The ACT announced upcoming changes to its 2020 test, namely, that it will allow super-scoring and single-section retakes. What does that mean?

As most high school students know from taking the SAT, if they sit for more than one administration of the test, some colleges will allow them to take the highest score from each section. The SAT has two major sections—critical reading (CR) and math (M). If Joe gets a 550 CR and 500 M (1050 combined) on the first sitting, then a 540 CR and a 540 M (1080 combined) on the second sitting, super-scoring Joe’s SAT would give him a 550 CR and 540 M, or 1090 combined. It’s up to colleges, not College Board, which owns the SAT, to decide whether or not to accept a “super score.” ACT has four sections: math, science, critical reading, and English, with a 36 the top score in each section and a 36 top score combined.

According to Matt Steiner of Compass Education Group (, the ACT’s super-scoring still has to be accepted by individual colleges, and the the ability to retake a single section of the four-section ACT will require infrastructure that isn’t yet readily available. Retaking single sections will depend upon using a computer version of the test, probably using Chromebooks supplied by the testing organization for security.

Although retaking a single section of the ACT seems like a good idea, Steiner does not recommend it. Compass Education research has shown that retaking the complete test often leads to an unexpected bump in non-targeted areas; in retaking the test to improve the math score, individuals may find a jump in the science score.

The bottom line? The class of 2020 will see no changes. The class of 2021 will encounter an uneven rollout and availability of the computer version of the ACT and will need to check with the colleges they’re applying to in order to find out if the colleges allow super-scoring and section retakes. The classes of 2022 and beyond will begin to see how the ACT changes all shake out.

Making sense of ACT changes