What Does “Superscore” Mean?
When a college “superscores” your SAT or ACT test scores, it takes the best sections of the test from your various test dates, and combines them to form a new total. For the SAT, that means taking your best scores from the two sections of Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math, and adding them together for a new total score. For the ACT, this means taking your best subscores for the four sections of English, Reading, Math, and Science, and averaging them to form a new Composite score.
Here is an example of SAT superscoring:
|Test Date||Evidence-Based Reading & Writing||Math||Total|
Here is an example of ACT superscoring:
Which Colleges Superscore?
Most colleges superscore the SAT. Many of the colleges that do not are public universities, such as Penn State, University of Arizona, and University of California.
Unlike the SAT, the ACT is only superscored by a few colleges. Some private colleges that superscore the ACT include Amherst College, Boston College, and Johns Hopkins. A few public colleges that superscore the ACT include Indiana University and University of Colorado.
Some colleges have an intermediate approach; for example, Duke considers the highest composite score, and highest section scores, but does not recalculate a new composite.
In general, colleges look more closely at the test sections that correspond to your intended major. For students planning to major in business or engineering, the math sections are very important. For students with interests in the humanities, the verbal sections carry more weight.
How are SAT and ACT Test Scores Reported to Colleges?
Typically students send scores directly to colleges through the College Board or ACT websites; and scores must be sent by entire test date, not individual section. A recent trend is for some colleges to not require that students release their scores from the College Board or ACT, but instead send them only if they matriculate; the motive is to increase access for students who cannot afford the fees of sending scores. The Common Application does not require students to report test scores but instead gives students the opportunity to report their highest score per section, If they so choose.
So What Should I Do?
Evaluate your college list and the individual policies of your colleges. Make a chart to organize the information about which colleges superscore the SAT and/or ACT; this may well impact your college list as well as your consideration of where to apply early in making “reach” colleges more attainable. For information on whether to retake the SAT or ACT, read our blog.