Tutor On New ACT “Super-Score”: Ditch It or Develop 2-Tiered Eval System

On Tuesday, October 8, 2019, the makers of the ACT announced that they’ll let future test takers sit for just one portion of the exam.  Students can combine their score on that single section with section scores they took on previous exams to create a single “super score.”  (The amalgamated “super score” is likely higher than the score that student received when taking the exam all at once.)  As a tutor and someone who cares about kids, I love the new plan on its face.  I’m just not sure how colleges will be able to use it with any statistical reliability.


How Does the “New” Super Scoring Work?

Previous “super scoring” culled single section scores when all students sat for the entire 175-minute ACT (215 minutes with essay).  Now, some students – particularly those who can afford it – can sit for one section at a time.  How can a college reliably compare the score of a student who took only the 35-minute Science section with that of a student who took the same section following 140 minutes (and 175 questions!) of Grammar, Reading, and Math?  

Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

Photo by Ben Mullins on Unsplash

Why the New Plan Can’t Work

Let’s take this “super score” plan to its “logical” – and most absurd – conclusion.  What’s to stop a kid from taking the entire ACT, one section at a time?  Rather than sitting for the entire exam at once, a student could ostensibly take the Grammar section in October, the Reading in December, the Math in February, the Science in April, and the essay in June.  How can colleges possibly compare that student’s score to one who took the exam all at once?

The ACT makers claim that the new plan was devised to mitigate students’ anxiety.  What happens, though, when students of means (who can afford the six separate registration fees) sit for six tests instead of one?  And when these same students get tutors for an entire years’ worth of exams, rather than one exam on a single date?  And what about the students who can’t afford to pay for multiple exams and the now-never-ending tutors that will accompany them?

Photo by Virgil Cayasa on Unsplash

Photo by Virgil Cayasa on Unsplash

Dr. P.’s Predictions

If the ACT decides to keep this plan, this tutor predicts that colleges will have to develop a two-tiered evaluation of standardized tests (since if this plan stays, the SAT will have to follow suit).  One class of student-test taker will fall into the “super score” category; the other will be judged (perhaps with greater leniency) as the “single sitting” category.  

More likely, however, I anticipate that the ACT will scrap this version of “super scoring” (much as the College Board ditched the “adversity index” after criticism).  Returning to the “old way” of “super scoring” – possible only when all students sat for the entire ACT all at once – is the only fair way to compare all students’ scores.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.

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