ACT Single Subject Retesting: What We Currently Know

In the Fall, the ACT announced 3 Big Changes. In case you missed our previous post, the ACT will start allowing students to retake individual sections of the test [English, Math, Reading, Science], rather than requiring them to sit for the full ACT again.

Since the ACT’s announcement, we’ve all had quite a few questions. How will individualized retesting work? What does the online forum look like? Will colleges accept the superscoring of individualized retesting? And so on…

While many questions are still unanswered, the ACT has released additional information about retaking single sections. Here’s what we know:

  • Single Section Retesting will begin being offered on the September 2020 ACT test date

  • Initially, Single Section Retesting is only offered online. [It does not matter whether you took your initial full ACT online or on paper.]

  • To do Single Section Retesting, you have to have previously taken the full test.

  • A student may retest for up to 3 sections on any one test date; there are no limits to how many times a student may retest.

  • Single Section Retesters will test the same day as full ACT testers but should be in a different space. 

  • Registration will open approximately 1 week after the July 2020 Test Date.


The overall response we’ve heard from parents and students is how fantastic the Single Section Retesting will be. And on the surface, it seems like a good idea. Students can hyper focus studying for one section, which is weaker than others. Rather than having to sit for hours on end to retest, students can be in and out after one or two sections, cutting down on time and costs if a student needs to take the test again. 


What you should be aware of…

Availability of Single Section Retesting

One rather large unanswered question: How many test centers within southern California will actually have Single Section Retesting available in Fall 2020? 

There are  256 test centers, places that host the ACT, in California, not including specialized test centers. When the ACT rolls out something new, like introducing the July ACT test date in California, that does not mean that all test centers will have this test available. For example, for the July ACT, of the 256 test centers, the ACT will only be available at 15 test centers in southern California, 2 of which are in San Diego county. 

What does this mean for Single Section Retesting? Since it is only available online, the test center must have the appropriate equipment, such as a computer lab. It is unclear how many of the 256 test centers are already equipped for online testing. Due to the popularity of Single Section Retesting among students and parents, we expect the demand to far exceed the availability. 


Online Platform of Single Section Retesting

While online testing could save money in printing costs and eventually eliminate the necessity of the proctor, digital testing has practical obstacles: not enough workstations, not enough test centers, and not enough security to prevent cheating, hacking, or general online mischief. Plus, as with any new software or new standardized test in general, most likely, there will be glitches that have to be worked through. 

Additionally, the online nature of the test does add some test-taking challenges. On paper, students are able to annotate reading passages, jump around in the order of questions, and diagram sentences. Online, these strategies, which can increase timing, focus, and overall accuracy on the English, Math, Reading, and Science sections, will be difficult, if not impossible, to implement. For example, while the online platform for international testing does give you a highlighting tool in the Reading section, the highlighting does not carry over from question to question. 

Here is a sample online test that the ACT has released for international students: We don’t know how closely the Single Section Retesting online platform will resemble this international online platform. 


A New Kind of Superscore

The ACT will automatically superscore (take the highest section scores from each test sitting), and students will have the option as to whether to send a full ACT test score or to send the superscore to a college. However, how many colleges will accept this new version of superscoring? 

It is still unclear. As of Fall 2019, approximately 120 universities/colleges use some version of superscoring within admissions. That seems like a lot, until you consider that there are over 4,000 universities/colleges in the US. Visit your respective colleges websites to see whether or not they accept superscoring.

Main Takeaway: While this new testing opportunity has many advantages, if you or your student is going to be a senior Fall 2020, don’t place all of your ACT hopes and dreams on the Single Subject Retesting. 

We’ll continue to update you as the ACT releases more information about this Single Section Retesting option.

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