With the first administration of the ACT, tomorrow marks the official opening of the 2011-12 standardized test season. The SAT launches into action a few weeks later on October 1.
Although the SAT continues to reign supreme on the east and west coasts, the ACT is rapidly gaining ground in the popularity contest—not as a replacement so much as a supplement.
It’s now common practice for students to take both and compare results. Because the tests are entirely interchangeable at virtually every college and university in the country, students are free to pick whichever results best represent them on their applications.
But it’s not just about individual test comparisons on a concordance table.
Because an increasing number of colleges are willing to “superscore” ACT results—take the highest subscores from multiple test dates—the ACT is providing an additional element of flexibility that may be attractive to some applicants.
Most colleges have traditionally superscored the SAT but not the ACT. And almost all colleges focus their SAT superscoring only on the Critical Reading and Math sections of the SAT.
Superscoring the ACT is a little trickier because it involves 4 separate scores. In fact, the ACT doesn’t encourage superscoring and requires students to pay separately for each set of scores sent to colleges. This makes providing the necessary information a bit more expensive.
To superscore the ACT, colleges basically recompute the “composite” score by selecting the highest subscores from different test dates, in order to come up with a new higher composite or “superscore.”
For example, consider a student who takes the April ACT and receives a 25 reading, 32 math, 28 English, and 30 science subscores. Together these scores generate a 29 composite. If the same student retakes the ACT the following September and receives a 27 reading, 30 math, 26 English, and 32 science, the composite score is once again 29.
Superscoring the tests combines the best scores from each resulting in a 27 reading, 32 math, 28 English, and a 32 science. The new composite is 30. On a concordance table, the student just went from a 1300 to a 1340 for the SAT (combined Critical Reading and Math). If the ACT English scores include Writing, the SAT combined scores jumped to 2000 from 1940.
As a service to college-bound students and their families, Todd Johnson, of College Admissions Partners, has carefully tracked colleges that superscore ACT’s. Because colleges are constantly shifting their admissions policies and procedures, this has become an enormous task. He maintains the list, updates it frequently, and is willing to share this valuable resource.
Todd’s list contains a number of local colleges and universities that superscore including American University, Hampden-Sydney College, Hollins University, Loyola University of Maryland, Towson University, Virginia Tech, and Washington and Lee University.
Other big names superscoring the ACT include Amherst, Boston College, Brandeis, Brown, CalTech, Carnegie Melon, Connecticut College, FSU, Georgia Tech, Indiana University-Bloomington, NYU, Pomona, Stanford, the University of Chicago, and Wesleyan University. The California State University System as well as the NCAA Clearinghouse also superscore the ACT.
It’s always best to check with individual colleges and universities for the most up-to-date information on admissions policies. But if the possibility of superscoring the ACT could make a difference in your test-taking strategies or admissions prospects, take a look at the list compiled by Todd Johnson, on the College Admissions Partners website.