ACT to offer individual section retakes

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Aly Kinzel, Reporter

Standardized test company ACT, Inc., has officially declared that as of fall 2020, students will be able to retake individual sections of the ACT test. The non-profit organization made the decision on Tuesday, February 26th after years of contemplation. Until that point in the fall, students will continue to have to retake the entire four-section standardized test if they want to achieve a higher score.

This change will make waves, seeing that every student at Waunakee High School is required to take the ACT whether or not they intend to apply to college. For students interested in postsecondary education, ACT scores are vital to college acceptance.

Many pros and cons behind the benefits of this new concept have come into question: will colleges change their acceptance requirements or recommended test scores? Is it as fair of a measurement as the traditionally timed ACT? Will it help students reach their maximum potential in a pressuring setting, or will it instead level the playing field, and make it harder for certain students to stand out among others? It is difficult to answer these questions without large-scale observations of the new test strategy yet.

By offering individual section retakes, ACT writes on their website that they believe they are sparing unnecessary time in taking the test and better serving students. By doing this, students may have a better opportunity to score high, without any worry of fading mental endurance in a later section. ACT, Inc., cities the belief of some that the test shouldn’t measure anything besides academic material, so taking the timing and long-term mental endurance out of the equation is extremely valuable–it makes the scores more reliable and helps them to better serve as a benchmark of known material. Some argue that that endurance, however, is one of the most important things that the ACT test discreetly measures amongst its participants. 

“At least [with this new system] only half of my day will be ruined by an [annoying] test,” said junior Hudson See. See took the ACT on March 3rd with the rest of the junior class. On March 3rd, all high school students in the state of Wisconsin were required to take the ACT if they had not opted out earlier. March 3rd therefore found several hundred juniors packed into Waunakee High School’s classrooms to take the test.

Although a majority of students, like See, dread the nearly 6-hour time commitment out of their day, that time is what can potentially set one student apart from another. If one student has the ability to focus for a long period of time, he or she will obviously achieve a higher score than a student who can’t focus for a long period of time. The first student’s score will appear better than the other’s even if the two students are similarly intelligent, thus making the first student’s score look better to colleges, and thus standing out above the second student’s. 

This is a benefit for the first student, but clearly a detriment for the second. Someone’s ability to stay focused for a long period of time majorly helps their ACT score, and by offering retakes on individual sections, mental endurance and other similar factors can no longer set someone apart from the rest. 

“I [feel that] by implementing section-by-section tests, ACT scores will become inherently higher, due to the fact that [students[ can focus more on one thing rather than have the difficulty of the whole test,” said junior Ryan Schaubroeck, who took the ACT on March 3rd with the rest of Waunakee’s junior class.

This new concept will throw a wrench in college admissions, as well. The introduction of the “superscore” has had an impact on college admissions; that being the submission of a composite score of the highest scores in each subject that a student has tested or retested in. Individual section retakes benefit this idea of superscoring.

“I’m [annoyed] because it’s too late for me to do that,” said senior Jessica Martin, referring to taking the test section-by-section. Martin has taken the ACT twice. “But I already got into college.

“I think it mostly just gives an advantage to those who are wealthy… they [could] take that one section of the test seven, eight times. This is a problem …where someone can just take the test that many times but this just encourages it further… it makes the practice more specific and targeted, and… encourages [the problem].”

It isn’t guaranteed that all colleges will accept a superscored type of submission. In fact, some colleges already reject the idea of superscoring and only accept one set of scores from one test. With the new system, it’s likely that schools will be driven away from even requiring a test submission in the first place.

“[Superscoring] would make me feel more confident showing my score off, but I would also have the knowledge that my score doesn’t mean as much as it would with the current ACT [compared to] the section-by-section ACT,” said Schaubroeck.

Individual section retakes of the ACT could mean higher scores overall, but that’s not to say that success in acceptance is guaranteed. Many other elements, like GPA, extracurriculars and more will need to play out before colleges can judge one score from another based on different submission methods.