ACT Inc., the nonprofit makers of the ACT college entrance exam, announced in October 2019 their plans to drastically alter testing and scoring policies. Originally, by September 2020, test-takers were going to be able to retake sections of the exam, superscore their results and sit for a digital version of the assessment.
However, due to the delays prompted by the novel coronavirus, the rollout of section retesting has been postponed — along with the option to test digitally — until 2021.
The ACT’s sections are English, math, science and reading, plus an optional 40-minute writing section. The new opportunity to retest in specific exam sections, rather than retaking the entire ACT, will be a delightful change for many high school students. Section retests will allow them to focus their energy on their weakest areas and may alleviate a considerable amount of test anxiety.
Students who are interested in ACT section retesting should know these three facts ahead of 2021:
— Section retests will be available only in a digital format.
— Students will be able to take up to three section retests per test date.
— Some retest registration procedures are still unknown.
Section Retests Will be Available Only in a Digital Format
Test-takers who wish to retake one or more ACT sections may do so only online. The ACT will still be offered as a paper-based exam, but the paper test must be completed in its entirety.
Students who opt for a section retest should prepare extensively using online materials and electronic practice exams so that they are more comfortable with the digital testing experience. This is especially true if your first ACT experience is with the paper-based exam.
Since section retesters will not be able to write directly on their exams, the shift from paper to a computer may necessitate some changes in testing strategy. For example, the digital format will not allow students to jot notes in the margins, which is a technique that students tend to rely on for ACT Reading.
One benefit of testing digitally is that students will receive their results much quicker — as soon as two business days later versus two to eight weeks with the paper format.
Students Can Take Up to Three Section Retests Per Test Date
There will be no limit on the total number of times a student can retest, and retest dates will always coincide with the dates of the national ACT. This means that students will have seven different opportunities to retest each year.
During each sitting, students can retake one, two or three sections. The ACT has five sections, which includes the optional writing component.
Before signing up to retest in three different sections, students should first consider retaking the entire ACT, especially if the costs are comparable. The ACT’s fee schedule is $44 for one section retest, $48 for two and $52 for three. The cost for retaking the full ACT is $55 without the writing portion and $70 with it.
Qualified students will be eligible for fee waivers for section retakes. Up to four waivers per tester are permitted, and they can also be used to retake the full exam. One waiver can cover multiple section retests on the same date.
Some Retest Registration Procedures Are Still Unknown
While the costs associated with retests have been announced, registration procedures have not. The ACT has promised to provide more information on logistics soon, while indicating that registration for section retests would be similar to the ACT test.
ACT officials have said the changes are a response to educational research and the needs of modern students and schools.
Next Steps Toward ACT Section Retesting
If you are waiting for the release of section retesting, continue reviewing your most problematic subject areas. Since it is unknown when section retesting will go into effect, the best thing to do now is to monitor the ACT website for updates.
If the ACT makes no announcement about section retests by the end of 2020, consider expanding your test prep to cover all ACT sections, as a full exam retake may be your only option depending on your college application timeline.
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Update 09/28/20: This article has been updated with new information.