In keeping with our mission, beginning in September 2020 we’re enhancing the ACT test experience with new options that simultaneously increase students’ opportunities for success while providing a better testing experience.
These new options demonstrate ACT’s ongoing commitment to broaden opportunities for students by giving them more choice, more comfort and more certainty that their test scores tests will best reflect their hard work, overall academic achievement and potential for success throughout their lives.
First, to showcase students’ skills and accomplishments gained over a lifetime and not only their test-taking abilities on one particular day, with the introduction of ACT SECTION RETESTING students who have taken the ACT test now will have the opportunity to retake one or more single-section ACT tests (English, reading, math and science) to improve their scores.
Next, to better align with how today’s students learn and the comfort many of them feel taking tests online, students now will be able to choose between ONLINE TESTING and traditional paper-and-pencil testing. Taking the test in a way that’s most comfortable for them will allow students to focus on what’s most important: doing their best on the test without distraction.
In turn, students who test online will get FASTER TEST RESULTS (multiple choice results as soon as 2 business days) that will allow them and the schools and scholarships to which they apply to make better, more informed and timely decisions.
Finally, the introduction of ACT SUPERSCORING will allow students who have taken the ACT more than once or section retests to have ACT use their best scores to calculate their composite superscore, which will better reflect their knowledge and achievements. (ACT will provide test results from an entire ACT test, along with the best scores, to higher education institutions who determine and maintain their own admissions score policies.)
As a mission-driven organization whose purpose is to help students succeed in school and throughout their lives, we’re always looking for ways to improve students’ experiences with the ACT test. We believe these new options allow students to achieve their highest possible scores and, in turn, have access to the academic and scholarship opportunities they need to build the lives they want.
Many factors have driven this change — student needs, technology and ACT’s latest research.
But the truth is, today’s students deserve a test that better matches the way they learn and measure their progress. We’ve spent a great deal of time identifying the enhancements to the test experience that would most benefit students and how to implement them, grounding these changes in research to ensure their equity and validity. We were not willing to introduce these changes before we felt certain they would help students reach their goals.
Since it was founded in 1959, ACT has been a nonprofit organization, which has allowed it to put the priorities of students and schools first. These new enhancements are based on the needs of students, parents, counselors, higher education officials and departments of education in order to help students maximize their potential for success.
...are you introducing these enhancements now to regain market share?
As a nonprofit organization, our focus is on students and improving educational outcomes. Our goal is to improve the ACT test experience so students have the best opportunity possible to gain access to the schools and scholarships of their choice. These new test options will give students more choices and improve the testing experience while maintaining the quality and validity of the test scores as accurate reflections of students’ academic achievements and preparedness for future success.
...the privileged? How will these enhancements bring greater equity to the admissions process?
ACT is always pursuing solutions to remove barriers in the college admissions process for students from underserved backgrounds. Our current solutions include providing 1) fee waivers for the ACT test; 2) free test preparation and high-quality learning materials for all through ACT Academy; and 3) up to 20 free score reports for students who register with a fee waiver.
Also, ACT will offer students practice test online so they will have experience with computer-based testing, before they choose a paper or online test.
... in a new direction?
As a nonprofit, mission-driven organization, these enhancements:
Continue our legacy of evolving to meet the changing needs of students, parents, counselors, higher education officials and departments of education.
Support our mission of expanding opportunities for all students so they reach their potential and achieve success.
Reflect our aspiration to lead our industry through research and technology in order to help students, parents, secondary and higher education and others navigate a quickly changing and increasingly complex world.
These enhancements are a part of a larger evolution at ACT that’s moving us from being an organization primarily known for assessment to one that is creating a new, data-driven learning ecosystem that benefits students and others. In particular, the changes:
Allow us to provide new options for students that enable personalized insights designed to help them succeed.
Create solutions that improve the testing experience.
Provide tools to help students make informed decisions as they make decisions to navigate their education and career.
...are you considering?
We’re always looking for ways to help students succeed in school and in their career. While we don’t discuss our plans until they have been fully researched, tested and proven helpful to students, we have a 60-year mission-driven legacy of offering solutions that best help people achieve success in school and the workplace.
As a mission-driven organization whose purpose is to help students succeed in school and throughout their lives, we’re always looking for ways to improve students’ experiences with the ACT test. One of the ways we do this is by talking to students and parents and listening to what they have to say and how they believe we can improve the test experience. Surveys, focus groups and quantitative and qualitative research – as well as ACT’s research and technology enhancements - informed our decision to introduce these options. We believe they allow students to potentially achieve their highest possible scores in keeping with the ACT test’s validity and fairness and, in turn, provide students with access to the academic and scholarship opportunities they need to build the lives they want.
In fall 2016, ACT introduced updates to the ACT score report that added a number of reporting category scores for each subject area. The new scores, which were presented in a new report layout, provided more robust information for students to understand their areas of strength and areas in which they could improve. In addition, the new reporting layout made the test results easier to interpret.
... they’re going into effect?
We’ll use this time to partner with schools and other organizations to ensure they understand the enhancements and are able to properly conduct the ACT test with the enhancements. We’ll also talk with students so they can begin to make informed decisions about selecting their test experience, including taking practice tests online through ACT Academy.
...will these other enhancements be available to them, as well?
Students who take the ACT at international test centers currently test online and receive their score results beginning two business days after the test date. Beginning in September 2020, superscores will be available to students who test at international test centers. ACT is evaluating the availability of section retesting for students who test at international test centers in the future but it won’t be offered at international test centers next year.
...these enhancements part of that change?
Whether tests are administered online or on paper, we are continuously improving our processes around test security. The purpose of these new options is to better meet the needs of today’s students and provide them with greater flexibility.
...on test per IEPs and 504s?
Policies related to extended time will not change. Online testing will be standard time unless the examinee is authorized by ACT for extended time.
We anticipate that most accommodations will stay the same. Some supports may be embedded into the test delivery platform. Work is being done to make our accommodations available in the test delivery platform, including extended time, stop-the-clock breaks, multiple-day testing, text-to-speech and use of some third-party software (e.g. Dragon Naturally Speaking), along with the embedded accessibility features in TAO (e.g. Zoom, highlighter, keyboard navigation)
...individual subject tests? Will this put low-income students at an even bigger disadvantage to other students?
We will be providing opportunities for students who qualify for fee waivers to take an ACT Section Test with a fee waiver. More details will be provided at a later date.
...in order to become a test center for online testing?
We have device, system and infrastructure capabilities outlined as part of September 2020 delivery. Specifics are being finalized and will be ready well in advance of launch. Learn more about participation in online studies.
...some other significant technical challenge occurs?
ACT has years of experience delivering tests online and has developed a very rigorous protocol to ensure that test centers are set up to deliver the test without technical issues. If the unexpected happens, we will have protocols in place to deal with irregularities.
ACT is committed to providing a high-quality assessment that provides a level playing field and fair testing experience for all students, including those with disabilities. As a result, ACT provides accommodations to students who quality. Students will continue to work with local school officials to request available accommodations via our Test Accessibility and Accommodations system (TAA).
...with extended time?
All examinees will be able to access accessibility features via the online version of the ACT test, including answer eliminator, answer masking, browser zoom, keyboard navigation, line reader, magnifier, and highlighter. In addition, eligible students may take the online ACT test with timing code 6 (50% extended time in a single session).
Eligible students who require any amount of extended time, including 50% extended time in a single session or other accommodations not available via online testing, may take the ACT via paper testing.
During registration, the student indicates a need for accommodations to access the ACT test. After doing so, the student will be prompted to choose between a preference for online administration at a test center or a paper administration at the student’s home school. Eligible students may take the online ACT test with timing code 6 (50% extended time in a single session).
If a student chooses an online administration with 50% extended time in a single session, the student will schedule a test date and location within the registration system.
If the student chooses a paper administration, scheduling will be done within the Test Accessibility and Accommodations system (TAA).
Superscoring a way for students to put their best test results forward, as they apply for admissions and scholarships. The ACT test provides students with four subject test scores and a composite score. Superscoring is the process by which colleges consider the highest subject scores across all the dates the student took the ACT. Rather than confining scores to one particular test date, superscoring allows the student to select their highest individual test subject scores across all of their testing/retesting to calculate the highest possible composite score.
...now it’s an advocate. Why have you changed your stance on this process? Is superscoring fair?
As an organization grounded in research, we listen and respond appropriately when new information comes to light. ACT now endorses superscoring because of the results from a recent study that we conducted. Over the last two years, we have been investigating whether superscoring is a fair and valid practice.
Our research findings surprised us: they revealed that superscores were more predictive of how students would perform in their college courses than other scoring methods. Our concern that superscores would overestimate students’ academic preparation levels were unfounded based on the data. In addition to being supported by research, a great benefit of superscoring is that it allows students to put their best foot forward for college applications and scholarship eligibility. Learn ACT’s Position on Superscoring
...and, thus, increase ACT’s revenue?
Since it was founded in 1959, ACT has been a nonprofit organization, which has allowed it to put the priorities of students and schools first. These new enhancements, including superscoring, are based on the needs of students and schools in order to maximize student success.
...scores and not a superscore?
Colleges establish their own policies for admissions and scholarship decisions. ACT will supply them at least one full composite score with each superscore, plus all of the scores from the test events that are part of the superscore composite.
We encourage colleges and university to consider adding superscoring to their score-use policy because, as our research shows, superscores were just as predictive – if not more predictive – of first-year grades as other scoring methods. See Perspectives on using multiple score reports.
...the advent of subject retesting?
Superscores will only increase when students improve their scores on section retests. Therefore, we cannot say whether in the aggregate superscores will improve.
Superscoring is the process by which colleges consider the highest subject scores across all the dates the student took the ACT (and, next year, including the ACT Section Retest). Rather than confining scores to one particular test date, superscoring allows the student to select their highest individual test section scores from all of their tests to calculate the highest possible composite score.
The composite score is the average of a student’s four test scores – English, mathematics, reading, science – rounded to the nearest whole number. Fractions one-half or more are rounded up; fractions less than one-half are rounded down.
The composite score is the average of students’ four section test scores. The superscore is the average of the four best scores a student attained in each section over two or more test administrations.
Superscoring benefits students by allowing them to submit their highest scores for college admission and scholarship purposes. Students’ superscores will increase if they do better on a section retest than they did on previous times they took it, or if they take the entire test again. Superscoring and section retests showcase students’ skills and accomplishments gained over a lifetime and not only their test-taking abilities on one particular day. See How to calculate your superscore?
Colleges may want to consider superscoring given the results of a recent study conducted by ACT. The findings indicate that superscores were more predictive of how students would perform in their college courses than other scoring methods.
In addition to being supported by research, a great benefit of superscoring is that it allows students to put their best foot forward for college applications and scholarship eligibility.
Another reason a college should consider superscoring the ACT is if they are already superscoring the SAT. Whatever score-use policy an institution chooses, that policy should be applied consistently to all applicants. Concerns of fairness arise if one score-use policy (most recent score) is applied to some groups of applicants (e.g., females, ACT test takers) and a different score use policy (superscore) is applied to other groups of applicants (e.g., males, SAT test takers).
...but not the ACT?
If colleges superscore the SAT but not the ACT, ACT test takers can be negatively impacted because they do not benefit from the typical score gains associated with superscoring.
Whatever score-use policy an institution chooses, that policy should be applied consistently to all applicants. If a college is superscoring the SAT and wishes to continue to superscore the SAT, ACT recommends that they also superscore the ACT to be fair to all applicants.
In addition to considering the results of national validity studies, many colleges conduct local validity studies to inform their college admissions criteria and score-use policies. Based on results from their own research, many colleges and universities have identified superscoring as the most appropriate score-use policy in terms of predicting how applicants will perform on their campus.
No, not all colleges accept superscores but many do. Colleges and universities typically provide information about their score-use policy on their website. Students interested in applying to a particular college should consult its website to determine their score-use policy as this information can help inform whether a student should retest.
We encourage colleges and universities to consider superscoring as their score-use policy because, as our research shows, superscores are just as predictive – if not more predictive – of first-year grades as other scoring methods.
Superscoring benefits colleges by providing a more accurate indicator of how students are going to perform once in college. This is useful information from an admissions perspective as well as from a student success perspective because it more accurately identifies and provides appropriate resources to students who may be at-risk academically.
...to superscores and another school does not?
No, if a college and university applies the same score-use policy for all applicants, no applicants are at an unfair disadvantage. Students are only at an unfair disadvantage if different score policies are used for different groups of students (e.g., ACT test-takers vs. SAT test-takers) within the same institution.
That said, when considering institutions of comparable selectivity, a student may have a higher probability of being accepted at institutions that superscore as compared to institutions that do not, particularly if his/her superscore is relatively higher than an ACT Composite score based on other scoring methods.
ACT section retest is testing one or more of the subjects offered on the full ACT test (English, math, reading or science, plus writing). Students benefit by retesting only in areas needing improvement, not take the entire ACT test again.
Based on our research, we believe section retesting showcases students’ skills and accomplishments gained over a lifetime and not only their test-taking abilities on one particular day.
Section retests are identical to the ACT test in content covered, timing and the number of questions for each subject test. The difference is the section retests allow students to only take one or more subject tests on the same day other students are taking the entire ACT test.
Section retests can help students increase their superscore when they improve on the score they received previously in that subject area. For example, students who receive 15 in a subject area on National Test Day will increase their superscore if they receive anything above that in a retest in that same subject. Section retests provide students an opportunity to do so without having to take the entire ACT test over again, saving time and allowing them to focus on areas needing improvement.
...the entire ACT test?
Our research on superscoring indicates that scores don’t need to be from a single testing experience to be valid. Selecting students’ best scores from any test attempt results in the most valid indicator of a student’s preparedness for future success and therefore provides evidence supporting section retesting.
We have also conducted research to examine whether the order in which a student takes the ACT subject tests affects their performance. We find that students perform similarly regardless of test order. That is, regardless of whether you take the English test last or first, you are expected to earn the same score, which also supports the shift to single-subject retesting.
It is important to note that regardless of differences in test administrations across students (e.g., computer vs. paper, full test battery or single subject retesting, one test form vs. another), ACT is known for its research expertise and our ability to deliver scores that you can trust. That is, a score of 20 means the same thing regardless of testing conditions.
Students can improve their chance of increasing their scores on specific subjects. Section retests are offered online only and are identical in content and follow the same format as the full ACT test. The only difference is that students taking the retest are only taking the tests for individual subjects, not the entire battery of tests. Section retests are only available to students who have completed the full battery either through national, state or district testing. They are offered seven times a year and on the same dates as the national ACT test.
Section retests are valid and predict a student’s knowledge just like the full ACT test. In fact, section retests are identical in content and follow the same format as the full ACT test. The only difference is that students taking the retest are only taking the tests for individual subjects, not the entire battery of tests.
Section retests are valid and predict a student’s knowledge just like the full ACT test. Students can improve their chances of increasing their scores and, in turn, their composite score, by choosing to only retake specific section tests. This will allow them to focus their studies and do their best in that subject.
We recommend colleges adopt the ACT section retest score into their score-use policy and superscore the ACT since this reflects the student’s command of the subject.
...ACT Composite score?
Because the composite score is the average of students’ four scores across English, math, reading and science, a higher retest score in any of these subject areas will increase the overall test average.
When students receive a higher score on a section retest, their superscore, which allows them to put their best test results forward, also improves.
...of the ACT Section Retest? When will that be available?
We do not plan to roll out section retesting as part of ACT’s state and district testing programin fall 2020. ACT is looking into the desire and feasibility of offering the subject retesting option in the state and district testing program in the future. However, students who have taken the ACT on a school day through state or district testing can participate in section retesting at an ACT test center on our national test dates.
The ACT test is offered to students across the U.S. and in U.S. territories and Puerto Rico on national test days. The specific dates are listed on our website, ACT.org, and vary month to month and, in some instances, by state. Section retests are offered on national test days, as well. See more College Planning Resources
ACT section retests follow the same format as the full ACT test. English test is 45 minutes. Math is 60 minutes. Reading is 35 minutes. Science is 35 minutes. Writing is 40 minutes.
ACT section retests follow the same format as the full ACT test. The English subject test has 75 questions. The math subject test has 60 questions. The reading subject test has 40 questions. The science subject test has 40 questions. The writing test has 1 prompt.
Beginning in September 2020, they will be offered seven times a year and on the same dates as the national ACT test.
No. ACT section retests are only available online. Paper format is not offered for the ACT section retests.
By retesting just one subject instead of all four subjects, students can increase their ACT superscore, reducing their stress and the time commitment required to take the full ACT test. When students take a section retest, they can focus their studying on that subject alone, saving time and allowing for more concentrated study. If their section retest score is higher than a previous score in that subject, their composite score will also increase.
Registration for an ACT section tests will be similar to the ACT test.
...took the full ACT test?
Yes. Section retests will be available only to students who have completed the full ACT test either through national, state or district testing.
...in a modular way?
ACT has studies planned to confirm comparability to modular testing.
...does that disadvantage kids from school districts that have fewer computer resources?
Students will be able to search for test centers that offer online testing, and they may or may not have to go to a school that differs from their home school.
...or do they have to pay for the entire test again?
ACT will make a future announcement regarding cost.
ACT will make a future announcement regarding cost.
...all on the same day?
Students may take up to three section retests on a national test date. The section retests will all occur on the same day.
...section tests, since section tests are only offered online?
Yes. Students who take the full ACT test on paper can take the retests online. Retests are available online only, so they are not available to take on paper, even if a student took the full ACT test on paper.
Yes, they may. There are no limits on the number of times a student may take a section test.
...taking the entire test? If so, will they be in the same room? How will that work?
Students will take the section retests on the same day that students are taking the full ACT test. The students taking the section retest will be in a different room than students taking the full ACT test, however.
For online testing, multiple-choice scores and the ACT composite score will begin to be reported as soon as two business days after the test date. For paper testing, multiple-choice scores are reported two to eight weeks after the test date. For students taking the writing test, scores are normally available two to three weeks following multiple-choice scores results are available.
...Parents? High-school educators? Higher-education professionals?
Waiting for test scores can be an anxious time, so receiving scores more quickly may alleviate the anxiety students feel.
Receiving test scores faster allows students to decide more quickly if they want to retest the full ACT or take a section retest and, in turn, allows them to begin prepping for it sooner, too.
Receiving test scores faster allows students to focus earlier on those schools and scholarship opportunities that make the most sense for them.
Receiving test scores faster reduces anxiety parents feel, too, and allows them to more quickly help their children make decisions and plans on retesting and school and scholarship applications
High school educators
Receiving test scores faster gives school guidance counselors more time to help students decide on next steps in their testing and application journey.
Higher education professionals
Receiving test scores faster may help schools make admissions and scholarship decisions more quickly.
...students who don’t have access to computers and the internet. Tell me about how you will assure that online testing will work for these students.
Students will be able to choose whether they take the ACT online or on paper. Taking the ACT in the setting that is most comfortable to them allows them to focus on doing their best. Keep in mind, students are not asked to provide their own device but will use the desktop computers or devices provided at the ACT test centers. See The Digital Divide and Educational Equity.
...do away with all paper and pencil testing?
At this time, there are no plans to discontinue paper and pencil testing.
At this time, national online testing will not be offered on weekdays; however, schools that offer the ACT test through our state and district offering have the option to offer the ACT test online during the week while school is in session.
Online testing takes place only at designated testing centers. It does not take place at a student’s home or at any other location.
Students taking the test online are required to use laptops or computers provided by the testing center. They are not allowed to use their own equipment.
...and taking the test using paper and pencil?
Since the 1980’s, computer-based testing has been replacing paper-and-pencil testing as the norm for most assessment applications, from K-12 progress evaluations to state driver’s license knowledge tests. Numerous and extensive research studies and operational results have shown that online testing can be equitable, fair, reliable, valid, and comparable to paper-and-pencil testing in terms of reported scores. Advantages to online testing include enhanced test taker experiences, faster score reporting, and better test security.
In 2015, ACT introduced online administrations in State & District testing. Each year since, tens of thousands of students have completed the ACT online with no major technology issues or concerns about scores. In the fall of 2018, the ACT International test moved online as well; again with excellent results. We will ensure similar results are achieved when the ACT National test goes online in September 2020.
... and pencil. How does ACT take into account the difference in computer speeds, time to load, etc.?
Before administering a test online, we will work to make sure that there are no challenges to the student in terms of delivery (computer speed, time to load, etc.). We conduct proof of concept, rendering, focus groups, and cognitive labs to ensure an optimal experience using the computer.
In addition, ACT has conducted rigorous studies to evaluate the impact of administration conditions—such as timing
differences—on the performance of test takers and will implement statistical procedures to ensure that scores from paper and online administrations mean the same thing. Extensive score comparability studies were conducted for State & District and ACT International assessments to verify that students who took the ACT either on paper or online were not disadvantaged. Similar studies will be conducted before the ACT National test goes online. In addition, ACT will carefully validate all college-reportable scores, be they from paper or online tests, to ensure they are accurate and equitable.
...in more affluentschool districts which have more, better, faster and newer technology, do better than kids in less affluent districts?
Through a combination of hardware requirements and software design, ACT will create a fair and consistent user experience for all participants in ACT National online administrations.
ACT recognizes that students need to become familiar and comfortable with any new online assessment. Therefore, we will strongly encourage students to study not only ACT test content, but also to make themselves familiar with the testing platform they will encounter on test day by taking a readily available and free online ACT practice test provided by ACT beforehand.
No, the choice is the students. They will not be required to take the test online. When the test is offered online, students may choose to take it online or take the pencil and paper test.
Training will be part of the readiness procedures that will be provided to test centers.
...students not taking the tests because the school’s computers will not be available to them during testing?
The expectation is that professional educators would use best practices to work through the school’s priorities for the day.
ACT will not provide an identifier as to whether the test was online or paper based.
...taking it paper?
ACT will make a future announcement regarding cost.
...about what you’ll be offering now? Or is it that it will just be more widely available?
The ACT has been offered online for State and District testing since 2015 and Internationally since 2018. Starting in September 2020 it will be offered online for our National test takers.
...during testing? Can they be sued?
ACT is reviewing what may need to be included in our Terms & Conditions regarding this topic.
...studies and statistical analysis needed to be completed to ensure comparability of a paper exam score with one from a computer, time the test loading and scrolling speeds of various laptops, and assure that computerized testing doesn’t work to the advantage of some groups of students over others. Tell us more about this research and the results.
ACT research shows that both paper and online versions of the ACT Test are designed and scored to achieve comparable results.
ACT will release timed and untimed online practice tests so students can experience taking the ACT test in the online format.
It is important to note that the online test material is the same as the paper version. As a result, we continue to help students prepare for the ACT in either format. There are test prep options for every type of learner.
The Official Beginner’s Guide for ACT is a great first step to success on the ACT® test. Learn the best strategies to prepare, receive online access to a PreACT® Diagnostic test, and access to both a printed and online ACT practice test.
The Official ACT Prep Guide 2019-2020 is the most robust guide from the makers of the ACT® test.
ACT® Online Prep is an online tool that offers a personalized learning path and daily goals to help students stay on target and track their progress.
ACT® Rapid Review is an online classroom that provides students with live or on-demand instructions from an expert teacher.
Free ACT prep tools include the Preparing for the ACT printable practice test, online subject test practice, and ACT® Academy™, a free online learning tool and test practice program that offers personalized exercises and two full-length practice tests.
Learn about all the ACT Test Prep options.
ACT conducted comparability studies in 2014 and 2015, in operational testing environments where participating students received college-reportable scores. Equating methodology was used for all four multiple-choice tests to adjust for any differences in scores across test formats so the studies were comparable to those from examinees taking the ACT on paper. Additional research is underway to support score comparability. Results will be published upon completion of the studies.