• Updated June 25, 2020 to reflect new section retesting timing due to COVID-19
The ACT is making some big changes this year and next. Starting in September 2020, the ACT will provide a computer-based testing option and also begin issuing superscored reports to colleges. In 2021, students will have the ability to retake individual ACT sections and opt into remote testing from home or another secure location.
We know that preparing for the ACT or SAT is already stressful enough without throwing major changes into the mix, and we’re here to help. We’ve built this free ACT test changes resource for students and their advocates - parents, guardians, counselors and educators - to stay informed, even as things continue to change. On this page, you’ll find a detailed explanation of each change and our Applerouth insight on how to build a winning game plan with each new feature in mind.
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Computer-based testing, or CBT, will let you take your ACT on a computer, using a specialized online platform. Apart from the online platform, the computer-based ACT will be the same as the paper test: same sections, same length, same content, and same number of questions.
How does Computer-Based Testing work?
If you are registered for CBT, your testing site will provide you with the computer you need for your ACT. You’ll just have to bring yourself and your calculator. The platform will have different features, like highlighters and line readers, but you’ll still need to bring a calculator from the approved list.
Where will the computer-based ACT be offered?
Computer-based testing will be offered at certain testing locations. When you register for an ACT test date, you’ll see if any CBT-enabled locations are available in your area.
How and when can I register for a computer-based ACT?
How long will it take me to get my results?
If you take a computer-based ACT, you’ll get your results in as little as two days. Paper-based ACT results will still take two weeks.
Can I get accommodations on the computer-based ACT?
If you have approved accommodations (like extra time or large-print testing materials), the ACT will try to accommodate them on the online platform. Your accommodations letter will specify where and when you have to test, including whether that will be CBT-enabled.
Do I have to take the ACT on the computer?
No. Right now, you’ll be able to choose a paper test if you are taking a full ACT, but if you plan to participate in section retesting when that rolls out in 2021, you’ll have to take those sections on the computer at a CBT-enabled test site (for more information, see Section Retesting below).
What is remote testing?
Starting in 2021, the ACT plans to offer a remote testing option that will enable students to test from home or another secure location using a remote proctor. They’ve stated that their testing platform will be both accessible and secure, making the remote test a good approximation of an in-person test. The ACT has not released details yet, but they’re confident they can administer the test with remote proctors, ensuring the test is fair to all students. We're carefully monitoring the development of ACT's remote testing plans. Sign up for our newsletter to stay ahead of the game.
The ACT has been administering computer-based tests to international students since September 2018, and their goal is to eventually go fully digital. When CBT is widely available, it will make testing faster and more secure, which is great for everyone. Right now, though, the impact of CBT will be different for each student.
How can CBT help my testing plan?
Depending on where you live, you may or may not have access to a CBT-enabled testing site. That means that CBT may have a small or large impact on your testing plan - it depends on you and your situation! If you are able to take a computer-based ACT, you’ll have access to the built-in features of the testing platform and you’ll get your scores in 2 days, rather than the 2 weeks it typically takes for paper test results.
How can Applerouth help me prepare for the computer-based ACT?
We’ll help you decide what type of testing you should prepare for. This will depend on a variety of factors, including your testing timeline, your college list, and the availability of computer-based testing in your area. If it turns out CBT is the best option for you, our tutors and online ACT practice tests will help you get used to the format and tools of the online testing platform. If paper is the way to go, then that’s how we’ll help you prepare. The same goes for remote testing: if it’s right for you, we’ll get you ready for it.
Superscoring is a great way to maximize your score and hit new records for yourself. The ACT will be providing colleges with superscored reports, which will also include any scores gained from section retesting when that becomes available. Students can choose whether they want to send a superscored report.
How does superscoring work?
An ACT superscore is the average of your four highest individual section scores from all the dates you took the ACT. Your regular ACT composite score is the average of the four sections for any given test date. Imagine you took the ACT in July and September and scored the following:
Both composite scores - an average of the sections - look the same, but with superscoring, the test report will take the highest section scores and calculate a new composite, which would be a 26, two points higher than your composite score on either full test.
What will the new superscored reports show?
Colleges will be able to see your highest full battery ACT score and all scores from the test dates that contribute to your superscore. A “full battery” ACT score is the score you receive when you take the full ACT (English, Math, Reading, and Science) on a single test date.
Superscored reports will help colleges easily calculate your superscores. The benefit to you will depend on the colleges you’re interested in! We’ll help you develop a winning strategy for your target schools.
Will colleges accept the new superscored reports?
That’s up to each individual school! Some colleges will accept all superscore components, including full battery scores and section retest scores (when section retesting is available). Some will superscore but only using full battery scores. Some schools will not superscore at all. We’ll be tracking information from colleges as it is released.
How will Applerouth help me prepare with superscoring in mind?
If building a superscored ACT report is the best choice for you, your tutor will help you set incremental goals, focusing on improving in every full battery test (or section retest, if that’s an option for you). Every student’s college testing pathway will be different. If it’s right for you, we’ll get you ready for it.
The final new ACT feature is section retesting, which lets students retake individual sections online. Section retesting was originally set to begin in September 2020 but will now debut sometime in 2021.
How does section retesting work?
Section retesting allows a student to focus their energies on one section (English, Math, Reading, Science or Writing) at a time. In 2021, students will be able to take section retests (up to three in one sitting) at CBT-enabled test centers. First, you have to have a full ACT score on file, and it can’t be more than four years old. That means at least one full-length ACT (paper or computer-based) with English, Math, Reading, and Science. We call this a full battery test score. You don’t have to have taken the Writing section. As long as you’ve taken the full test once, you’ll be eligible to participate in as many section retestings as you choose, as long as they’re available in your area.
When will section retesting be available?
Section retesting will be available for students in the U.S. sometime in 2021.
Why won’t section retesting be available in September 2020, along with CBT and superscored reports?
When ACT, Inc announced the upcoming changes back in October 2019, they stated that section retesting would debut in September 2020, along with CBT and superscored reports. However, in the wake of COVID-19 test delays, they’ve decided to push back section retesting so they can make more seats available in testing sites for students who need full test scores.
Where will section retesting be available?
Section retesting will only be available at ACT test sites that are set up for computer-based testing. When the ACT introduces remote testing, they might make section retesting available as a part of that new testing platform, but we don’t know yet.
How and when can I register for section retesting?
When section retesting debuts next year , you’ll be able to select section retesting if it is available in your area. If section retesting is available, you’ll be able to select one, two, or three sections (the Writing counts as one section and can be taken as a ‘retest’ even if you never took it the first time around).
How much will it cost to retake a section?
According to ACT’s 2020-2021 fee schedule, the full battery test (without the Writing section) will cost $55. The full battery test (with the Writing section) will cost $70. It will cost $44 to retake one section, $48 to retake two sections, and $52 to retake three sections. (These fee amounts may change by the time section retesting officially rolls out.) The ACT will be increasing the number of fee waivers from 2 to 4 for students who qualify. If you qualify for a fee waiver, you can use it for a full test or for section retakes (one fee waiver will cover all the sections you are registered for on one day).
How many times can I retake a section?
If the ACT offers section retesting in your area, you can retake as many sections as many times as you choose to.
Section retesting will allow you to maximize your scores in specific areas, but its usefulness to your testing plan will depend on two things: whether you have access to retesting sites and whether the colleges you’re interested in will accept retested scores. Just like with computer-based testing, we’ll help you decide what’s best for you and then get you ready for game day.
Will colleges accept section retesting scores?
That is up to each individual college. Some schools will accept section retest scores to make up a superscore (see Superscored Reports), but others won’t. Colleges will publish their policies on their admissions websites, so make sure you know what the schools you are interested in will accept. We’ll also be tracking this information as it becomes available.
How can Applerouth help me prepare for section retesting?
We’ll start by helping you decide whether section retesting is right for you. For most students, the full battery test will be their main objective, with section retesting as an option for some students later in the season. It’s helpful to think about the full battery test as the main part of the game. Section retesting can be an opportunity to score points in overtime, and if that’s right for you, we’ll help you maximize your content knowledge and skills in specific areas.
Big changes can make the testing process feel even more overwhelming. How do you build a winning strategy when the rules of the game change? We’re here to help.
How do I make a testing timeline when everything is changing?
Even though the ACT is changing in some key ways, you can come out on top by keeping a few Applerouth tried-and-true tips in mind:
Plan for multiple test dates: We usually recommend students plan to take the SAT or ACT three times. That means a full battery ACT, not just section retesting. Planning for multiple test dates reduces pressure, protects you from scoring fluctuations, and allows you to prep in stages. You might not need all three testing dates, but it’s better to be overprepared!
Consider your other commitments: Testing is a season, just like football, soccer, or robotics. The testing season needs to fit into the rest of your life. You’ll be more successful if you can dedicate time and energy to prepping for the ACT. That might mean prepping in the spring if you play football in the fall, or choosing summer tests if your school year is fully booked.
Don’t worry what other people are doing - your testing plan will be as unique as you are: There are lots of different ways to plan a testing season. Some students might need to start in fall of junior year, while others will start in the spring. Some students will be able to take advantage of computer-based testing or section retesting, while others might not have access to a testing site near them. Colleges vary on their admissions requirements, superscoring policies, and section retesting policies. Your Applerouth Advisor can help you make a game plan that will take all of these factors into account and maximize your scores.
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Here you’ll find everything we’ve written so far about the ACT changes - the news flashes, the detailed coverage, and Jed Applerouth’s signature insights. We’ve been tracking the ACT changes since they were announced in 2019 and we’ll keep bringing you up-to-date coverage as these new features roll out.