Boosting Your ACT Score Through Superscoring

As another standardized test season kicks off, ACT test takers should know about ACT superscoring.

To understand what superscoring is, here’s some background:

Historically, college admission offices used a student’s composite ACT score that’s made up of four underlying categories:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Reading
  • Science

The test maker averages the four subcores, with each ranging from 1 to 36, to create a composite average.  Schools have traditionally only taken the composite score rather than cherry picking the best subscores. This practice penalizes teenagers who score better in some categories when taking multiple tests.

ACT Superscoring

Some schools, however, have ditched the old practice and are embracing ACT superscoring.

With this policy, a college will select a student’s highest subscores from each of the four categories and create what could be a more impressive superscore. This practice, by the way, is standard procedure with the SAT. When a student takes multiple SAT tests, colleges routinely pick the best scores from the three SAT categories – math, reading and writing.

It makes sense for anyone, who suffers through the ACT test more than once, to ask whether a college superscores the ACT. Knowing what a school’s policy is towards superscoring is important because teenagers might be in a better position to gain admission to some schools or capture fatter financial aid packages or merit awards if their ACT results are superscored.

A Superscore Resource

Some of the big-name schools that superscore the ACT include Amherst College, Boston College, Brandeis University, Haverford College, New York University, Tufts University, U.S. Naval Academy, University of Maryland, University of North Carolina, Washington University in St. Louis and Williams College.

The best source that I have found for colleges that superscore the ACT is College Admissions Partners, which is an independent college consulting firm. You won’t necessarily find the test-optional schools on this list because, according to College Admissions Partners, the institutions that don’t require the SAT or ACT for admission almost always use superscoring.

You can find test-optional schools at

Photo courtesy of loop-oh.

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  1. There is one huge reason why “superscoring” the ACT makes less sense than doing so for the SAT. The SAT is a total score of three separate categories (200-800 Math + Critical Reading + Writing = 600-2400). The ACT, on the other hand, is an AVERAGE; it is not a total. The SAT is designed like three separate tests, with three separate scores. The ACT is supposed to have one single combined score. “Superscoring” the ACT gives ACT students an unfair advantage.

  2. Hello Lynn,

    I’m the director of one of the 10 most selective honors programs in Texas. I’ve been in the honors “business” for over a decade and have held offices in national, regional, and state honors councils for 2- and 4-year honors programs, so I’m familiar with, literally, more than 100 college honors programs. I’ve also been on admissions and scholarship boards for years.

    Not only would I NOT say that such a thing is “standard procedure with SAT scores,” I can honestly say that I know of 1.) no university honors program, 2.) no university scholarship program, 3.) no university admissions office that I’ve ever come in contact with that employs such a practice at all. Perhaps it’s a regional thing, but until I’d come across your website, I’d never even heard of the practice. Just to see if I’m living in a cave or isolated in some way, I sent out an email on my organizational listserv. 25 responses to far. No one practices this at all.

  3. This is a great step forward and I hope the trend continues. There’s no reason to continue having the ACT be (strategically speaking) a second class citizen. It’d be great to see a consortium of schools get together and endorse it / encourage others to do so as well.

    Some schools are even equating SAT Reading with ACT English (reading =/= grammar) and doing other oddities: (example:

    As a counselor virtually all my students have a smorgasbord of different scores, depending on policies like the one above. It’d be great to reduce the entropy for students’ sake!