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  • Writer's pictureDr. Thom

ACT Single Section Retake Options: Here's what you should know

Updated: Dec 7, 2019

Starting in September 2020, students will have the option of retaking one or more section(s) of the ACT. As you may know, the ACT is comprised of four* sections: (1) English, (2) Math, (3) Reading, and (4) Science. This new policy will allow students who have taken a full ACT battery within the last 5 years to retest on one or more of these sections. You can take up to 3 section retests in one sitting.

Here are answers to some of the questions we have been receiving. A more comprehensive FAQ on the new policy can be found on the ACT's website:

Question: How does it work?

Students who have already taken the full ACT battery within the last 5 years and who wish to increase their composite scores, will have the option to retake the whole ACT or from one to three subject sections. These section retests will be offered on the same dates as the National ACT test administrations starting with the September 2020 sitting.

Question: Does a practice ACT, like the one my school had me complete, count?

No. To have the option of retesting on a single section, you must have taken the ACT through official national, state, or district testing within the last 5 years.

Question: How will colleges use these section retakes?

That depends on whether the college superscores the ACT. If a college does superscore the ACT, it's quite simple. You will request that your score be submitted to a given college directly through the ACT who will then send a new superscored composite to the college, that includes the new section tests (assuming they are indeed higher, and thus, improve your score).

Remember that an ACT superscore is a simple statistical average, rounded to the nearest whole number, of your top ACT section scores across all test sittings.

Here's a simple example:

Sitting 1: 25 English 28 Math 30 Reading 28 Science = Composite 28

Retest: 31 English 32 Math = Superscore Composite using top scores: 30

It is not yet clear how colleges who officially do not superscore the ACT will treat these new superscored reports. There are many online repositories of ACT scoring policies that you can consult to see how colleges of interest to you will use these scores in their admissions processes.

Question: What about state or district ACT tests, will students have the option to take a single section?

No. As of December 1, 2019, ACT has said they do not intend to change state or district testing and allow single section retesting.

Question: Will students only have to pay for sections they retake, or will they have to pay the full amount.

ACT has not announced their fee structure for section retests, as of December 1, 2019.


Our Take: Strip away the hype from the ACT about how this will decrease test anxiety (it won't), or how this move is intended to increase access to higher ed (if this was so, why not announce the fee structure up front?)

1) Ultimately, this allows students choice and options, and that is a good thing.

2) This will also nudge universities who have been reluctant to superscore the ACT to do so, which will inflate average ACT scores.

3) It means that more people will be taking more ACT tests because the mental friction has been decreased for someone who, for example, has taken the test 3 times, and has increased their overall composite, but who can't seem to get their math score up.

We talk to tons of students with ACT fatigue who simply cannot fathom giving up another Saturday and sitting through another 2 hour and 55 minute test. ACT is banking (pun intended) on altering that mental math by offering that student the option of retaking just math (60 questions over 60 minutes vs almost 3 hours).

*There is officially an optional (5) Writing section of the ACT for a total of five test sections, but only 1/3 of colleges and universities require this section.

Golden Educational Consulting works everyday to inspire young people to learn what inspires them. We do that by teaching families how to prepare their children for the journey of the college search. We provide ultra-personalized one-on-one college search coaching, teaching, and educational assessment to families all over the globe. Learn more about how we can help you here.

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