More options to ace the ACT
College-bound students looking to maximize their ACT scores will have more options this year. Starting in September, students may retake the English, reading, math and science sections separately, according to the nonprofit organization that administers the test widely used as part of the college admissions process. Currently, students seeking to improve their scores must retake the entire test.
Also new this year is “superscoring,” which will allow students who have taken the ACT, or sections of it, more than once to use their best scores in calculating a composite superscore.
Retesting will be offered seven times a year on national ACT testing dates, according to the ACT website, and students may take up to three section retests on any one test date. There will be no limit on the number of times a student can retest. ACT has not yet announced the fee structure for retesting.
“We decided to offer these new options on the ACT test based on extensive research that showed the changes will benefit students while still providing valid, reliable scores,” says Mary Michael Pontzer, ACT vice president of product. “The changes will directly benefit students by providing them with more options, an improved testing experience and a better opportunity to showcase their readiness.”
Pontzer said the feedback from most colleges has been positive.
“This wasn’t surprising, as we had received extensive input and feedback from admissions professionals while considering the new options,” she says.
High school juniors in Oklahoma take either the ACT or the SAT for free, said Joy Hofmeister, state superintendent of public instruction. The law was changed three years ago to require the college-admission exams rather than end-of-instruction tests, and Hofmeister has been pleased with the results.
“We know there has been a great benefit to students who would not normally have taken the ACT or SAT on their own,” Hofmeister says. “Some have scored in the scholarship range on their very first try.”
Previously, only half of all juniors were taking the ACT or SAT, which shut the door for concurrent enrollment in a Career Tech or college their senior year, Hofmeister said. “That enrollment has gone up, and we see more of our students planning ahead for what they will do after high school, because they have accomplished important steps.”
Students also may take the pre-ACT and SAT in 10th grade. It’s optional, but the state pays for it.
High school students earn credit for internships in business, the professions and manufacturing. The State Education Department is also continuing to train teachers in what Hofmeister calls “the science of reading.”
“It has been well established that many of our children have struggled to read, and we know now how to teach them in a way that they will never have to struggle again,” Hofmeister says. “We must teach with explicit, systematic phonics instruction.
“We want to make sure our teachers have left those old ways behind, and are teaching in a way that builds a strong reading foundation by being able to decode words.”
After a two-year pilot program, Individual Career Academic Planning went statewide for the 2019-2020 school year, she said.
“We want our students to be preparing for life after high school while they are in middle school and high school,” Hofmeister says. “We don’t want them to think graduation is the finish line.”