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What You Need to Know about the ACT’s NEW “One Section” Retesting

When the new year comes around, you're usually thinking of ways to save money or eat fewer desserts. The ACT has a different idea: starting September 2020, you will be allowed to take SINGLE sections of the ACT, instead of having to ALWAYS take the whole test.

Sounds too good to be true, right? Don’t worry, you can check out the whole FAQ on the ACT’s website. It’s the real deal! And so far, there are only a few (minor) strings attached to this single-section testing.

Pre-September 2020 ACT Testing

First, let’s go through a recap of how the ACT currently works.

The ACT is a college entrance exam (the other, of course, is the SAT). Every ACT exam includes four sections: English (45 minutes), Math (60 minutes), Reading (35 minutes), and Science (35 minutes). You can also write an OPTIONAL essay (40 minutes). The four section scores (1-36) are averaged to create a composite score. 36 is a perfect score.

So, if you received a 32 on, say, the December ACT, and the only section that pulled you down was the Reading section, then you have to sign up for a later ACT and take the whole test again, when really you are just trying to boost your Reading score to create an overall perfect composite.

Well, the ACT wants to help you make this process more efficient.

Summary of September 2020 ACT Changes

Note: The one-section policy starts with the September 2020 ACT and continues for subsequent test dates.

  • Must have taken a full official ACT prior to sitting for a section-only test. (Technically these are “retests.”)

  • Content covered, timing, and the number of questions for each ACT section test is the SAME as that of the respective section on full exams.

  • Can sign up for section tests throughout the year (same dates as full ACT tests).

  • Can take 1-3 sections per test date (if you did 4, then you’d be taking the full test).

  • Can register for section tests as many times as you want (no limits).

  • ACT promotes SUPERSCORING (see image below) so that your best section scores across multiple tests are considered by colleges:

Source: ACT

Logistical note: students who take section-only tests WILL NOT be in the same room as students who take a full test.

B2A Response to Change

The ACT’s change is no doubt a major shift in how tests are administered, but the underlying reason for doing so is quite traditional and something that colleges have been acknowledging for a long time--individual section scores are better indicators of overall college readiness than those of a single, particular test date. That’s why many colleges already superscore the ACT and the SAT.

That said, preparing for the ACT will largely be the same as it is now. You still have to take the full test at least once, so why not do a good job the first time? And sure, if you need to retake it, then you can focus on sections that were the weakest, but the practice is pretty much the same, except now you don’t have the added anxiety of bombing a section that you once did well on.

The new testing format, however, does allow you to harness all your energy and enthusiasm into a single section, so if you are prone to getting tired or becoming distracted as the test progresses, then the single-section retesting will help motivate you to stay focused and “give it your all” for that one section. This is a true benefit, and one that shouldn’t be ignored.

The only lingering question is how colleges will ultimately treat these scores. The ACT is making it seem like nothing is really new. And overall, our assessment is the same.

Need help as you prepare for the December ACT? No worries! Check out B2A’s test-prep services (TPS)! Our professional, qualified ACT instructors can help you identify your weaknesses and work with you to fill in any content gaps prior to the December 14th test date. Then you won’t have to worry about retesting!


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