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 Superscore SAT? Superscore ACT?
Abilene Christian University YES YES
Adelphi University YES YES
Agnes Scott College YES YES
Albion College YES YES
Albright College YES YES
Alderson Broaddus University YES YES
Allegheny College YES YES
American University YES NO
Amherst College YES YES
Antioch College YES YES
Appalachian State University YES YES
Arizona State University at the Tempe campus NO NO
Art Center College of Design YES NO
Auburn University NO NO
Austin College YES YES
Averett University YES YES
Babson College YES YES
Baldwin Wallace University YES NO
Bard College YES YES
Barnard College YES NO
Bates College YES YES
Baylor University YES YES
Becker College YES YES
Beloit College YES YES
Bennington College YES NO
Bentley University YES YES
Berea College YES YES
Berry College YES NO
Bloomfield College YES YES
Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania YES YES
Boston College YES YES
Boston University YES NO
Bowdoin College YES YES
Bowling Green State University NO NO
Brandeis University YES NO
Brenau University YES YES
Bridgewater College YES YES
Brigham Young University (UT) NO NO
Brown University YES YES*
Bryant University YES YES
Bryn Mawr College YES NO
Bucknell University YES YES
Butler University YES YES
California Institute of Technology YES YES
California Polytechnic State University YES YES
California State Polytechnic University, Pomona YES YES
California State University, Stanislaus YES YES
California University of Pennsylvania YES YES
Calvary Bible College and Theological Seminary YES YES
Canisius College YES YES
Carleton College YES NO
Carnegie Mellon University YES NO
Carson-Newman University YES YES
Case Western Reserve University YES NO
Cedar Crest College YES YES
Central Connecticut State University YES YES
Central Michigan University YES YES
Chapman University YES NO
Chatham University YES NO
Chestnut Hill College YES NO
Christendom College YES YES
Christopher Newport University YES NO
Claremont McKenna College YES YES
Clark Atlanta University YES NO
Clark University YES YES
Clarkson University YES NO
Clemson University YES NO
Coastal Carolina University YES YES
Colby College YES YES
Colgate University YES YES
College of Charleston YES YES
College of New Jersey YES NO
College of Performing Arts YES YES
College of Saint Benedict/Saint John’s University YES YES
College of the Holy Cross YES YES
College of the Ozarks NO NO
College of William and Mary YES NO
Colorado College YES NO
Colorado School of Mines NO NO
Colorado State University YES YES
Columbia University – Columbia College and Fu Foundation School of Engineer YES YES
Connecticut College YES YES
Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art YES YES
Cornell College YES YES
Cornell University YES NO
Creighton University YES NO
Dallas Baptist University YES NO
Dartmouth College YES NO
Davidson College YES YES
Delaware Valley University YES YES
Denison University YES YES
DePaul University YES YES
DeSales University YES YES
Dickinson College YES YES
Drew University YES NO
Drexel University YES YES
Duke University YES YES*
Duquesne University YES YES
Earlham College YES YES
East Carolina University NO NO
East Texas Baptist University YES YES
Eckerd College YES YES
Elmira College YES YES
Elon University YES YES
Emerson College YES YES
Emmanuel College YES NO
Emory University YES NO
Endicott College YES YES
Eugene Lang College of Liberal Arts YES YES
Evergreen State College YES NO
Fairfield University YES YES
Fashion Institute of Technology YES YES
Flagler College YES YES
Florida Institute of Technology YES YES
Florida International University YES YES
Florida Southern College YES YES
Florida State University YES YES
Fordham University YES NO
Fort Lewis College YES YES
Franklin and Marshall College YES YES
Franklin College YES YES
Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering YES YES
Frostburg State University YES YES
Furman University YES YES
Gannon University YES YES
George Mason University YES NO
Georgetown College YES YES
Georgetown University YES NO
Georgia College & State University YES YES
Georgia Institute of Technology YES YES
Georgia Southern University YES NO
Georgian Court University YES YES
Gettysburg College YES YES
Gonzaga University YES YES
Gordon College YES YES
Goucher College YES NO
Grinnell College YES YES
Grove City College YES YES
Guilford College YES YES
Hamilton College YES YES
Hampden-Sydney College YES YES
Hampton University YES YES
Hanover College YES YES
Harvard College YES NO
Harvey Mudd College YES YES
Haverford College YES YES
Hawai’i Pacific University YES YES
Hellenic College YES NO
High Point University YES YES
Hillsdale College NO NO
Hobart and William Smith Colleges YES YES
Hofstra University YES YES
Hollins University YES YES
Hood College YES YES
Houston Baptist University YES YES
Howard University YES NO
Hunter College, CUNY YES YES
Huntingdon College YES YES
Husson University YES YES
Illinois Institute of Technology YES YES
Immaculata University YES YES
Indiana State University YES YES
Indiana University Bloomington YES YES
Indiana University East YES YES
Indiana University Northwest YES YES
Indiana University of Pennsylvania YES YES
Indiana University South Bend YES YES
Indiana University Southeast YES YES
Indiana University-Kokomo YES YES
Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis YES YES
Iona College YES YES
Iowa State University NO NO
Ithaca College YES YES
James Madison University YES YES
Johns Hopkins University YES YES
Juniata College YES YES
Kalamazoo College YES YES
Kansas State University NO NO
Kean University YES YES
Keene State College YES YES
Kennesaw State University YES YES
Kentucky State University YES YES
Kenyon College YES YES
Kettering University YES YES
King University YES YES
King’s College (PA) YES YES
Knox College YES YES
La Roche College YES YES
La Salle University YES YES
Lafayette College YES YES
Lake Erie College YES YES
Lawrence University YES YES
Le Moyne College YES YES
Lebanon Valley College YES YES
Lehigh University YES YES
Lewis & Clark College YES YES
Lincoln University (MO) YES YES
Linfield College YES YES
Louisiana State University NO NO
Loyola Marymount University YES NO
Loyola University Maryland YES YES
Loyola University New Orleans YES YES
Loyola University of Chicago YES YES
Lycoming College YES YES
Lynn University YES YES
Macalester College YES YES*
Manhattan College YES NO
Manhattanville College YES NO
Marian University YES YES
Marist College YES YES
Marlboro College YES YES
Marquette University NO NO
Mary Baldwin University YES YES
Massachusetts College of Art and Design YES YES
Massachusetts Institute of Technology YES YES
McMurry University YES YES
Menlo College YES YES
Mercer University-Macon YES YES
Meredith College YES YES
Merrimack College YES YES
Messiah College YES YES
Miami University YES YES
Michigan State University NO NO
Michigan Technological University NO NO
Middlebury College YES YES
Millersville University of Pennsylvania YES NO
Molloy College YES NO
Monmouth University (NJ) YES YES
Montclair State University YES YES
Moravian College YES NO
Mount Holyoke College YES YES
Mount Saint Mary College YES YES
Mount Saint Mary’s University (CA) YES YES
Mount St. Mary’s University YES NO
Muhlenberg College YES NO
Multnomah University YES YES
Nazareth College YES YES
Neumann University YES NO
New College of Florida YES YES
New York University YES YES
Niagara University YES YES
Nichols College YES NO
North Carolina State University YES YES
Northeastern University YES yES
Northern Arizona University YES YES
Northwestern University YES NO
Northwood University YES YES
Norwich University YES NO
Oberlin College YES NO
Occidental College YES YES
Ohio University YES NO
Oklahoma State University NO NO
Old Dominion University YES NO
Olivet College YES YES
Oregon State University NO NO
Our Lady of the Lake University (OLLU) YES YES
Pace University YES NO
Pacific Lutheran University YES NO
Parsons School of Design YES YES
Penn State University Park NO NO
Pepperdine University YES NO
Pitzer College YES YES
Point Loma Nazarene University YES YES
Pomona College YES YES
Presbyterian College YES YES
Princeton University YES NO
Principia College YES YES
Providence College YES YES*
Purdue University–West Lafayette YES NO
Queens College of the City University of New York YES YES
Quinnipiac University YES NO
Radford University YES YES
Randolph College YES YES
Randolph-Macon College YES YES
Reed College YES YES*
Regis University YES YES
Rensselear Polytechnic Institute YES NO
Rhode island College YES NO
Rhode Island School of Design YES NO
Rhodes College YES NO
Rice University YES NO
Roanoke College YES NO
Robert Morris University YES YES
Rochester Institute of Technology YES YES
Roger Williams University YES YES
Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology YES YES
Rutgers University–Camden YES YES
Rutgers University–New Brunswick YES NO
Sacred Heart University YES YES
Saint Anselm College YES YES
Saint Joseph’s College (IN) YES YES
Saint Joseph’s University (PA) YES NO
Saint Leo University YES YES
Saint Mary’s College (IN) YES YES
Saint Michael’s College YES YES
Salisbury University YES NO
Salve Regina University YES YES
Samford University YES YES
San Diego State University YES YES
Santa Clara University YES NO
Sarah Lawrence College YES YES
Schreiner University YES YES
Scripps College YES YES
Seton Hall University YES YES
Sewanee: The University of the South YES YES
Shenandoah University YES NO
Shepherd University YES YES
Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania YES YES
Siena College YES NO
Simmons College YES YES
Skidmore College YES NO
Slippery Rock University of Pennsylvania YES NO
Smith College YES NO
Soka University of America YES YES
Southern Methodist University YES NO
Southwestern University YES NO
Spelman College YES YES
St John Fisher College YES YES
St. Edward’s University YES NO
St. John’s College YES YES
St. John’s University YES YES
St. Mary’s University YES YES
St. Olaf College YES YES
Stanford University YES NO**
State University of New York – Alfred State College YES YES
State University of New York – Potsdam YES YES
State University of New York at Binghamton (Binghamton University) YES NO
State University of New York at Geneseo YES YES
State University of New York at New Paltz YES YES
State University of New York–Oswego YES YES
State University of New York–Stony Brook University YES YES
State University of New York–University at Buffalo YES NO
Stetson University YES NO
Stonehill College YES NO
SUNY at Purchase College YES YES
Susquehanna University YES YES
Swarthmore College YES YES
Syracuse University YES YES
Taylor University YES YES
Temple University YES YES
Texas A&M University–College Station NO NO
Texas Christian University YES YES
Texas Lutheran University YES YES
Texas Tech University YES YES
The Catholic University of America YES NO
The Citadel, The Military College of South Carolina YES YES
The City College of New York of The City University of New York YES YES
The Cleveland Institute of Art YES YES
The College at Brockport – SUNY YES YES
The College of Saint Rose YES NO
The College of Wooster YES YES
The Culinary Institute of America YES YES
The George Washington University YES YES
The Lincoln University (PA) YES NO
The Master’s University and Seminary YES NO
The Ohio State University–Columbus NO NO
The University of Alabama–Tuscaloosa NO NO
The University of Chicago YES YES
The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill YES YES
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro YES YES
The University of Texas at Austin NO NO
The University of Texas at Dallas NO NO
The University of Tulsa YES YES
Thomas More College YES YES
Toccoa Falls College YES YES
Towson University YES NO
Trine University YES YES
Trinity College (CT) YES YES
Trinity University YES YES
Truman State University YES NO
Tufts University YES YES
Tulane University YES NO
Tuskegee University NO NO
Union College YES YES
Union College YES YES
United States Air Force Academy YES YES
United States Coast Guard Academy YES YES
United States Merchant Marine Academy YES YES
United States Military Academy YES YES
United States Naval Academy YES YES
University at Albany – SUNY YES YES
University of Arizona NO NO
University of Arkansas YES YES
University of California, Davis NO NO
University of California, Irvine NO NO
University of California, Los Angeles NO NO
University of California, Riverside NO NO
University of California–Berkeley NO NO
University of California–San Diego NO NO
University of California–Santa Barbara NO NO
University of California–Santa Cruz NO NO
University of Central Arkansas YES YES
University of Central Florida YES NO
University of Cincinnati NO NO
University of Colorado Boulder YES YES
University of Connecticut YES YES
University of Dallas YES NO
University of Delaware YES YES
University of Denver YES YES
University of Florida YES NO
University of Georgia YES YES
University of Hawaii at Manoa YES YES
University of Houston NO NO
University of Idaho YES YES
University of Illinois at Chicago NO NO
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign YES YES*
University of Iowa NO NO
University of Kansas NO NO
University of Kentucky NO NO
University of La Verne YES YES
University of Louisiana at Lafayette NO NO
University of Louisville NO NO
University of Maine NO NO
University of Maine at  Farmington YES YES
University of Mary Washington YES YES
University of Maryland, Baltimore County YES YES
University of Maryland, College Park YES YES
University of Massachusetts Amherst YES YES
University of Massachusetts Lowell YES YES
University of Miami YES YES
University of Michigan–Ann Arbor YES YES*
University of Minnesota–Twin Cities Campus NO NO
University of Mississippi NO NO
University of Missouri NO NO
University of Nebraska–Lincoln NO NO
University of New England YES YES
University of New Hampshire YES NO
University of New Mexico YES YES
University of New Orleans NO NO
University of North Carolina at Asheville YES NO
University of North Carolina at Charlotte YES YES
University of North Dakota NO NO
University of North Florida YES YES
University of North Georgia YES YES
University of Notre Dame YES NO
University of Oklahoma NO NO
University of Oregon YES NO
University of Pennsylvania YES YES
University of Pittsburgh at Bradford YES YES
University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown YES YES
University of Pittsburgh–Pittsburgh Campus YES NO
University of Portland YES YES
University of Puget Sound YES YES
University of Rhode Island YES YES
University of Richmond YES NO
University of Rochester YES YES
University of Saint Thomas (MN) YES YES
University of San Diego YES NO
University of San Francisco YES NO
University of Scranton YES NO
University of South Carolina Aiken YES NO
University of South Carolina–Columbia YES NO
University of South Florida YES YES
University of South Florida – St. Petersburg YES YES
University of Southern California YES NO
University of Southern Indiana YES YES
University of St. Thomas YES YES
University of Tampa YES YES
University of Tennessee, Knoxville YES YES
University of the Incarnate Word YES YES
University of the Ozarks YES YES
University of Utah NO NO
University of Vermont YES NO
University of Virginia YES YES*
University of Washington YES YES
University of West Georgia YES YES
University of Wisconsin-Madison NO NO
Upper Iowa University YES YES
Ursinus College YES YES
Ursuline College YES YES
Valparaiso University YES YES
Vanderbilt University YES NO
VanderCook College of Music YES YES
Vassar College YES YES
Villanova University YES YES
Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University YES YES
Virginia Wesleyan University YES NO
Wabash College YES YES
Wagner College YES YES
Wake Forest University YES YES
Warren Wilson College YES YES
Washington & Jefferson College YES YES
Washington State University YES YES
Washington University in St. Louis YES YES
Waynesburg University YES YES
Webb Institute YES YES
Wellesley College NO NO
Wentworth Institute of Technology YES NO
Wesleyan University YES YES
West Chester University of Pennsylvania YES NO
West Virginia University YES YES
Western New England University YES YES
Wheaton College (IL) YES YES
Wheeling Jesuit University YES YES
Whitman College YES YES
Whitworth University YES YES
Willamette University YES YES
William Paterson University YES YES
Williams College YES YES
Winthrop University YES YES
Wofford College YES YES
Worcester Polytechnic Institute YES YES
Xavier University YES YES
Yale University YES NO

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.

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