One of the most common questions parents ask about testing is, “should my homeschooler take the ACT or the SAT?” In some parts of the country this is a fairly new question as there was a strong regional preference for the SAT or the ACT. These regional variations have disappeared now and both tests are equally accepted by all colleges.
One difference between the ACT and SAT tests in the past has been the popularity of “superscoring”. Superscoring is a process where colleges take the top subtest scores from different test dates and combine them into one “superscore”. While in the past this practice was limited to the SAT, increasingly admissions offices are recalculating superscores for students who submit the ACT. Very few colleges will combine SAT scores with ACT scores to create a superscore across both tests.
Let’s take a look at a sample student’s test scores and see how this process of ACT superscoring works. The student in this example takes the ACT in June of junior year and again in the September of her senior year. While the student earns the same composite score of 29 both times on the exam through the process of superscoring the student ultimately achieves a 31 composite.
One nice thing about superscoring is that it may help take some pressure off students who experience test anxiety. Knowing they can keep good scores they earned and let go of sections they didn’t perform as well on may help lower stress with testing. While the test creators try to keep the difficulty of the test the same from one test administration to another, students may find that they find certain sections more difficult on different test dates. I often hear this comment from students particularly on the science and reading sections of the ACT where they may find through chance that they have more or less familiarity with the subject of longer passages on a given test date.
Of course, colleges and universities do not all have the same policies related to superscoring and these policies can change from year to year. Some colleges will use superscoring for admissions purposes but not for scholarships. While you can always ask a college admissions office if they “superscore” the ACT, a faster way to check may be to look at this list of colleges that superscore the ACT.