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Historically, most colleges have superscored the SAT.  Today, more two-thirds of the over 500 colleges we looked at superscore the ACT. A study conducted by ACT and some Harvard psychometricians suggests that superscoring is the best policy for students and admissions officers alike.

Most of the research on standardized tests indicates that students benefit by taking the ACT or SAT more than once.  According to the College Board, two-thirds of students improve their SAT score the second-time they take the test. An ACT study showed that 57% of test takers improved their Composite score on their second test. The average score of multiple test takers is higher than of those who take the exam only once.

And yet, only about half of all examinees take the test more than once.  Like the testing companies, we think it’s smart to take the test two or three times.  Even when a student takes multiple practice exams, as he or she should, there’s nothing exactly like the experience of the real thing except the real thing.  Students often feel more comfortable the second time they take the SAT or ACT, simply by virtue of its being the second or third time.  There’s always an element of randomness in any test, which is why scores come with a margin of error (aka standard error of measurement, or SEM), and some days just go better than others for a whole host of reasons. Even if a student is going into the second exam with a score she is already happy with, knowing that can take off some of the pressure, which can lead to a higher score.

The question for colleges is what to do with multiple exam scores from applicants.  Should they take the highest score from one sitting? The average of all the sittings? The most recent sitting? The best section scores across all sittings?  What is best for the student? And what is best for schools?

What is best for students is clearly the last option:  taking the best section scores from across sittings.  This option is known as superscoring, and it is a very common practice in college admissions when it comes to the SAT.  We looked at just over 500 schools to see whether they superscore the SAT, the ACT, or both.  90% of the schools superscore the SAT, while 68% superscore the ACT, which means that 111 schools (22% of our pool) superscore the SAT but not the ACT.

We have no real issue with schools that choose not to superscore either the SAT or the ACT. Assuming that these schools have done the validity research that indicates what is best for them and their applicants, they should do what is best. But why superscore one test and not the other? The inconsistency is confusing to students and can work as an unwelcome nudge to take the SAT rather than the ACT.

One reason for the inconsistency has to do with the way many colleges and universities have traditionally looked at scores.  Although most students talk about their total (400-1600) score, admissions officers tend to look at the SAT as two scores, the Evidence-based Reading and Writing (ERW) and the Math, and until the 2016 redesign of the SAT the College Board did not even bother to report a total score.  Colleges have tended to treat the ACT differently, putting the most emphasis on the Composite score, which is the average of the English, Math, Reading, and Science scores.  Much of ACT’s own discussion of the test focuses on the Composite score.

The effect of these emphases is that they have made it easier to superscore the SAT.  If a student takes the test twice and gets a 700 Math and 600 ERW the first time, and then he gets a 650 Math and 640 ERW the second time, an admissions officer can decide to look at that student as have a 700 Math and 640 ERW.  The second test is weaker in terms of its combined score, but superscoring gives the student his best total score of a 1340.  When it comes to the ACT, it is easy enough to grab the best section scores from different exams, but colleges have to go one extra step to calculate a new Composite score.

Is that a bridge too far to cross? Surely the fancy enrollment management software most admissions offices use could handle calculating a new average. It’s worth noting that the NCAA basically superscores the ACT; it adds up the best section scores across multiple tests.

Another explanation for why some schools won’t superscore the ACT is that there is a mistaken belief that ACT tells schools not to do so. Cal Tech, for instance, claims on its website that “ACT does not condone superscoring, so Caltech will not calculate a new composite ACT score,” but that claim is not true.  We have heard this line repeated several times, but we could find no evidence that ACT ever told schools not to superscore.

ACT’s official position on superscoring is that they have no position.

We leave to the individual postsecondary institutions the decision of what approach is best for them, believing that they are in the best position to understand their unique needs and the context within which the scores are being used.

Recently, however, two ACT researchers and two psychometricians from the Harvard Graduate School of Education suggested that the best thing for colleges to do with multiple test scores is to superscore them.

We compare four scoring methods (average, highest, last, and superscoring) on two criteria. First, we compare correlations between scores from each scoring method and FYGPA [first year GPA in college]. We find them similar. Second, we compare scores from each scoring method based on whether they differentially predict FYGPA across the number of testing occasions (retakes). We find that retakes account for additional variance beyond standardized achievement and positively predict FYGPA across all scoring methods. We also find that superscoring minimizes this differential prediction—although it may seem that superscoring should inflate scores across retakes, this inflation is “true” to the extent that it accounts for the positive effects of retaking for predicting FYGPA.

Among the four approaches–using best, average, most recent, or superscore–they correlate to about the same degree with FYGPA, but the superscore has the strongest correlation.  It also helps account best for the score differences that are generated by multiple test taking.  Although one might expect the predictive power of the test to go down if someone cherry picks their best scores from multiple exams, it turns out that the ACT underpredicts FYGPA on average and that superscoring reduces that underprediction.

We would love to see those 111 schools that superscore the SAT but not the ACT change their policy to make it more consistent.  It will probably be better for students and for them.

Here is the list of 506 schools whose superscore policy we could identify.  We relied first on the Common Data Set, which we then cross-checked with school websites.  When we were not sure about a policy, we emailed the school.  Policies do change, often over the summer, so we recommend confirming a school’s policy before you act on this list.  We appreciate notification of any listings we have that may have changed.

College/University [bg_sort_this_table pagination=1 perpage=50 showsearch=1 showinfo=1 responsive=1 lang=”en”]Superscore SAT?Superscore ACT?
Abilene Christian UniversityYESYES
Adelphi UniversityYESYES
Agnes Scott CollegeYESYES
Albion CollegeYESYES
Albright CollegeYESYES
Alderson Broaddus UniversityYESYES
Allegheny CollegeYESYES
American UniversityYESNO
Amherst CollegeYESYES
Antioch CollegeYESYES
Appalachian State UniversityYESYES
Arizona State University at the Tempe campusNONO
Art Center College of DesignYESNO
Auburn UniversityNONO
Austin CollegeYESYES
Averett UniversityYESYES
Babson CollegeYESYES
Baldwin Wallace UniversityYESNO
Bard CollegeYESYES
Barnard CollegeYESNO
Bates CollegeYESYES
Baylor UniversityYESYES
Becker CollegeYESYES
Beloit CollegeYESYES
Bennington CollegeYESNO
Bentley UniversityYESYES
Berea CollegeYESYES
Berry CollegeYESNO
Bloomfield CollegeYESYES
Bloomsburg University of PennsylvaniaYESYES
Boston CollegeYESYES
Boston UniversityYESNO
Bowdoin CollegeYESYES
Bowling Green State UniversityNONO
Brandeis UniversityYESNO
Brenau UniversityYESYES
Bridgewater CollegeYESYES
Brigham Young University (UT)NONO
Brown UniversityYESYES*
Bryant UniversityYESYES
Bryn Mawr CollegeYESNO
Bucknell UniversityYESYES
Butler UniversityYESYES
California Institute of TechnologyYESYES
California Polytechnic State UniversityYESYES
California State Polytechnic University, PomonaYESYES
California State University, StanislausYESYES
California University of PennsylvaniaYESYES
Calvary Bible College and Theological SeminaryYESYES
Canisius CollegeYESYES
Carleton CollegeYESNO
Carnegie Mellon UniversityYESNO
Carson-Newman UniversityYESYES
Case Western Reserve UniversityYESNO
Cedar Crest CollegeYESYES
Central Connecticut State UniversityYESYES
Central Michigan UniversityYESYES
Chapman UniversityYESNO
Chatham UniversityYESNO
Chestnut Hill CollegeYESNO
Christendom CollegeYESYES
Christopher Newport UniversityYESNO
Claremont McKenna CollegeYESYES
Clark Atlanta UniversityYESNO
Clark UniversityYESYES
Clarkson UniversityYESNO
Clemson UniversityYESNO
Coastal Carolina UniversityYESYES
Colby CollegeYESYES
Colgate UniversityYESYES
College of CharlestonYESYES
College of New JerseyYESNO
College of Performing ArtsYESYES
College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s UniversityYESYES
College of the Holy CrossYESYES
College of the OzarksNONO
College of William and MaryYESNO
Colorado CollegeYESNO
Colorado School of MinesNONO
Colorado State UniversityYESYES
Columbia University – Columbia College and Fu Foundation School of EngineerYESYES
Connecticut CollegeYESYES
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and ArtYESYES
Cornell CollegeYESYES
Cornell UniversityYESNO
Creighton UniversityYESNO
Dallas Baptist UniversityYESNO
Dartmouth CollegeYESNO
Davidson CollegeYESYES
Delaware Valley UniversityYESYES
Denison UniversityYESYES
DePaul UniversityYESYES
DeSales UniversityYESYES
Dickinson CollegeYESYES
Drew UniversityYESNO
Drexel UniversityYESYES
Duke UniversityYESYES*
Duquesne UniversityYESYES
Earlham CollegeYESYES
East Carolina UniversityNONO
East Texas Baptist UniversityYESYES
Eckerd CollegeYESYES
Elmira CollegeYESYES
Elon UniversityYESYES
Emerson CollegeYESYES
Emmanuel CollegeYESNO
Emory UniversityYESNO
Endicott CollegeYESYES
Eugene Lang College of Liberal ArtsYESYES
Evergreen State CollegeYESNO
Fairfield UniversityYESYES
Fashion Institute of TechnologyYESYES
Flagler CollegeYESYES
Florida Institute of TechnologyYESYES
Florida International UniversityYESYES
Florida Southern CollegeYESYES
Florida State UniversityYESYES
Fordham UniversityYESNO
Fort Lewis CollegeYESYES
Franklin and Marshall CollegeYESYES
Franklin CollegeYESYES
Franklin W. Olin College of EngineeringYESYES
Frostburg State UniversityYESYES
Furman UniversityYESYES
Gannon UniversityYESYES
George Mason UniversityYESNO
Georgetown CollegeYESYES
Georgetown UniversityYESNO
Georgia College & State UniversityYESYES
Georgia Institute of TechnologyYESYES
Georgia Southern UniversityYESNO
Georgian Court UniversityYESYES
Gettysburg CollegeYESYES
Gonzaga UniversityYESYES
Gordon CollegeYESYES
Goucher CollegeYESNO
Grinnell CollegeYESYES
Grove City CollegeYESYES
Guilford CollegeYESYES
Hamilton CollegeYESYES
Hampden-Sydney CollegeYESYES
Hampton UniversityYESYES
Hanover CollegeYESYES
Harvard CollegeYESNO
Harvey Mudd CollegeYESYES
Haverford CollegeYESYES
Hawai’i Pacific UniversityYESYES
Hellenic CollegeYESNO
Hendrix College
YES
YES
High Point UniversityYESYES
Hillsdale CollegeNONO
Hobart and William Smith CollegesYESYES
Hofstra UniversityYESYES
Hollins UniversityYESYES
Hood CollegeYESYES
Houston Baptist UniversityYESYES
Howard UniversityYESNO
Hunter College, CUNYYESYES
Huntingdon CollegeYESYES
Husson UniversityYESYES
Illinois Institute of TechnologyYESYES
Immaculata UniversityYESYES
Indiana State UniversityYESYES
Indiana University BloomingtonYESYES
Indiana University EastYESYES
Indiana University NorthwestYESYES
Indiana University of PennsylvaniaYESYES
Indiana University South BendYESYES
Indiana University SoutheastYESYES
Indiana University-KokomoYESYES
Indiana University-Purdue University IndianapolisYESYES
Iona CollegeYESYES
Iowa State UniversityNONO
Ithaca CollegeYESYES
James Madison UniversityYESYES
Johns Hopkins UniversityYESYES
Juniata CollegeYESYES
Kalamazoo CollegeYESYES
Kansas State UniversityNONO
Kean UniversityYESYES
Keene State CollegeYESYES
Kennesaw State UniversityYESYES
Kentucky State UniversityYESYES
Kenyon CollegeYESYES
Kettering UniversityYESYES
King UniversityYESYES
King’s College (PA)YESYES
Knox CollegeYESYES
La Roche CollegeYESYES
La Salle UniversityYESYES
Lafayette CollegeYESYES
Lake Erie CollegeYESYES
Lawrence UniversityYESYES
Le Moyne CollegeYESYES
Lebanon Valley CollegeYESYES
Lehigh UniversityYESYES
Lewis & Clark CollegeYESYES
LIM CollegeYESYES
Lincoln University (MO)YESYES
Linfield CollegeYESYES
LIU PostYESNO
Louisiana State UniversityNONO
Loyola Marymount UniversityYESNO
Loyola University MarylandYESYES
Loyola University New OrleansYESYES
Loyola University of ChicagoYESYES
Lycoming CollegeYESYES
Lynn UniversityYESYES
Macalester CollegeYESYES*
Manhattan CollegeYESNO
Manhattanville CollegeYESNO
Marian UniversityYESYES
Marist CollegeYESYES
Marlboro CollegeYESYES
Marquette UniversityNONO
Mary Baldwin UniversityYESYES
Massachusetts College of Art and DesignYESYES
Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyYESYES
McMurry UniversityYESYES
Menlo CollegeYESYES
Mercer University-MaconYESYES
Meredith CollegeYESYES
Merrimack CollegeYESYES
Messiah CollegeYESYES
Miami UniversityYESYES
Michigan State UniversityNONO
Michigan Technological UniversityNONO
Middlebury CollegeYESYES
Millersville University of PennsylvaniaYESNO
Molloy CollegeYESNO
Monmouth University (NJ)YESYES
Montclair State UniversityYESYES
Moravian CollegeYESNO
Mount Holyoke CollegeYESYES
Mount Saint Mary CollegeYESYES
Mount Saint Mary’s University (CA)YESYES
Mount St. Mary’s UniversityYESNO
Muhlenberg CollegeYESNO
Multnomah UniversityYESYES
Nazareth CollegeYESYES
Neumann UniversityYESNO
New College of FloridaYESYES
New York UniversityYESYES
Niagara UniversityYESYES
Nichols CollegeYESNO
North Carolina State UniversityYESYES
Northeastern UniversityYESyES
Northern Arizona UniversityYESYES
Northwestern UniversityYESNO
Northwood UniversityYESYES
Norwich UniversityYESNO
Oberlin CollegeYESNO
Occidental CollegeYESYES
Ohio UniversityYESNO
Oklahoma State UniversityNONO
Old Dominion UniversityYESNO
Olivet CollegeYESYES
Oregon State UniversityNONO
Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU)YESYES
Pace UniversityYESNO
Pacific Lutheran UniversityYESNO
Parsons School of DesignYESYES
Penn State University ParkNONO
Pepperdine UniversityYESNO
Pitzer CollegeYESYES
Point Loma Nazarene UniversityYESYES
Pomona CollegeYESYES
Presbyterian CollegeYESYES
Princeton UniversityYESNO
Principia CollegeYESYES
Providence CollegeYESYES*
Purdue University–West LafayetteYESNO
Queens College of the City University of New YorkYESYES
Quinnipiac UniversityYESNO
Radford UniversityYESYES
Randolph CollegeYESYES
Randolph-Macon CollegeYESYES
Reed CollegeYESYES*
Regis UniversityYESYES
Rensselear Polytechnic InstituteYESNO
Rhode island CollegeYESNO
Rhode Island School of DesignYESNO
Rhodes CollegeYESYES
Rice UniversityYESNO
Roanoke CollegeYESNO
Robert Morris UniversityYESYES
Rochester Institute of TechnologyYESYES
Roger Williams UniversityYESYES
Rose-Hulman Institute of TechnologyYESYES
Rutgers University–CamdenYESYES
Rutgers University–New BrunswickYESNO
Sacred Heart UniversityYESYES
Saint Anselm CollegeYESYES
Saint Joseph’s College (IN)YESYES
Saint Joseph’s University (PA)YESNO
Saint Leo UniversityYESYES
Saint Mary’s College (IN)YESYES
Saint Michael’s CollegeYESYES
Salisbury UniversityYESNO
Salve Regina UniversityYESYES
Samford UniversityYESYES
San Diego State UniversityYESYES
Santa Clara UniversityYESNO
Sarah Lawrence CollegeYESYES
Schreiner UniversityYESYES
Scripps CollegeYESYES
Seton Hall UniversityYESYES
Sewanee: The University of the SouthYESYES
Shenandoah UniversityYESNO
Shepherd UniversityYESYES
Shippensburg University of PennsylvaniaYESYES
Siena CollegeYESNO
Simmons CollegeYESYES
Skidmore CollegeYESNO
Slippery Rock University of PennsylvaniaYESNO
Smith CollegeYESNO
Soka University of AmericaYESYES
Southern Methodist UniversityYESNO
Southwestern UniversityYESNO
Spelman CollegeYESYES
St John Fisher CollegeYESYES
St. Edward’s UniversityYESNO
St. John’s CollegeYESYES
St. John’s UniversityYESYES
St. Mary’s UniversityYESYES
St. Olaf CollegeYESYES
Stanford UniversityYESNO**
State University of New York – Alfred State CollegeYESYES
State University of New York – PotsdamYESYES
State University of New York at Binghamton (Binghamton University)YESNO
State University of New York at GeneseoYESYES
State University of New York at New PaltzYESYES
State University of New York–OswegoYESYES
State University of New York–Stony Brook UniversityYESYES
State University of New York–University at BuffaloYESNO
Stetson UniversityYESNO
Stonehill CollegeYESNO
SUNY at Purchase CollegeYESYES
Susquehanna UniversityYESYES
Swarthmore CollegeYESYES
Syracuse UniversityYESYES
Taylor UniversityYESYES
Temple UniversityYESYES
Texas A&M University–College StationNONO
Texas Christian UniversityYESYES
Texas Lutheran UniversityYESYES
Texas Tech UniversityYESYES
The Catholic University of AmericaYESNO
The Citadel, The Military College of South CarolinaYESYES
The City College of New York of The City University of New YorkYESYES
The Cleveland Institute of ArtYESYES
The College at Brockport – SUNYYESYES
The College of Saint RoseYESNO
The College of WoosterYESYES
The Culinary Institute of AmericaYESYES
The George Washington UniversityYESYES
The Lincoln University (PA)YESNO
The Master’s University and SeminaryYESNO
The Ohio State University–ColumbusNONO
The University of Alabama–TuscaloosaNONO
The University of ChicagoYESYES
The University of North Carolina at Chapel HillYESYES
The University of North Carolina at GreensboroYESYES
The University of Texas at AustinNONO
The University of Texas at DallasNONO
The University of TulsaYESYES
Thomas More CollegeYESYES
Toccoa Falls CollegeYESYES
Towson UniversityYESNO
Trine UniversityYESYES
Trinity College (CT)YESYES
Trinity UniversityYESYES
Truman State UniversityYESNO
Tufts UniversityYESYES
Tulane UniversityYESNO
Tuskegee UniversityNONO
Union CollegeYESYES
Union CollegeYESYES
United States Air Force AcademyYESYES
United States Coast Guard AcademyYESYES
United States Merchant Marine AcademyYESYES
United States Military AcademyYESYES
United States Naval AcademyYESYES
University at Albany – SUNYYESYES
University of ArizonaNONO
University of ArkansasYESYES
University of California, DavisNONO
University of California, IrvineNONO
University of California, Los AngelesNONO
University of California, RiversideNONO
University of California–BerkeleyNONO
University of California–San DiegoNONO
University of California–Santa BarbaraNONO
University of California–Santa CruzNONO
University of Central ArkansasYESYES
University of Central FloridaYESNO
University of CincinnatiNONO
University of Colorado BoulderYESYES
University of ConnecticutYESYES
University of DallasYESNO
University of DelawareYESYES
University of DenverYESYES
University of FloridaYESNO
University of GeorgiaYESYES
University of Hawaii at ManoaYESYES
University of HoustonNONO
University of IdahoYESYES
University of Illinois at ChicagoNONO
University of Illinois at Urbana-ChampaignYESYES*
University of IowaNONO
University of KansasNONO
University of KentuckyNONO
University of La VerneYESYES
University of Louisiana at LafayetteNONO
University of LouisvilleNONO
University of MaineNONO
University of Maine at  FarmingtonYESYES
University of Mary WashingtonYESYES
University of Maryland, Baltimore CountyYESYES
University of Maryland, College ParkYESYES
University of Massachusetts AmherstYESYES
University of Massachusetts LowellYESYES
University of MiamiYESYES
University of Michigan–Ann ArborYESYES*
University of Minnesota–Twin Cities CampusNONO
University of MississippiNONO
University of MissouriNONO
University of Nebraska–LincolnNONO
University of New EnglandYESYES
University of New HampshireYESNO
University of New MexicoYESYES
University of New OrleansNONO
University of North Carolina at AshevilleYESNO
University of North Carolina at CharlotteYESYES
University of North DakotaNONO
University of North FloridaYESYES
University of North GeorgiaYESYES
University of Notre DameYESNO
University of OklahomaNONO
University of OregonYESNO
University of PennsylvaniaYESYES
University of Pittsburgh at BradfordYESYES
University of Pittsburgh at JohnstownYESYES
University of Pittsburgh–Pittsburgh CampusYESNO
University of PortlandYESYES
University of Puget SoundYESYES
University of Rhode IslandYESYES
University of RichmondYESNO
University of RochesterYESYES
University of Saint Thomas (MN)YESYES
University of San DiegoYESNO
University of San FranciscoYESNO
University of ScrantonYESNO
University of South Carolina AikenYESNO
University of South Carolina–ColumbiaYESNO
University of South FloridaYESYES
University of South Florida – St. PetersburgYESYES
University of Southern CaliforniaYESNO
University of Southern IndianaYESYES
University of St. ThomasYESYES
University of TampaYESYES
University of Tennessee, KnoxvilleYESYES
University of the Incarnate WordYESYES
University of the OzarksYESYES
University of UtahNONO
University of VermontYESNO
University of VirginiaYESYES*
University of WashingtonYESYES
University of West GeorgiaYESYES
University of Wisconsin-MadisonNONO
Upper Iowa UniversityYESYES
Ursinus CollegeYESYES
Ursuline CollegeYESYES
Valparaiso UniversityYESYES
Vanderbilt UniversityYESNO
VanderCook College of MusicYESYES
Vassar CollegeYESYES
Villanova UniversityYESYES
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State UniversityYESYES
Virginia Wesleyan UniversityYESNO
Wabash CollegeYESYES
Wagner CollegeYESYES
Wake Forest UniversityYESYES
Warren Wilson CollegeYESYES
Washington & Jefferson CollegeYESYES
Washington State UniversityYESYES
Washington University in St. LouisYESYES
Waynesburg UniversityYESYES
Webb InstituteYESYES
Wellesley CollegeNONO
Wentworth Institute of TechnologyYESNO
Wesleyan UniversityYESYES
West Chester University of PennsylvaniaYESNO
West Virginia UniversityYESYES
Western New England UniversityYESYES
Wheaton College (IL)YESYES
Wheeling Jesuit UniversityYESYES
Whitman CollegeYESYES
Whitworth UniversityYESYES
Willamette UniversityYESYES
William Paterson UniversityYESYES
Williams CollegeYESYES
Winthrop UniversityYESYES
Wofford CollegeYESYES
Worcester Polytechnic InstituteYESYES
Xavier UniversityYESYES
Yale UniversityYESNO

Yes*=These schools will consider the best section scores from across different ACTs, but they will not recalculate a new Composite score.

NO*=Stanford does not superscore the ACT.  It considers the best Composite score from a single sitting, but it will consider the best English and best Writing scores from a test that may not have the best Composite score.