Planning and trying to reach your ACT target score can be stressful and frustrating. You got a 36 in Math on one test date and a 35 in Reading on another test date. Why can’t you just get all of your highest individual section scores on the same test date?
If you’re applying to colleges that superscore the ACT, you don’t have to worry about that. So what is an ACT superscore? And how do you calculate it? In this post, I’ll explain what superscoring means, how to create your own ACT superscore calculator, and how superscoring affects your test-prep strategy.
What’s an ACT Superscore?
An ACT superscore is a new final composite score that is made up of your best individual section scores across all ACT tests you took. These best individual section scores are averaged to create a brand new composite ACT score.
In case you're unfamiliar with how to calculate your composite ACT score, here's a brief explanation. The ACT has four sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science. Each section is scored individually on a scale of 1-36. These section scores are then averaged to give you a composite ACT score, also on a scale of 1-36.
What if you took the Writing section, too? Don't worry—your Writing score, which uses a different point range of 2-12, will not affect your composite ACT score or superscore. That said, you don't want to get a high ACT score and flunk your essay, so be sure you know how to write a good one!
How Do You Calculate Your ACT Superscore?
To create an ACT superscore, you'll pick out your best section scores for English, Math, Reading, and Science across all ACTs you took and then average them together. This will give you a new ACT composite score, or superscore.
But what are the specific steps? First, make a table to use as your ACT superscore calculator. In this table, insert six columns. The number of rows you have will depend on the number of times you've taken the ACT. Your total number of rows should equal the number of tests taken + 2.
Label the table as I've done below:
Next, fill in your respective test date section scores and composite scores:
The third step is to fill in the superscore number for each section by selecting the HIGHEST individual section score. Leave the "Superscore Composite" area blank for now.
Finally, average the superscore section scores (i.e., the scores in the bottom row of your chart):
(32+29+35+29) / 4 = 31
The number you get will be your final composite ACT superscore. Write this score down in the "Superscore Composite" blank in the bottom-right of your chart:
Make sure to round your average to the nearest whole number. For example, if we got 30.5, our composite superscore would round up to 31. However, if we got 30.25, our superscore would round down to 30.
As you can see in these charts, by creating an ACT superscore, our composite score increased by 2 points—that's a considerable jump on the ACT!
Before you get too excited, though, make sure the colleges you plan to apply to superscore the ACT since not all colleges do. For example, MIT, NYU, and Cornell all superscore the ACT, whereas Harvard, Yale, and Georgetown do not. Not all schools superscore, but check for information about your target schools anyway. You never know what you'll find out unless you look!
Many colleges like ACT superscoring because it increases the average ACT composite score of admitted students, which, in turn, helps schools improve their rankings.
Superscoring is also helpful for you. If you do poorly on a section on one test date, it won’t affect you with colleges who use superscoring, as long as you get a higher score for that section on another test date.
What Does Superscoring Mean for Your ACT Strategy?
Now that you know the ins and outs of ACT superscoring, what does this mean for your approach to test prep?
Here, I’ll give a brief summary of the three steps you'll need to take to be able to use superscoring to your advantage. For more info, check out our detailed guide on how ACT superscoring can affect your test prep.
Remember: the following strategy only applies if all of the schools you’re applying to superscore the ACT. If some of the schools on your target list do not superscore, then you’ll need to aim for your composite target score on one test (meaning the steps below won't apply to you).
Step 1: Plan Your ACT Schedule Early
Planning ahead of time, preferably before the start of your junior year, can be a big help in figuring out how you can benefit from schools' superscoring policies.
Since you’re able to superscore your ACT scores, it's best to sit for around three test dates. If you reach your target composite score the first time, then great—you’re done early!
If you don’t reach your goal score the first time around, though, you'll still have plenty of time to sit for other test dates, and can eventually pick out your best section scores from each date to create a great superscore.
Step 2: Focus Your Prep
If you reached your target ACT scores on two sections but didn’t do very well on the other two, you can thereafter channel all of your energy into preparing for your two weaker sections. Doing this gives you a better shot at scoring highly, and means you won't have to worry about doing well on the two sections on which you already hit your goal scores.
Of course, this doesn't mean you should put zero effort into studying for your stronger sections—just that you should put more effort into prepping for the sections you're weaker at.
Step 3: Relax!
Ultimately, superscoring should make your test prep more relaxed. Why? Even if you completely mess up on a section on one ACT test date, you could still get into your dream college if you get a better score on a different test date.
So if you score poorly on a section, it's not the end of the world—all you need to do is retake the ACT and tailor your prep to that particular section!
Finally, make sure you're studying the right way with our guide to reviewing your ACT/SAT mistakes.
Want to improve your ACT score by 4+ points? Download our free guide to the top 5 strategies you need in your prep to improve your ACT score dramatically.
Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
As an SAT/ACT tutor, Dora has guided many students to test prep success. She loves watching students succeed and is committed to helping you get there. Dora received a full-tuition merit based scholarship to University of Southern California. She graduated magna cum laude and scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT. She is also passionate about acting, writing, and photography.