The “New” ACT

by | Dec 7, 2019

Section Retest on the ACT

One of the most frustrating parts when taking standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT is that the test-taker must perform well on all sections for a 4-hour exam. Often, I will hear students tell me that “the reading section was easy, but the math section was difficult.” or “I did well in the beginning, but I got tired by the end of the test.” And unfortunately, their only course of action is to grit their teeth and retake the whole exam.

This may all begin to change in September 2020 with the ACT test. I like to follow the ACT, so when I read that ACT will be implementing “Section Retest“ starting in September of 2020, I became very excited. Section Retesting will be an option that allows students to focus on 1 to 3 subjects at a time instead of the normal battery of tests. Why is this amazing? Once retesting is in effect, students can focus on their specific areas and any score increases will update their superscore!

But Why Would the ACT Do This for Students?

The research done on superscoring by the ACT indicates that scores from a single test do not always reflect a student’s capabilities. Selecting a student’s best scores from any test attempt results in the most valid indicator of a student’s preparedness for future success and therefore provides evidence supporting section retesting. Many universities already superscore standardized tests for this exact reason!


These Section Retests will be offered on the same test dates as the full-length exams. They will have the same timing and exactly the same questions as the test administered on that same day. Currently, there are no limits on the number of times a student may take a retest. Also, the essay counts as a section, so it can also be taken again and typed on the computer. And one of the best parts is that the results will be posted within two business days of the retests!

There May Be Some Issues…

Importantly, this will all be done on a computer so that may provide challenges for some students. Specifically, annotations and showing work for math problems will probably have to be done on scratch paper or on the computer. Also, in order to take the Section Retest, the student must have taken a full-length exam prior. Lastly, the exact cost of these retests has not been announced yet, but the cost will probably be similar or lower to the whole test.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully, this change will alleviate some of the stress of taking the tests because students will be able to target their needs instead of worrying about the whole test. Also, it should encourage students to plan on taking the test multiple times and overcome the stigma of doing so.