When test scores come back, the first thing many students want to figure out is, “Which part of this do colleges care about?” The score report pages for the SAT and ACT can be a bit confusing, especially for new test-takers, and one part that trips a lot of students and parents up is subscores.
Both the SAT and ACT differentiate between the types of questions in a given section. For example, the English section of the ACT tests students’ knowledge of language as well as production of writing, and questions in the SAT Math section are split between Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Heart of Algebra, and Passport to Advanced Math. Subscores (also called Reporting Categories on the ACT) put the test-taker’s skills under a microscope and measure how well they did on specific types of questions.
It’s intimidating to look at your report and find a whole list of scores you might not have been expecting, but don’t worry: colleges don’t care about subscores. They can see them, but admissions officers really only consider your composite score and individual section scores when evaluating your application.
Subscores are more for your personal reference than anything else. Someone looking to improve their Reading section score on the ACT can look at their Reporting Categories and see that they did much better with Craft and Structure than the Integration of Knowledge and Ideas. They help test-takers identify specific strengths and weaknesses within a section, so they can home in on what needs improvement and make the most out of their preparation.