The ACT recently announced a few changes to the exam that make it both less and more like the SAT. We’ll go over each change in detail here, starting with the one that sets the ACT apart from the SAT.
ACT Now Offers Superscore
Some of you might be staring at this with a puzzled expression on your face; after all, haven’t superscores been around for a while already? Yes, but the ACT’s offer of a superscore changes the process just a tad. In the past, when colleges said that they accepted superscores, you had to submit all your ACT scores, and colleges would superscore for you. Now, you can choose one composite score to send, and ACT will also calculate a superscore to be printed alongside your composite on the transcript they send to colleges.
Before you start sending superscores left and right, though, be sure to check the policies of each college for details on whether they even accept superscores!
ACT is Changing Their Reading Section
You probably panicked as you read that title, but don’t! The ACT continues to stand by their commitment to rolling out gradual changes to test content over time (unlike their peers at the SAT, who plunk a brand-new, revised test down on students’ desks every 10 years or so). What does this mean for you? Even when the ACT announces content changes, there’s no need to throw out your prep books from this year or last year because most of the test remains the same. What’s more, in the case of this particular change, it’s not really a change––it’s just transferring one type of question from another section in the ACT into the reading section.
Starting in 2021 (warning: we have no idea with which test!), one passage in the ACT reading section may come with a graphic that contains qualitative information, such as a graph, figure, or table. These questions are called Visual Qualitative Information questions, or VQIs for short, and they will ask you to synthesize information from the passage and graphic. In simpler words, chart and graph questions are coming to the ACT reading section. They’ve been around on the SAT since it was redesigned in 2016; they’ve also always been on the ACT, just in the science section. So really, don’t panic! VQIs aren’t totally new questions coming out of left field.
That said, how can you prep for VQIs when no ACT prep book covers them specifically? The ACT has released a few official sample questions for you to try. If you’d like someone to walk you through the solutions step-by-step, check out our YouTube video for this week! For general tips on how to approach VQIs and prep for them, continue reading this blog post.
- One of our first tips for you is that if a question says “strongly supported by the graphics” or “supported by the graphics,” focus only on the graphics. Don’t think about information in the passage, and don’t infer something that isn’t stated in the graphic; use only the facts given in the graphic to answer the question. Seems simple enough, but this is the number one trap students consistently fall into!
- When in doubt, rely on logic and the given facts. The ACT is generally a very logical test, so you can use logical reasoning to help you narrow down your answer choices. Just remember to double check your answer against the evidence presented in the passage and/or graphics.
- Questions can come loaded with detail; if you don’t take your time to track each detail, you can easily end up with a close but wrong answer (which they will definitely have as one of the choices). Annotate the passage and graphics as you read, and match the wording of questions to their exact pair in the passage as you comb for the right answer. Mixing up even one small detail could cost you the question!
The most helpful step you can take to prep for VQIs is to polish your science skills. VQIs are very similar to the chart-reading questions found in the science section, so working on those will simultaneously set you up to succeed on reading VQIs. Another thing you can do to prep is to practice with chart and graph questions from SAT reading sections.
That’s it for the changes to the ACT. Good luck with the new and improved ACT reading, everyone!