Vanderbilt admissions to begin superscoring the ACT

Applicants will now be able to submit their superscored ACT results following a recent policy change

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Vanderbilt admissions to begin superscoring the ACT

The Ingram Commons. (Photo by Emily Gonçalves)

The Ingram Commons. (Photo by Emily Gonçalves)

Emily Gonçalves

The Ingram Commons. (Photo by Emily Gonçalves)

Emily Gonçalves

Emily Gonçalves

The Ingram Commons. (Photo by Emily Gonçalves)

Brooke Gerber

Vanderbilt will now consider prospective students’ superscored ACT results in the admissions process. This change comes after years of only accepting composite ACT scores. Superscoring is the process of taking a students’ highest score from each testing category (Math, English, Reading and Science) regardless of the testing date when calculating the average score. 

ACT recently came out with a study that emphasized a correlation between a student’s score and their first year college GPA (FYGPA) using the various scoring systems (superscore, highest, last, average). In an analysis of 277,551 students, ACT found that the correlation between superscored ACT and FYGPA was slightly stronger than the other scoring methods. Superscored ACT’s correlation with FYGPA had an r-value (correlation coefficient) of r = 0.41, while last score, average score, and highest score have r-values of 0.40, 0.39, and 0.40, respectively. 

In other words, culminating an overall score from multiple testing dates best predicts student capabilities at college. This data influenced Vanderbilt in altering its policy, according to Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Douglas Christiansen.

“Now that they have research to back it, we did it,” Christiansen said. 

In the past, Vanderbilt had accepted superscored SAT scores but not ACT scores. Christiansen claims this policy was implemented because College Board, the company that creates the SAT, says that each subsection on each test is independent of the others; for example, a reading section on an administered test is not made to complement that particular test’s math section. However, the ACT had previously stated that each of the subsections were weighted differently per test, making each section’s results intertwined and not a direct correlation to the average.

In addition to the research, Christiansen said other reasons for now superscoring the ACT include making testing more user-friendly for students and easier for families with less educational capital who may have no prior knowledge of the testing process. 

ACT offers fee waivers to low-income students to take the exam for free up to two times. But with the $52 per-exam cost of the ACT and since 35.6 percent of high school students in ACT’s study took the test three or more times, it’s possible that this policy could disadvantage lower-income students.

 “It definitely is going to be useful for juniors who are taking the ACT who have superscores that combine higher than the actual composite score,” first-year Gabi Chiavenato said. “It was really unfair that they didn’t superscore the ACT before.”

First-year Mary Allen Murray also said that superscoring may lead to a decrease in quality of admitted students.

Vanderbilt admissions, however, is not concerned about a decrease in caliber of students accepted to Vanderbilt as a result of this change. 

“Because our testing [average] is so high, it will make no difference in what our outcome is,” Christiansen said.

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