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Reactions to the ACT Announcement

The ACT’s October 8th announcement is a big deal in the world of admissions testing. Starting next September, students taking the ACT will be allowed to retake standalone sections of the test to increase their scores (rather than retaking the entire test), and the ACT will be offering computer-based testing on national testing dates for interested students. In addition, the ACT will start issuing superscored score reports to colleges. Because these changes have a direct impact on the student testing experience, we asked a few of our tutoring experts to weigh in on the upcoming changes. Here’s what they had to say!

Jenna Berk, Premium Tutor and Tutor Manager:

My initial reaction was one of excitement for my students. These tests can be so long, which is often a deterrent against taking it more than once, and our research shows that students who take official tests at least twice see an increase in scores. It’s also great for anyone who wants to improve a section score in the latter part of the test: now they won’t have to sit through two (or more) sections just to get to the one part of the test they want to improve. My worry is that the curve will be really intense for those latter sections, especially Science, but only time will tell.

Richard Vigneault, Director of Instructional Design:

This is a big win for students who struggle with test anxiety. Make no mistake: testing is a performance. Students’ scores have always reflected both their knowledge of the content and their ability to withstand the ordeal of sitting for hours, struggling with hunger, and keeping their minds sharp. By reducing the physical and mental burden of test day, the ACT will empower students to focus more on what they can control by practicing content in school and at home. This change, along with a cheaper price tag, would go a long way toward leveling the playing field for hard-working students across the country.

Matt Kiesner, Premium Tutor and Training Manager:

The ACT has to think about three different customers: students, schools, and college admissions offices. Individual students can certainly benefit by having the option of taking the test piece by piece. It’s unclear how this policy would affect in-school test days, but it doesn’t seem likely that many schools, districts, or states are going to pay for their students to take additional sections. This could create greater score discrepancies between high and low-income students. The biggest gamble is with college admissions offices. Will higher ACT scores devalue the test? Will more and more schools no longer accept ACT superscores? College’s reactions will determine whether this new policy is a success or not.

Bess Kaye, Premium Tutor and Market Director:

I have frequently had students ask me if it is possible to just retake one section of the test. My first instinct to the ACT’s new change is that I’ll be glad to tell them that now they can and alleviate the stress of having to work on the entire test. However, it seems a double-edged sword, as it will open the door for students to fret and fixate on just one section. I anticipate altering my approach to the ACT to include more of a conversation about a holistic approach to the application process and that one section score will not make or break their entire college application

Sarah Fletcher, Premium Tutor and Curriculum Designer:

The ACT has done research that they claim shows that the order the individual sections are given in doesn’t affect the outcome of the test. Anecdotally, however, I have worked with multiple students who struggle with getting through the science section because of testing fatigue even though they are comfortable with the science section in isolation in practice. It might not be for everyone, but there are definitely students who will benefit from being able to take the science section fresh.

John Cadenhead, Senior Director of Tutor Services:

I am of two minds about this announcement. On one hand, the ability to take one section at a time will be very beneficial for students who want to raise scores for one section or who struggle with the pacing of the test. On the other hand, because so many high scoring students will opt to use this process, I worry that the scale of the test will be detrimental for students shooting for the 28-34 range specifically. 


No matter what happens in September 2020, we’ll be here, researching the best ways to prepare students for success on the ACT, SAT, and beyond! We’ll keep you updated on changes to the college admissions testing world, so stay tuned. 

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