Changes to the ACT Coming Next September


Hadley Rosengrant, Writer

Every high school junior across the nation is well acquainted with the ACT – a two hour and 56 minute long test made up of 4 subsections (5 if you decide to take it with the writing portion) that determines many aspects of a prospective college student’s future. This test will determine what options students will have as majors, what scholarships they will be eligible for, and most importantly, where they will attend college. Traditionally, the test can be retaken 12 times, but starting next September, students will be able to retake a subsection of the test, without having to redo the whole exam.

Many students score slightly lower on one of the four sections, bringing down their composite scores,  and have to weigh their options before signing up for another test date: Take the test again and risk making an even lower score? Or, accept the score from the last test and not risk it? But once students will be allowed to only retake the section they struggled with, their scores will rise significantly.

Under ACT’s new policy, students must take a full test before they become eligible to take the subsection retest. Retakes of the optional writing portion will be available only through online testing centers. ACT is also making other changes this year, some public school systems, notably Arkansas, Oklahoma, and South Carolina, take the test online during school days. ACT stated, “Paper-and-pencil testing will remain widely available, but the digital method will expand over time.”

Stephanie Bostick, Bob Jones’ college and career counselor, explained, “Students’ scores will increase and they will have more stamina, they will only need to focus on the test for either 35, 45, or 60 minutes instead of four hours. However, there will be increased pressure for higher scores and students will have to monitor their sub-scores closer, the focus has been on the overall composite score.”

Holly Powell, a senior at Bob Jones, stated, “I think the ability to take subsections separately makes the test much easier and less stressful for students […] However, a lot of the merit-based scholarship criteria most colleges currently have will have to change to accommodate this new format, and both the ACT and colleges will have to define for themselves how they will determine a composite score vs a super-score. Another problem with the average composite/super-score rising is that some scholarships will probably become harder to obtain, and colleges will probably put more weight on individual scores rather than a composite.”

Alex Meyer, a senior at Bob Jones, stated, “It will be beneficial for those who have a difficulty with long test taking. But it will also make it harder to distinguish a good score from a bad score if everyone’s score increases. It will cause chaos in how colleges accept students and give out scholarships.”

Although the new policy is a hot topic for debate among teachers and students alike, it certainly poses both advantages and disadvantages.