All colleges will accept either test format. Students are encouraged to explore both exams and take a practice test at home under test conditions. If you’re working with a test preparation service/tutor, you should expect an assessment of testing formats with customized test preparation based on YOUR STUDENT’s needs.
options should relieve some of the stress over SAT/ACT scores.
Many colleges “superscore” which means that your application is evaluated on a composite score based on the best sub-scores across different test dates. This list can be found here:
So, finally-let’s talk about what’s new in the ACT and SAT testing formats:
Well by now, you’ve likely heard the news-there are some interesting changes. The ACT Organization has just announced that beginning in September 2020, students can retake single sections of the five-part three-hour exam rather than sitting for all sections a second, third or even fourth time! In theory, this upcoming change allows students to avoid the risk of getting a lower score on a section they have already taken and feel the score is sufficient for their college admissions goals.
There’s two ways of looking at this new option. On the one hand, the ACT exam may have become a whole lot easier – allowing students to focus more closely on preparing fr one or more parts in a single sitting (after an initial full test option). On the hand, the pressure to retake the exam may appeal to perfectionists- similar to the artist who can never finish a perfect painting or the person who changes their shirt a half a dozen times before leaving home. Personally, I think the college admissions process is stressful enough and I’d rather have heard news that more colleges are now on the TEST OPTIONAL LIST (see list above). You decide– the option to retest on a single part of the ACT may result in repetitive drawn out testing attempts (fortifying an already overdone industry of expensive test prep services).
The new policy just added more to an already heightened debate over role of standardized testing in the college admissions process. A growing number of universities have adopted a test optional/flexible policy. There’s no denying that still many colleges, including larger public state university systems place heavy emphasis on these scores. Parents and students feel lots of pressure to do well on the the ACT and SAT exams, and this often results in time-consuming and expensive test services.
SAT and ACT PREPARATION STRATEGY?
Begin my knowing university policy- does a target college Super Score or utilize Score Choice?
I suggest allocating a dedicated four-to-eight week time period for regular and disciplined test preparation. Ideally, students should have completed Aleg 1, & II and Geometry prior to taking either the ACT or SAT. For more about the contents of the exam, please read my earlier blogs noted above.
SOPHOMORE – JUNIOR-
When to Test? Should You Retest?
First, let’s be clear, the SAT isn’t yet on board with this single-section testing option. If you are taking the ACT- this option may be in your interest. Speaking with your college counselor about your study habits, time management and other issues to carefully map out a test preparation timeline not later than the middle of 10th grade. I said set your timeline-but for some students – the actual prep may not be until 11th. Have a plan in place. Knowing when you will be prepared for the content of these exams and have the time to do so depends on – all the other demands of challenging courses, AP/IB/AICE exams, subject tests and your busy extracurricular schedule (Robotics, Theater, Sports, Music, Math Team??).
The new ACT testing policy has many parents, teachers and college advisors concerned that the policy will just fuel the college admissions frenzy-and yes, further disadvantaging students who lack the financial resources for access to SAT/ACT preparation.
I provided a detailed discussion of the components of the ACT exam and exam scoring above. Each section is graded on a scale of 1 to 36, and the four required sections are averaged into a composite exam score. The new policy being rolled out in September 2020, will provide students with a “superscore” that based on the highest scores of subscores across each testing date. The current policy forces students to send colleges multiple test results. Under the new policy, a superscore will appear on the score report.
Just because the ACT will provide a superscore option, doesn’t yet mean that universities will accept and evaluate this differently. I caution students to be aware of each college’s policy on SuperScore and ScoreChoices – two different issues.
So what’s your strategy. There’s an old adage-measure twice, cut once and I think that applies here.
Prepare to do your best on the exam at your first attempt-studying carefully for all sections. I fear students will now consider taking the exam four times – focused on one section at a time- I cannot imagine a more protracted agony! My other concern is that students with highly selective college goals will test, retest and retest bumping sub-sections from 33 until they reach 35/36 – sadly redirecting limited and valuable time which could be spent more joyfully on extracurricular activities- turning test prep into a time-consuming obsession.
Whether you find this humorous or intriguing- did you know that students can take the ACT exam up to 12 times! According to the ACT research, “students who take the test more than once have increased first-year college grades than those who take the test a single sitting”. ACT suggested this is a reflection of student motivation- I beg to differ.
Currently the ACT costs $52 without the optional writing section, and $68 with writing. ACT hasn’t yet announced pricing for single-section testing —but you can bet this is going to be a huge revenue boost for the organization and for test-preparation services. The current battle for market share-1.9 million ACT takers and 2.1 SAT takers annually.
Again- disciplined test prep – measure twice, cut once. High school is about discovery and joy. Our students face so much unneeded pressure – so let’s do what we can so they don’t have to jump through hoops and hurdles that rob them of peace. Everyone finds their path- one test isn’t the defining aspect for our amazing and wonderful young adults will lead. Parents-what was your SAT/ACT score- did it define or change your life? Probably not! That said, please don’t misinterpret my message- -the exam is relevant and should be taken seriously- but taking the exam over and over and over-that’s just not a strategy I support nor encourage even under the new ACT policy.
One last note-the ACT’s competitor also announced a recent change. You may recall the controversial SAT Adversity index – I wrote about it here
. Well, under pressure from industry groups, parents and college counselors, the SAT Adversity Score was “quietly” (cough cough) abandoned. I think we will all be relieved when both the ACT and SAT are both put to rest permanently. Sadly, that is not anytime soon -but change is on the horizon as evidenced by the growing number of outstanding universities adding their name to the test Optional list.
Some highly ranked test-flexible schools include the following:
- Brandeis University
- Colby College
- Colorado College
- Hamilton College
- Middlebury College
- New York University (NYU
Need some guidance on your test preparation and test taking strategies – please reach out.