Changes to the ACT Test: What You Need to Know


Nearly 1.3 million students took the ACT in 2022. Preparing for the ACT is an essential step in the college application process that takes a lot of preparation. This year, a few new changes are coming to the ACT that students should be aware of. 

Updates to the ACT

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, multiple changes to the ACT were put on hold for the 2021-2022 testing period. Super scoring, online testing, and section-specific retaking were all proposed as significant updates to the ACT. 


As of 2023, the ACT has undergone a few key updates that may help students with the testing process. 


The Online ACT

The ACT exam is not changing its content. However, the ACT is updating the testing format to offer online ACT exams in December 2023. 


While the online ACT opens testing in 2023, not all students are eligible for the first round of online tests. A limited pilot ACT exam will be open to 5,000 testers in December 2023, with registration open during July 2023. 


Online testing centers will expand to include more students in 2024, following the pilot test at the end of 2023. Once the online ACT is available, registration will include the online option. 


The ACT will be produced online, but students cannot use personal devices for testing. ACT testing centers will provide computers. ACT proctors will monitor both the paper and online tests. Guidelines for online testing are available here.


What is Not Changing 

The online ACT, while offering a new test-taking experience, will not provide any updates to the following ACT criteria: 


  • The ACT testing fee will remain the same for paper and online exams. 
  • Score reporting will not be altered for online testing. The release of score reports will stay the same for paper and online testing. 
  • Students who qualify for the ACT fee-wavier program will not be impacted regardless of whether or not they choose a paper or online testing experience. 


Super Scores 

As of April 2021, the ACT will report super scores for students sitting for multiple ACTs. Instead of students calculating their super scores, ACT will include super scores on the official score reports.  


Super scores benefit students who take the ACT more than once. A super score averages the four best scores across all your ACT attempts. This process allows a student to show colleges a better representation of their overall performance rather than that of a single day’s testing. 


Students registered to take multiple ACTs through MyACT will automatically have their superstores calculated. Multiple ACT attempts must be in a student’s MyACT account to be submitted for calculation. Viewing your super score can be done through ACT’s online score reports. 


It is important to note that only some colleges accept super scores. For those who do, ACT’s new super-scoring policy will make testing easier for students. 


Section Retakes 

ACT announced a plan to include section retakes in 2019. This would allow students to choose which sections they would like to retake instead of retaking the entire ACT to boost their scores in a specific subject. 


Students are only eligible for section retakes after completing a full ACT exam. The proposed initiative would allow students to retake up to three sections per ACT exam during test days. 


ACT has yet to release further information regarding when section retakes will be available for students. As of 2023, the update is still postponed. Retaking the ACT exam is still required to rectify a low score in one section. 


ACT Fee Wavier Program

In September 2020, ACT updated the ACT Fee Wavier Program to include four free tests for students who qualify, including the writing portion. 


The program includes free testing, studying materials, and resources to help students prepare for the ACT. Sending out score reports to six colleges is also included free of charge. Those that qualify for the ACT Fee Wavier Program are also eligible for waivers on college application fees. 


The requirements for the ACT Fee Wavier Program are:


  • Students must be enrolled in a high school in the 11th or 12th grade. 
  • Students must test for the ACT in the United States, Puerto Rico, or US territories.
  • Meet one or more of the indicators for economic need.


Students must first speak to a school counselor about eligibility to apply for the ACT Fee Wavier Program. If you are determined to be eligible, your school will distribute up to four fee waivers. When registering for the ACT, fee waiver codes can be used online or by mail. 


What These Changes Mean For You

ACT scores can help determine what colleges a prospective student can be admitted to. A student’s final ACT score may also influence financial aid, academic scholarships, and private scholarships. Many merit-based scholarships consider GPA and ACT scores when determining the amounts colleges will award. 


Not all colleges require you to submit ACT scores. However, if the college you are looking at does consider test scores, earning a higher score on the ACT can have a significant bearing on competitive applications. 


Students already registered for ACT exams in 2023 will be less affected by most of these updates. As younger students prepare for their ACTs and college applications, they should check the ACT website regularly for new updates. 

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