Changes Coming to the 2020 ACT: What Students Need to Know

Changes Coming to the 2020 ACT: What Students Need to Know

Kemi on October 8, 2019

Big changes are coming to the ACT in September 2020! Read on to find out what they are, hear our benefits and drawbacks, and what students should do to prepare.

What changes are coming to the ACT?

The ACT is introducing three major changes to the test, starting in September 2020:

  • Students will be allowed to retake specific sections of the ACT rather than the entire test, at a lower (yet undetermined) price than taking the full test at a price that is lower (yet undetermined) than that of the full test.
  • Students will get a new offical ACT “superscore,” a combination of their highest scores from each subsection derived from all times they sit for the ACT. It’s unclear if the ACT will be pulling superscores only from test dates following these changes or also from tests taken before September 2020.
  • In addition to the standard paper and pencil version, students will also be given the option to take the ACT online at a test center on national test dates and receive their scores in 2 business days (versus the 6-8 week score wait time for the paper version).

Why is the ACT making these changes?

According to ACT officials, they believe these changes will help students save both time and money, as well as offer students faster score results.

When are these changes taking effect?

Starting next September, though an exact date has not been provided.

Higher Scores, More Inequality: Magoosh’s Take on the 2020 ACT Changes

Here at Magoosh, we’re committed to reducing barriers for students as they pursue their educational dreams. We’re hopeful that the changes announced today by the ACT, if rolled out with transparency and the best interests of students in mind, will give high schoolers more opportunities to get into their dream college by putting their best score forward on their college applications.

However, there’s a chance this plan could unintentionally provide even more of an advantage to those students who have the means (time and money) to take the ACT multiple times. In the wake of the college admissions scandals, we all need no reminders about how inherently unfair the college application process can be, particularly for low-income students and students from marginalized backgrounds.

That said, the ACT’s move to allow students to retake just those individual sections they need improvement on, at a reduced cost to them, could play a meaningful (though incomplete) role in helping to level the college admissions playing field. A 2018 study from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that retaking the SAT substantially improved scores and college enrollment rates, particularly for underrepresented minority students. Some high schools already cover the cost to allow their students to retake the ACT for free, and we hope that more schools will follow suit.

Section-based ACT retakes could also help students use their already limited study time more effectively by focusing their test prep on specific topic areas. We also hope that the introduction of official ACT superscores, following the established practice of many colleges that already assess students’ highest scores across sections, will help reduce the test anxiety by easing the pressure riding on a single exam sitting.

On a more logistical note, given the high stakes of scores on admissions outcomes, we wonder how the ACT will keep students informed and ensure that the rollout of these changes will be smooth. Schools with greater resources are more likely to move on and share this news with their students first, further favoring those who already have an academic and income advantage. We also wonder how university admissions offices will receive this news, and if they plan to treat superscores the same or differently than single-sitting ACT scores.

Advice for High School Sophomores and Juniors Planning to Take the ACT:

Most importantly, don’t panic! Remember, especially if you’re a senior planning to take the upcoming ACT on October 26th, that these changes are still a year out, and there are NO changes being made to the current ACT test or score format.

Also, if you’re planning on taking the ACT next fall, it’s important that you stay informed around when and how these changes will take effect. Your best bet is to follow the ACT’s official newsroom. We’ll also continue sharing in-depth tips around how to prepare for these ACT changes on the Magoosh ACT blog as soon as we learn more information. Still have a question about these ACT changes? Reach out to help@magoosh.com at any time to chat.

How do you feel about these upcoming changes to the ACT? Do you have any questions about the ACT changes or how to prepare? Drop them in the comments and we’ll get back to you!