Amidst all of the confusion that comes along with application season, the last thing you want is to miss an opportunity to represent your best self. And for many colleges, looking at superscores is their way of allowing just that.
First of all, please define this weird, videogame-like word
The superscore is essentially when a school looks at all of the tests that you have reported and selects the overall best score for each section, bringing them together to create your highest composite score possible. Still confused? Let’s break it down:
Say, in October, you took the SAT. You got an 8 on the essay, scored 640 on the Math, 590 on the Writing, and 700 on the Reading for a total of 1930.
Then (using Magoosh for the awesome study resource it is), you went back in December and got a 10 on the essay, scored 700 on the Math, 660 on the Writing, but only a 600 on the Reading for a total of 1960.
Now, traditionally, you would say that your best score was from the December test date. However, if a school superscores, it will look at both months and take your highest scores across the board (essays included), meaning that your writing score of 700 from October will supersede the 600 from December. The result in this case is a superscore of 2060.
Can the ACT be superscored as well?
Absolutely. While the ACT has different sections (Math, Science, Reading, and English) and a separate scoring system (1-36, with the composite score being an average of all four section numbers), the process to arrive at the superscore is the same.
Why do colleges superscore?
Because they get that you’re a human being. And human beings simply cannot be 100% on top of their game for every subject, all the time. (If you’re about to argue with me that you, in fact, can be, then please send me a message – I’ve always wanted to meet an alien.)
Maybe one time you didn’t get a great night of sleep and struggled crunching numbers more than usual. Or maybe you just happened to get particularly tricky reading passages. There’s always going to be an element of randomness involved with standardized testing, whether we like it or not. Flukes happen; superscores are one way to give you, as an applicant, the benefit of the doubt.
Does every school superscore?
In short – no.
There also really isn’t a clear cut explanation for which colleges do and which do not; it’s more of a case by case situation. That being said, you can almost always find out by visiting a college’s admissions website (or, worst comes to worst, calling their undergraduate admissions office line).
Does this mean I should take the ACT/SAT even more times?
If a college superscores, there is certainly a huge advantage to taking the ACT or SAT more than once. However, as I see it, the same general rules apply whether or not there’s superscoring involved: you want to keep testing as long as you honestly think you can improve your end result. For most people, that cap is anywhere between the second and fourth test.
And remember, given that not all schools superscore, you want to be striving for your best scores in each section every time – regardless of prior testing outcomes. It’s one thing to focus studying on the section you feel weakest in. It’s something entirely different to waste time “gaming” the system and only caring about one section per test.
Application readers will still be seeing the entirety of the testing history that you send in, even if they are directed to superscore; a little bit of positive consistency never hurt anyone.