What the New ACT Changes Mean for Test-Takers

test prep

In October 2019, the ACT, one of two main admissions exams accepted by American universities, announced several changes to their testing policies, each of which will have its own impact on test-takers and their study processes. Here's what you can expect.


Since 1959, the standardized ACT exam has been used to assess high school students' abilities in English, math, reading and scientific reasoning, making it a key part of the college admissions process. Here are the things that have changed with the ACT's recent announcement, effective as of September 2020:

  • Students will be able to retake specific sections of the ACT. This option is available for students who have taken the full ACT.
  • Students will be able to ''superscore'' their ACT, meaning that the final score they send to colleges can consist of their best scores from each ACT section, instead of those from multiple retake attempts.
  • Students will be able to choose between online testing and paper testing.

The ACT has recently announced new changes

The Good

If you don't do so well on one section of next year's ACT and want to retake it to improve your score on said section, you won't have to restudy for and retake the entire test. That means you can focus your studying on the individual subjects in which you need the most help.

''Superscoring'' is a change that will allow you to put your best face forward to universities and scholarship organizations, sending them the score that represents you at your academic best, instead of one that shows how well you can do in one sitting. You'll potentially be able to send a higher score than you would have otherwise.

And for students who prefer to do things online rather than on paper, which is most likely all of those associated with Generation Z, the option to take the ACT online offers the opportunity to take the test in the format you find most comfortable. Further, you'll get your multiple-choice results faster, as quickly as two business days after the date of the online test.

Changes to the ACT have both good and bad implications

The Bad

That said, there are concerns being raised about the real impact of the changes to the ACT, which may add even more stress to what's already a highly fraught part of the high school and college admissions experience. Specifically, people are worried that the ability to retake certain sections of the test to ''customize'' scores will prove to be an advantage for wealthier, more privileged families that can afford individual coaching sessions, prep courses, and test dates, while disadvantaging those who cannot afford those perks.

Further, some worry that the ''superscore'' option will inflate test scores to the point that they'll begin to lose meaning, making it harder to distinguish among students who are more or less deserving of being admitted to a specific college. This situation may even drive more colleges to follow a recent trend, whereby test scores are optional when submitting applications.

It'll take time to see exactly how these new changes will play out and influence the educational community. For now, students will have to do what they always have: achieve to the best of their abilities within their means.

Students can now take the ACT online

For more information on the ACT and helpful resources, check out this ACT info page on Study.com.

By Daisy Rogozinsky
November 2019

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