Don’t stress the test


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On Oct. 8, 2019, ACT announced three changes that will be implemented to the testing process starting in Sept. of 2020.

Carly Wheeler, Perspectives Editor

As I sit with my laptop open to the beloved, the daunting mile-long college interest questionnaire and the $52 fee stare right at me— for the second time, mind you. I made the decision that I would retake the test simply because it was an available option for my family, and because, I’ll admit, I wasn’t completely content with my first score. But, as I swallow my pride and submit my registration for my second attempt, part of me subconsciously wonders if it’s really worth it. Is it worth paying another $52 to repeat the whole 2 hour and 55 minute long test? Is it worth going into it again with a goal of increasing my score in only two of the four sections?  I’m certainly not the only high school student grappling with these questions.  

On Oct. 8, 2019, ACT officially announced three changes that would be made to the testing process starting in Sept. of 2020. Current high school seniors and former high school students were sent into a frenzy as news broke about single section test retakes. That’s right: starting next September, students who have already taken the whole ACT once will be able to retake single sections of the test, which will be offered at a cheaper price than retaking the entire four section test. The company has also introduced the option to test online at testing centers on national test dates. When students test online, their results will be available as early as two business days after their testing date instead of the current 10 days. 

The last change, which hasn’t gained as much popularity on the Internet, but will still significantly alter the test, is Superscoring. According to, an ACT Superscore “is a recalculation which shows the highest possible composite score across multiple ACT tests and ACT Section Retests.”

“These new options offer students more choices, a better experience and greater confidence that their ACT test scores best reflect their hard work, overall academic achievement, and potential for success throughout their lives,” the ACT states on their website. 

While these changes may sound great to many students, some professionals, including Charles A. Deacon, dean of admissions at Georgetown University, and Adam Ingersoll, a founder of the test-prep and tutoring company Compass Education Group, cite concerns about the new testing choices that will be implemented next fall. 

Deacon wrote in an initial response to the changes that Georgetown would not accept individual subscore results or Superscores as of now. The university feels it needs to first spend time studying the impact of the additional testing options on students’ performance. There is the possibility that these changes will cause overall score inflation, given that students have the potential to utilize the single section test retakes as an easier, more efficient method of nearly perfecting their section scores – if they have the money and resources to do so, of course. 

Cost of extensive reviewing and retesting presents an additional concern regarding the new testing options. Ingersoll said in a USA Today article that he believes the changes to the ACT only “privilege the privileged.” Students without the necessary financial resources may not have the opportunity to take optimal advantage of the new options. Multiple single section retakes have the potential to become costly, and prep resources geared for individual test sections can be extremely expensive.   

Unfair advantages posed by these controversial changes to the ACT are yet another reason more colleges and universities may choose to jump aboard the already growing trend of making their application process “test-optional.” According to an article published on Inside Higher Ed, about every 10 days last spring and summer, a new college or university announced its decision to no longer require applicants to submit an ACT or SAT score. As more institutions move away from placing emphasis on standardized testing, students should strive to minimize the stress of perfecting a score solely to impress an admissions advisor. 

Focusing energy on developing a strong work ethic and gaining life experiences is more valuable than refining a standardized testing strategy. By building a transcript of appropriately challenging high school classes and completing quality daily work, students are setting themselves up for success far more than they would be by cramming for the ACT. In the end, four years of hard work and dedication filled with blood, sweat and (many) tears shouldn’t be summarized as a two-digit test score.