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What Is an ACT Superscore?
As you begin applying to colleges, especially ones with test-optional policies, you may find yourself wondering, “What is an ACT superscore?” In this article, we’ll show you how to calculate your ACT superscore and give you some pointers about how it may benefit you. Let’s get into it:
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How do ACT scores work?
To understand how ACT superscores work, it’s important to first understand how ACT scoring works. The ACT consists of 4 sections, plus an optional writing section; however, only the four main sections are factored into your “composite score,” which is the main score that colleges consider.
The main four sections are English, Math, Reading, and Science. On each of these sections, you’ll receive a score between 1 – 36. Your overall, or composite, score, will be the average of these four scores. So, to calculate it, you’ll add them all up and divide that figure by four. All ACT scores are whole numbers, so you’ll round up if your fraction is 0.5 or above, and round down if it is below.
On each test you take, you’ll take the average of those four sections and that will be your composite score for that exam. In the past, that score would be the only thing that colleges considered. That’s where the superscore comes in. In the next section, we’ll go over how the superscore can impact your success on the ACT.
Related: Average ACT score by state
How does your superscore differ from your regular score?
We all know that people have good days and bad days. You might wake up one day and breeze through a book like it’s nothing, and then the next day, you might be unable to get through a paragraph without going back and retracing your steps every few minutes. The same could be true for mathematics; some days, mental math seems like a breeze, and other days, you find yourself unable to carry the one in your head.
Well, the ACT superscore is meant to reflect just that. To calculate your ACT superscore, you will look at all of the different times you’ve taken the ACT, and then find the average of the highest score you managed on each section. Let’s get into an example.
Example of a superscore
Imagine that you take the ACT two times. The first time, you earn a 34 on the Reading section, a 28 on the Math section, a 25 on the Science section, and a 36 on the English section. So, you did great on the text-based parts but not quite as hot on the STEM portion of the exam. You’d end up with a 31 composite score from this exam.
The next time, you earn a 29 on the Reading section, a 32 on the Math section, a 32 on the Science section, and a 30 on the English section. So, this time you didn’t match your previous scores on the text-based portions, but you showed great improvement on the STEM portions. From this exam, you’d end up with the same composite score as last time: a 31.
Without a superscore, this second exam would not help your chances with colleges. You’d be left with the same composite score, so they would view the tests as the exact same. But with a superscore, your luck suddenly changes. You’ll calculate this superscore by taking the average of the highest score you managed in each section.
So, you’ll take your Reading and English scores from your first test, and your Math and Science scores from your second test: 34, 36, 32, and 32. This leads to a whopping superscore of 34. So, you saw a 3-point improvement in your superscore by picking and choosing your best results.
Also see: ACT vs SAT: How to decide which test to take
Who accepts ACT superscores?
Here comes the bad news: Not all colleges accept ACT superscores. At the moment, the majority of schools will only accept composite scores. So, if your superscore is significantly higher than your regular composite score, it may be a good idea to seek out a few schools that accept ACT superscores in order to take advantage of your leg-up.
Here are a few of the best-known colleges that accept superscores:
- Columbia University
- Georgetown University
- Duke University
- Johns Hopkins University
- University of Chicago
- Stanford University
- University of Miami
- Vanderbilt University
- University of Notre Dame
And remember, that is only the tip of the iceberg. Make sure to check your prospective colleges’ websites to see if they accept superscored ACT results.
Also see: What does test-optional mean?
The rise of the superscore
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a wide range of effects around the world, and one of them has been a shift towards more test-lenient admissions policies. Along with test-optional and test-blind policies, the superscore is experiencing a boom and the number of colleges that accept it is increasing quickly.
So, make sure to check the most updated information at your college when it comes to superscores. If you have the ability to submit yours, and it benefits your application, make sure to take it.
ACT composite score vs superscore
You might be wondering about the difference between an ACT composite score and a superscore. Both are derived from an average of your individual section scores, so it makes sense that there might be some confusion. Here’s what you should know:
- ACT composite scores are the average of your section scores from one individual ACT exam
- ACT superscores are the average of your highest section scores across all of the ACT exams you have taken. An ACT superscore will be equal to or higher than any of your composite scores
Related: What is the average ACT score per state?
What about the writing section?
Your next question might be, how does my writing section score factor into all of this? Your writing score is delivered to colleges as a separate score from your overall score. So, it will not be factored into the score we have mentioned above.
That being said, a superscore can help benefit your writing section score. This is because, like with the other sections, you’ll be able to pick and choose your best scores from every time you took the test. So, whichever writing section you performed best on, that’s the one the college will see.
Don’t miss: ACT/SAT scores: To send or not to send?
Additional testing resources
Whether you’re taking the ACT or SAT, we can help you through the process. Check out our guide to ACT testing accommodations, and learn how many times you can take the test. We can also help you find the perfect test prep tutor. When it comes to the SAT, we can show you how to improve your score, and offer tips on the reading and math sections. Finally, don’t forget to familiarize yourself with test dates so as to prepare a study schedule. Good luck!
Frequently asked questions
Do all colleges allow ACT superscores?
Not all colleges accept ACT superscores, but an increasing number of schools are beginning to accept them. If trends continue as they are now, we may see a majority of schools accepting ACT superscores in the coming years.
Where can I find my ACT superscore?
To find your officially calculated ACT superscore, log in to your myACT account. Once you’ve taken the test multiple times, it will automatically superscore your results for you.