Once you’ve received your ACT score report, take a moment to congratulate yourself! Completing a three-hour exam is an accomplishment in itself. Next, realize that sometimes students need to take the exam two or three times in order to maximize their score. This is completely normal; in fact, most people take the test more than once.
Alexis is a rising senior. She has taken the ACT once, receiving a composite score of 28. Although she has not done any formal prep, she has taken some practice tests online and downloaded an app on her phone with some ACT practice questions.
We can use Alexis as an example as we go through determining whether she should take the ACT again. Here’s what she should ask herself.
What are the scores necessary for my target schools?
Take a moment to research the schools you want to go to. Many schools list the average or mid-range (25-75 percentiles) SAT and ACT scores for their admitted students directly on their website (check the Admissions section). Shoot to be at or above their posted average score, but keep in mind that extracurriculars and GPA also factor into the admission decision.
Alexis is really interested in Emerson College. The mid-range score of their average applicant is a 26-30. Alexis, with her 28, sits right in the middle. Her GPA is a 3.2 and she plays soccer after school as well as works at a preschool one day a week.
Advice for Alexis: She’s stands a decent chance of getting into Emerson, but admissions can be tricky and change from year to year. A higher score will improve her chances of getting in and may even net her some merit-aid. We would suggest a re-take for this reason.
How many times have I already taken the test?
Although it is true that retaking the test can raise your score, it has been proven that after the third time taking the exam, subsequent attempts at the test will not raise your score unless you’ve done something drastically different, i.e. prepped. Just taking the test over and over is pretty pointless if you don’t change anything in between attempts. You need to up your game before you take it again.
Alexis has taken the ACT once before. She was a little nervous during the test, but she felt it went well overall. Because she’s only taken the test once, she believes that there’s still room for improvement.
Advice for Alexis: Since she’s only taken the test once, it’s definitely worth her trying again with some more formal prep that will help her focus on the right areas to improve her score. Just doing problem after problem won’t have a significant impact on her score; she needs to tackle the specific areas of the test she struggles with.
How much prep have I done and what methods did I use to prep?
If you’ve relied solely on self-study, it might be time to change your method of prep. Various study methods including in-person classes, one-on-one tutors, and online exam prep classes are available in abundance. Testive offers a variety of online SAT and ACT prep programs offering different levels of support, ranging from an intensive one-on-one coaching package (Testive Coaching) to personalized learning plans (Testive Advisor) to free prep software.
Alexis had not done much prep leading up to her first test. She took two practice tests that she found online and looked at an ACT practice question or two a few times a week. In the week leading up to the test, she began to look at more specific questions, but no intense prep had been done.
Advice for Alexis: Because Alexis has not done any formal prep, it is worth her while to look into a structured program that can target her specific weaknesses.
Are my score expectations realistic?
Going up by 3 or 4 points on the ACT is a realistic goal with effort, especially from your first to second time taking the test, but make sure the score goals you set for yourself aren’t going to set you up for disappointment. It is also important to realize that the higher your starting score is, the harder it is to get your score up with future retakes. For example, if you’ve already scored a 34 on the ACT and have taken the test twice already, it probably isn’t necessary to take the test for a third time. Also, recognize that score improvements don’t come without effort.
Alexis feels that in order to stand out on her application, she must achieve at least a 30 on the test. She feels that she can’t do much about her GPA or by adding any more extra-curriculars at this point, so she wants to focus on going up at least 2 points.
Advice for Alexis: Going up two points is realistic for Alexis, however she needs to realize that she must put in the hard work in order to see the results.
How do I move forward?
If you’ve considered everything on this list and come to the conclusion that you don’t want or need to retake the ACT, congratulations! Focus on completing college tours, applications and essays and finish up your high school career strongly. If you do want to retake the ACT, that is completely fine too! It is important to have a plan in place for simultaneously completing your exams and school year.
- Pick a test date that fits your schedule and deadlines.
- Once you’ve picked a test date, find a prep method that works for you and commit to it.
- Don’t overload yourself while prepping. While your ACT score is important, your school work and mental health are just as important. This is why Testive focuses on short bursts of practice throughout the week, not hours on any one given day.
- Take a short break for the 2-3 days before the test to give your mind a break.
- Go in confident in your ability.