studying for college admissions exam

Superscoring to Optimize Your SAT and ACT Scores

As a college admissions consulting firm that helps students gain admission to top-tier institutions, Ivy Select develops a college admissions strategic plan that is uniquely suited to each individual student.  As part of this plan, we advise our students on the choice of which standardized tests to take, how best to schedule the tests, how to prepare for them, and whether it’s advisable to re-take an exam to try to the raise scores. We also advise our students on the optional ways that they can report test scores to schools and even whether they should report scores at all and apply to test-optional schools.

Every field has its buzzwords and college admissions is no exception. In this context, the key term is superscore.  A superscore is a final composite score that is made up of your best individual section scores across all of the ACT exams you have taken. The same applies to the SAT. The best individual section scores are used to form a new composite ACT or SAT score and this new, improved score is what college admissions officers will see and consider. Superscoring encourages students to retake tests, even if only one section of their previous result requires improvement, in order to meet the expectations of targeted schools.

Another term used in the college admissions field, coined by the SAT’s creator, the College Board, is Score Choice. “Choice,” however, is an option provided by both the SAT and ACT.  Their respective organizations let you choose which total score reports will be sent to specific colleges and which ones won’t. You choose score reports by test date. However, you can’t choose which individual sections to send. This makes superscoring a better method of selectively submitting your best scores to targeted colleges, assuming they are among those that permit superscoring. Each school sets its own superscoring policies and they can differ for the SAT and the ACT.


The switch to a new SAT version earlier this year has complicated SAT superscoring.  Colleges have not permitted students to submit a superscore by combining sections from the old and the new SAT, due mainly to the fact that the sections don’t match up well. For this reason, many colleges have allowed their SAT superscoring policies to lapse and have not yet announced new ones. Nevertheless, it’s safe to assume that schools that permitted SAT superscoring before the SAT revision will allow it again as long as prior version section scores aren’t included.

The table below lists the highly selective institutions that permitted superscoring prior to the SAT revision. Many of the same schools also permit superscoring for the ACT. Please note that superscoring policies are not identical. Ask your IvySelect consultant to clarify significant variations by school.

Brown Columbia Duke
Dartmouth Georgetown Harvard
Johns Hopkins MIT NYU
Williams Princeton Stanford
Chicago UNC – Chapel Hill Virginia – Charlottesville
Vanderbilt Yale Amherst
Bates Washington Univ. – St. Louis Wesleyan – CT
Notre Dame Swarthmore Vassar
Colby Wellesley Smith
Claremont-McKenna Univ. Michigan – Ann Arbor Emory


Until recently, most colleges offered superscoring for the SAT but not the ACT. However, in recent years, the ACT has gained market share on the SAT regarding the number of students taking the test. In fact, last year the number of ACT test-takers exceeded the number of those taking the SAT for the first time. As a result, many colleges have adopted superscoring policies for the ACT.

A few elite institutions, including most of the Ivy League schools, don’t offer ACT superscoring. Below is a list of some of the more selective colleges and universities in the U.S. that offer superscoring for the ACT:

Colby Colorado College Connecticut College
Cornell Drexel Harvey Mudd
Indiana Univ. – Bloomington Middlebury MIT
Swarthmore Tufts Trinity – CT
Chicago Rochester Vassar
Washington Univ. – St. Louis Williams UNC Chapel Hill
Amherst Bates Bowdoin
Brandeis CalTech Claremont-McKenna
Stanford Duke Johns Hopkins
Middlebury NYU Pomona

IvySelect’s college admissions services benefit students who do extraordinarily well in standardized tests as well as students who aren’t able to perform up to their full potential (learn more your options if you have a low SAT score by clicking here). Students hire us for our thorough knowledge of the admission processes at elite schools. Your IvySelect consultant specializes in identifying and cultivating the best of what you have to offer as a student and as a person. Then we help to assure that you apply to those elite institutions that fit you best.