According to a report in the New York Times, students who wish to improve their scores could retake individual parts of the exam, instead of the entire ACT. This will take a lot of pressure off test-takers, enabling them to improve their scores on one section without risking getting lower scores on sections they already did well in. It will also save them from having to sit for the entire 5-part, 3-hour exam. This change in the ACT will take place in September 2020.
Teachers, students, and parents have been debating the role of standardized testing in college admissions for years. More and more colleges and universities are making these test scores an elective part of their applications. However, a sizeable percentage of students still feel the need to produce high scores on the ACT and SAT, and spend large amounts of time and money on test-prep courses to improve their scores.
The ACT breakdown
The ACT is comprised of 5 subsections – reading, math, science, English, and an optional writing section, and are graded on a scale of 1-36. A student’s scores on the 4 required sections are averaged into a composite score. However, it is possible that their highest composite score doesn’t show their highest subscores due to a poor score on a single section.
The new ACT rule will give students a new “superscore,” which combines their best scores on the subsections from each time they took the test. Presently, students who want colleges to see their best subscores must submit all of their test results.
There is no indication yet if schools will evaluate applicants with a superscore from several tests in a different way from those with a composite score from a single test session.
The changing role of test prep
It is generally thought that the changes will help a large number of students improve their scores. Up to now, test coaches have worked with clients on the entire test. They can now customize their sessions to improve areas in which the student is lacking.
However, being able to customize scores may make test prep even more crucial than it currently is. This can increase the score disparity with those unable to afford these often costly classes.
According to Sally Rubenstone, senior contributor at College Confidential, an online admissions forum, “These ‘improvements’ don’t move the admissions process any closer to the destination that I recommend, which is not elimination tests entirely, but downgrading their importance and allowing only one – or maybe two – test sessions per student. 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 standardized testing will become even more of an extracurricular activity than it already is.”
The benefits of ACT superscores
Some schools are already building their own superscores, using the test results that students are submitting. According to Joshua Mauro, of Signet Education in Cambridge MA, schools like the superscore because it “improves their standing, their metrics.”
However, he feels that being able to retake single subsections will ultimately help students, whose scores can suffer from the anxiety and fatigue of taking a 3-hour exam. He has seen a drastic improvement in score of students taking just individual sections.
Research by the ACT concludes that superscoring is a better predictor of how students will do in their undergrad courses than other modes of scoring.
While the ACT can be taken up to 12 times, most students take it only 1 or 2 times. ACT research shows that students who take the test multiple times have first-year college grades that are slightly higher than those who only take the exam once. ACT concludes that those who took the test more than once are driven to succeed. These students have the same motivation for academic excellence.
The cost of taking the whole ACT is $52 without the optional writing section, and $68 with it. No price has yet been set for taking an individual section.
Another change will be the ability for students to take the ACT online, instead of the written test, on days it is given nationwide. Currently only international test centers and school districts administering the test during the school day are able to offer the online version.
Students will be able to see their online results within 2 business days. Results for the written version take 2-8 weeks.
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