On the ACT, the number schools are most concerned with is the composite, which is found by averaging the four subject scores, with a .5 rounding up and a .25 rounding down. But what happens when a student’s best subject scores are not all from the same test?
This is where the superscore comes into play. A superscore is a student’s best possible composite, formed by using the student’s best subject scores from all of the tests the student has taken. Many times, the student’s best subject scores can be combined to create a composite that is one or more points higher than any composite the student achieved on a single test.
Will schools use a superscore?
Whether a school will consider a student’s superscore or best natural composite depends entirely upon the school. Unfortunately, most schools do not specifically publish their policy regarding superscores. However, schools will often answer this question when specifically asked, so it is definitely a worthwhile question to ask campus tour guides or admissions officers.
Implications of the superscore.
If all the top schools on your list accept superscores, you can alter your test-taking strategy a bit. Instead of going for your best composite on every test you take, it might sometimes make more sense to concentrate on one section of a test. For instance, imagine that you have taken the ACT once and scored a 29 in English, a 25 in Mathematics, a 32 in Reading, and a 30 in Science. Your composite would be a 29, since these scores average exactly 29. Therefore, you would need to gain exactly 2 points in order to raise your composite to a 30. However, suppose that the Reading and Science scores were significantly higher than the scores you typically got on practice tests. You might be concerned that any gains you could make in English and Math would likely be offset by losses in Reading and Science. However, if the schools on your list accept superscores, this would not be a concern. Instead of worrying about maintaining your Reading and Science scores in addition to raising your English and Math scores, you could choose not to worry about Reading and Science and instead devote all your preparation time to English and Math, giving yourself an excellent chance of raising your superscore even if you Reading and Science scores drop a couple of points.
Is there ever a reason not to submit scores that would result in a higher superscore?
Typically, when submitting scores to schools that accept superscores, students should submit their scores from all test dates on which they got their personal best scores for any given section, as doing so will result in their best superscore. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Students should be careful about submitting scores from any test date on which they did very poorly on one or more sections, even if they also did their very best on another section. For instance, suppose you took the test one time and scored a 30 in English, a 31 in Math, a 33 in Reading, and a 31 in Science. Your composite would be a 31, since these scores average 31.25. Suppose that you then took the test again and scored a 29 in English, a 25 in Math, a 31 in Reading, and a 32 in Science. Your composite would be a 29, since these scores average 29.25. It would be tempting to submit these scores as well, since the 32 in Science raises your superscore from a 31 to a 32. However, you should think long and hard before doing so. The composite of 29, in and of itself, is not particularly worrisome; however, the 25 in Math is a possible red flag. Is the 1 point increase in your superscore worth the possibility of calling your math skills into question in the eyes of the admission committee?