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Do Colleges “Superscore” the ACT & the SAT?

by Karen Miller on May 13th, 2011

“Superscoring” is a relatively new college admission term that means taking different sections of either the SAT test or the ACT test and counting those individual sections while reviewing a student’s college application, rather than just looking at one individual test date’s score.

Superscoring & The SAT:

Historically, college admission counselors have superscored the SAT while reviewing applications; however, not all colleges superscore.  Some colleges, such as Penn State University and the University of Michigan, only consider the best score out of 2400 for any one test day.  These colleges will NOT mix and match the individual sections.  With that said, however, most college do in fact superscore.  Therefore, if you took the SAT on three different test dates, such as March, May, and June, the colleges will mix and match your best sections.  To give a clear example, let’s look at the following scenario:

  • March SAT Test Scores:  560 (critical reading), 500 (math), 650 (writing)
  • May SAT Test Scores: 560 (critical reading), 480 (math), and 620 (writing)
  • June SAT Test Scores: 600 (critical reading), 550 (math), and 600 (writing)

In the above scenario, your best bet would be to send your March and June tests.  Keep in mind that when you send a test date that ALL of the three sections of that test date are sent to the colleges; you do NOT have the option of just sending the writing, for example, of one test date. There is no reason to send the May test scores because those scores were your lowest in each of the three sections.  If a college superscores, it will consider your best individual sections from the tests that you have chosen to send to it.  Therefore, your superscore would be a 600 (critical reading from June), 550 (math from June), and 650 (writing from March), making your superscore an 1800/2400.

Superscoring & the ACT:

While the ACT is definitely the best test for some kids, the biggest, single drawback has been that, in the past, colleges did not “superscore” the test. However, some colleges are starting to superscore for the ACT, and I am thrilled that they are!  It is very difficult for kids to sit for close to four hours and do their best on each individual section on the same day.  If superscoring the ACT becomes the college admissions’ industry standard, I think that we will see even more kids taking the ACT test over the SAT test.  Time will tell.

I think, but cannot confirm, that one of the reasons colleges have NOT superscored the ACT in the past is because of the way the ACT releases its scores.  In addition to the four individual sections’ (English, Math, Reading, & Science) scores, the ACT also releases what it calls a “Composite Score,” which basically adds all four sections together and divides by four to create one score out of 36 for that test day.  The majority of colleges only release, in books, online, etc., this composite score, rather than the four individual scores.  If you hear kids talking about the ACT, they will usually say, “I got a 28 on the ACT.”  While if you hear kids talking about the SAT, they will usually say, “my best scores are a 550 on the reading, a 600 on the math, and a 570 on the writing.”

It’s an interesting cultural difference.  Since the SAT scores are released by the individual sections, people tend to say the three individual scores. Since the ACT gives a composite score, people tend to say the composite score.  This trend seems to be mimicked in the college admission process as well!

Here is a scenario for the scoring on the ACT.  Each section is out of 36 points.  Let’s say that a student takes the ACT in December, February, and April.   Below you will find the individual scores for each section, along with a composite for each test.  Following the individual scores, you will see what the best superscore is for this scenario.

  • December ACT Test Scores:  28 (English), 26 (Math), 29 (Reading), 27 (Science) = Composite Score of 27.5, rounded up to a 28
  • February ACT Test Scores:  30 (English), 27 (Math), 30 (Reading), 28 (Science) = Composite Score of 28.75, rounded up to a 29
  • April ACT Test Scores: 29 (English), 30 (Math), 27 (Reading), 25 (Science) = Composite Score of 27.75, rounded up to a 28

If a college superscores, then I would sent in the February and April tests, and the superscore would be a combination of the following sections, 30 English (Feb), 30 Math, (April), 30 Reading (Feb), and 28 Science (Feb), giving a superscore composite of 30, which is higher than any individual composite score.

In my next blog, I am going to start a list of colleges that are superscoring.  Since superscoring the ACT is such a game changer in the college admission’s process, I think that it deserves its own blog.  Plus, it will serve as a quick and easy reference, since I plan on updating it as often as possible with colleges that have chosen to superscore the ACT!  Just for full exposure, I only get my information regarding specific colleges by calling each admission department directly and asking about its policies.  I recommend that if you have a question about a college to go right to the source; DON’T rely on rumors!!!

Good luck and keep reading!

Karen Miller ~  SAT/ACT/College Application Specialist

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