New ACT Changes

Natalie Fiorella, Managing Editor

The ACT is one of the two national tests that students take for college admittance. The two hour and 55 minute test covers four subject areas: Reading, English, Math and Science. Students are scored in each section on a scale from one to 36, which are then averaged together to reach a final score following the same scale.
In early October, the ACT announced that starting in September 2020, they will provide students with the option to retake specific sections, rather than retake the entire test.
This announcement comes after the other standardized test, the SAT, dethroned the ACT as the most widely taken exam in the nation in 2018. However, the ACT is still the more popular of the two in the Midwest, according to Study Point.
Many colleges are now choosing to be test-optional, which might hurt both the ACT and SAT. Over 1,050 accredited colleges that award bachelor’s degrees have now become test-optional, according to the Washington Post. While most of these colleges do not have competitive admissions, top-ranked institutions such as the University of Chicago and American University changed their requirements so that applicants can choose whether sending testing scores will help or hurt them.
Regardless of the reason for this change, it is revolutionary in college admissions, given how many high school students take the ACT for college. However, many students still work rigorously to achieve their desired score and hopefully gain admission to their dream school.
Not many people are strong in all subjects, meaning their total composite score might suffer because of that. Now that students can retake specific sections, those that are weaker in certain subjects have a chance to raise their composite score.
Senior Tarini Talagadadeevi took the ACT six times, first getting a 26 but finishing with a 35. Similar to many students who retake the ACT, she was motivated to get more scholarships to help pay for college. As someone who took the full test several times, Talagadadeevi knows firsthand how stressful the test can be and how beneficial section retesting will be.
“I think it’ll help decrease stress levels a lot because I know that I struggled with knowing what to study for,” Talagadadeevi said. “They only need to study for one subject at a time instead of having to study for four.”
Talagadadeevi predicts this change will alter how people view the test as well.
“People won’t be as intimidated by [the ACT], because there’s always the possibility of redoing sections,” Talagadadeevi said. “Which isn’t as much work as retaking the entire test.”
Talagadadeevi, like anyone else who has taken the ACT, is somewhat frustrated about this new change.
Without section retesting, the ACT presents a huge challenge and every time students fall short of their goal, they must restart all over again.
“I just feel like it’s somewhat unfair to people who have taken it as full test in the years before,” Talagadadeevi said. “But overall it’s a great new change.”
Talagadadeevi is not the only student who took the ACT several times.
Senior Riley England took the test five times and agrees that these new changes will have many advantages.
“I think the stress levels could decrease, people wouldn’t have to waste practically a whole Saturday,” England said. “Mental fatigue from testing for hours straight could lower overall focus and score improvement.”
However, England anticipates the ability to retake sections will have a few disadvantages as well.
“The tests could become harder because it will get easier for students to score higher on each section, then raising the average score.” England said.
In addition, as the test becomes easier, it might also decrease in prestige and look less impressive to colleges. The modification certainly has more advantages than disadvantages.
The debate and ACT test prep teacher, Ann Goodson, weighed in on the benefits of this modification.
“I think it’s great to allow kids to isolate the areas where they struggle and retake just those sections,” Goodson said. “It should allow kids to strategize and spend their time studying more meaningfully rather than needing to retake the entire test, and therefore study for the entire test, each time.”
As for the changes being unfair to past testers, Goodson understands where they are coming from but sees this new alteration as a good policy overall.
“I think this change is what is best for students,” Goodson said. “It might be a little frustrating to those who haven’t enjoyed the new policy yet, but overall we’re moving in the right direction and that’s good!”
Goodson has high hopes for the future of standardized tests now that the ACT has made these changes.
“I hope it will make kids less stressed because it will allow them to focus just on areas of the test where they need improvement,” Goodson said, “and not feel overwhelmed at needing to retake the whole thing.”
Goodson believes this will benefit every student who takes the ACT. This includes first-generation college students, kids living in poverty and others. A primary reason colleges initially changed to test-optional, stemmed from kids who could not afford tutors or multiple retakes. Hopefully, this modification will allow the playing field to level.
“Any time you make the college admissions process easier and more accessible, it will help vulnerable populations the most, but overall I see this policy shift being good for all kids.” Goodson said.
Along with the section retesting, the ACT announced two other new options starting next Sept. First, students can send Superscores to colleges. Superscoring is accepted by some colleges, but next year, the ACT will be calculating the score for students. The practice helps by allowing students to pick their best sections and add them together to create a higher composite score.
The ACT is also offering an online test. The ACT promises that students will receive their multiple-choice test results and the composite score as early as two business days after the test date. This will help students make more timely decisions about whether they want to test again.
All of these changes will make the ACT testing experience less stressful for individuals and ultimately prove helpful for many people.