACT, especially since I struggled with multiple sections,” said Bayley D., a junior who is preparing to take the SAT in the spring.


But to others, the ACT seems more appealing now given the new changes. “I personally would not want to retake a 3-4 hour test if I could just retake individual sections,” Riya D. '22 said. “Overall, the new policy makes the ACT much more appealing to the SAT.” Riya originally planned to take the ACT but is now certain that it’s the best choice for her.  


However, others are encouraging students to focus more on their studies overall in their four years of high school rather than specifically testing. “It takes a student four years to earn their grade point average and four hours to take a ‘full’ ACT test. What do you think is more important to the colleges?  Thus, my best advice is that students should concentrate on their learning from their very wise teachers,” said Kathleen O’ Reilly, one of Westridge’s college counselors. 


Even though the current seniors will not be affected by the change, the policy has impacted the way students and college counselors prepare for an approaching testing season. The overall impact on scores and test results has yet to be determined.