The ACT Advantage vs. the SAT

Students will be able to retake part of the test.

October 14, 2019
 

ACT announced scoring reforms on its ACT exam last week. The changes are effective September 2020. They will allow test takers:

  • Who have already taken the full ACT to retake only a part of the exam (English, math, reading, science or writing).
  • To decide whether to take the test online or on paper.
  • To use "superscoring" in which they combine scores from multiple ACT tests.

The key advantage to the ACT superscoring -- as opposed to that of the College Board with the SAT -- is that someone doesn't need to retake the entire test. Students could just take the portion of the ACT they wanted.

The College Board didn't respond to questions about the ACT change but explains the SAT's approach to superscoring here.

Generally, testing experts saw the ACT changes as making the ACT more competitive against the SAT, but they were divided on whether it would help low-income students.

Magoosh, a test-prep company, blogged, "We’re hopeful that the changes announced today by the ACT, if rolled out with transparency and the best interests of students in mind, will give high schoolers more opportunities to get into their dream college by putting their best score forward on their college applications."

But the company added, "However, there’s a chance this plan could unintentionally provide even more of an advantage to those students who have the means (time and money) to take the ACT multiple times. In the wake of the college admissions scandals, we all need no reminders about how inherently unfair the college application process can be, particularly for low-income students and students from marginalized backgrounds."

Robert Schaeffer, public education director of FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing, said that "clear winners" include ACT and the test-prep industry, "which will attract even more revenue from upper-income families seeking to maximize the scores reported to admissions offices."

"The losers," he said, would be "kids from historically disadvantaged backgrounds, whose scores will fall further behind their more advantaged peers because they do not have the resources or knowledge to game the new system."

Still, he called the change a "shrewd revision will almost certainly boost ACT's admissions testing market share versus the SAT."

Suzana Delanghe, ACT chief commercial officer, said that the changes would not make the ACT easier. "Our research shows that ACT scores for students who take individual section tests are consistent with those earned when they take the entire test. We are simply offering new ways to take the ACT, saving students time and giving them the ability to focus only on subject areas needing improvement," she said.

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