Learn What is New in College Admissions Testing

A Guest Article by Katherine O’Brien, M.A., CCPS of CelticCollegeConsultants.com


With recently announced changes to the ACT, instability in SAT scores from one sitting to the next, and the strong showing of the new CLT, students need to re-think their approach to college admissions tests.



Beginning with the September 2020 national ACT test date, students who have taken the ACT will have the option to retake individual sections of the test, rather than the entire exam.This new option will enable students to fine tune their scores, especially combined with the new policy to begin superscoring the ACT, thus providing students with the highest possible ACT composite score.

In September of 2020, students will also begin to have the option to take the ACT online, with faster test results, but only on national test dates.    At first this will only be available at selected test centers.  Eventually all testing centers will offer students the option to take the test on paper or online.  Online testers will also see their scores in two days, rather than the typical two weeks.

For further information, see the ACT’s announcement here.

The Newcomer, the CLT or Classic Learning Test

The CLT (Classic Learning Test) is in its 5th year.  It has a verbal section and a math section (no calculator).  The test is roughly 2/3 verbal and 1/3 math.  Since the top score of 120 is 5 points higher than the CLT score that correlates with a 36 or 1600, top students can (and are!) differentiate themselves from the others also scoring perfect scores on the ACT or SAT.

The CLT has doubled the number of test sites for the December 7, 2019 test date.  Many of the sites are colleges – and many of those are offering lunch and a campus tour after the test! During the test, students have 40 minutes for the Verbal Reasoning section, 35 minutes for Grammar/Writing, and 45 minutes for Quantitative Reasoning, for a total test-taking time of 120 minutes, not including the optional 30-minute essay. There is a 10-minute restroom break between the Grammar/Writing and Quantitative Reasoning sections. Students take the exam on their own laptop or tablet, and receive their scores the same day, which they can then share with colleges of their choice at no charge. Register here. (The deadline is 12/3). The CLT also offers an optional 30 minute essay (admissions will be able to read the essay, thus offering them a glimpse at a writing sample which is unedited and untouched by anyone other than the student).  There are over 400 testing sites all across the US.

The classic in Classic Learning Test refers to its use of the greatest and most enduring texts that have informed and shaped society. Although these texts are featured prominently in a classical education, the CLT instead emphasizes intellectual aptitude and achievement, by no means limiting itself simply to a classical curriculum. All students are welcome to take the CLT, whether for self-evaluation or to send results to colleges. The list of authors whose work is cited on the CLT is available on the CLT website (cltexam.com) and includes Christian, pagan, Muslim, and other authors.

At the moment, the CLT is accepted in lieu of the ACT or SAT at over 170 colleges and universities.  Top students are submitting their CLT score along with their ACT or SAT score to set themselves apart from other top scoring applicants.


The CLT offers free practice tests for the CLT and the CLT10 exams.  Test examples can be downloaded from https://www.cltexam.com/practice-home.  A practice CLT8 test is also available on that page.


The SAT hasn’t been as consistent from sitting to sitting as the ACT has been over the years.  The recent dip in scores after the August 2019 sitting has left students unsure of whether their scores will accurately reflect their abilities.  For full information, see the article here.

The SAT and ACT are standardized; students are held to the same standards and compared to each other, which is what college admissions officers want to see. However, that also means that raw scores are converted to that 1600-pt scale using a curve that depends on the difficulty level and performance of students on that particular test administration.

Here’s how Jed Applerouth explains it: “On the scales that the College Board provides for their official practice tests, a student who missed one question in the Math section would normally expect to score 790, a student who missed two would score 770-780, and so forth; on most practice tests the College Board provides, a student could miss as many as eight questions and still score in the low 700’s. The August test was different. From what we could find out from our own students, a student who missed one question dropped to 770 and a student who missed two dropped to 750. Missing eight questions dropped a student to 660, rather than the low 700’s.”

That sort of anomoly has understandably made many students concerned about what will happen in future administrations.  After all, thousands and thousands of scholarship dollars, as well as admissions decisions, are tied to these scores.

With all of these changes happening, it’s time to re-think testing strategies.  I’d be happy to help discuss this as well as all your college prep questions.  Schedule your one hour private (via Skype or FaceTime) consultation (normally $250, recently reduced to $100) here.

Author: Katherine O'Brien

Katherine O'Brien, founder of Celtic College Consultants and a Catholic homeschooling veteran, is happy to provide discounted private consultations to all families with 8th - 11th graders. She'll answer your questions, provide the information you need about your financial aid eligibility, make suggestions about changes you can make to improve your situation before the critical first financial aid base year for college (which is sophomore year in high school), as well as offer numerous strategies to significantly lower your college costs. For more information, please visit CelticCollegeConsultants.com . Let her know you are part of the Today's Catholic Homeschooling family!