As a Testive coach, I often hear students ask themselves if their ACT score is “good enough,” or wonder how many times the ACT is worth taking in the hopes of an improved score. Generally, it feels like taking the ACT again is an obvious choice if you’re dissatisfied with your score, but retaking the test can cost you time and money, and distract you from other important elements of applying to college, like crafting your admissions essays. If you’re wondering whether or not you should retake the ACT, there are several questions you should ask yourself before making a decision:
How Far Is My Current Score From My Ideal Score?
Very often, students have a specific score that they walk into the test hoping to attain—they want to “break” 25 or 30, for instance. One of the biggest temptations for high-achieving students is to retake the test until the get their ideal score or as close as they can—and this can be a great idea! However, the difference in score isn’t always worth it. For instance, if you scored a 29, and you were hoping to get to 30, you may be better off keeping your initial score and focusing on perfecting other aspects of your application.
You should retake the ACT if your ideal score is in reach, reaching that score will significantly open up your opportunities for college and you have time to prepare. (I’ll get to those second points later.)
What Score Do I “Need”?
While few if any colleges will explicitly state “You need to score X on the ACT for admittance,” it’s common for schools to publish a “range” of scores for the students they admit (“University A’s incoming Class of 2021 on average scored between X and Y on the ACT”). If you are close to that range for your first-choice school, but not quite there, retaking the ACT after some extensive study and test prep can be an excellent way to boost your odds of admittance.
How do I find the score I need?
- If you have a handful of target colleges in mind, you can locate their average ACT score of admitted students
- The average ACT score of admitted students for the previous year is a good approximation of the score that will help your chances of getting in
- Visit a college’s website, then navigate to their admissions page to locate this information
- If a college doesn’t state the average ACT score of admitted students, you can find an unofficial score from a third-party site like College Simply with a quick Google search
What Happened the Last Time I Took the Test?
One important question to ask yourself when you consider whether or not to retake the ACT is whether or not your first test was affected by extenuating circumstances.For instance, if you had a bad cold the day of your first test, if you didn’t get enough rest the night before the test or if you had just received some startling personal news the night before which kept you from sleeping well, these could have a profound effect on your test performance. Sometimes extenuating circumstances prevent you from doing your best on a specific test day, and this can’t be avoided. If that was the case when you last took the ACT, then retaking the test, particularly after going through some test prep to keep the test materials fresh in your mind, can be an excellent idea.
How Heavily Will My Score Be Weighed?
This is not a fact that’s often discussed, but different applications can be weighed in different ways. If you’re applying to college for the creative arts, for instance, your ACT score is certainly still important, but probably not as important as your portfolio or your audition, as the case may be. If that’s the case, focusing on an ACT retake instead of the artistic samples you’ll be providing might be unwise. On the other hand, if you’re applying to a university’s engineering program, it’s most likely vital that you do well on your ACT Math and Science Sections, and retaking after extensive study to boost your score is probably a good and practical decision.
How do I find how heavily my score will be weighed?
- If you have dialed in on a specific academic program, you might find that your admissions criteria weighs some aspects more than others
- The best way to find out which parts of your admissions profile matter the most is to speak with an admissions officer from that school
How Will the Schools I’m Applying to Read My Scores?
Be sure to check the schools you’re applying to for their policies regarding multiple ACT scores. Do your top choice schools allow you to pick your best score, or only your newest? If they weigh your highest score, then retaking the test cannot possibly hurt you, but only help you. If, however, your school weighs your most recent score, regardless of whether your earlier scores were higher, proceed with caution.
With the ACT, you will also need to check if your schools require the Writing Section or not. If so, remember to incorporate writing review into your test prep strategy. Remember, which schools recommend or require the writing section is hard to predict, so be certain to check the websites of the schools you’re applying to. If your school weighs your most recent score, and you do decide to retake the test, be certain to study hard and develop a plan of action so that you can be certain your score will be improved when you retake the test.
Do I Have Time?
This is a question of simple practicality. When are your college applications due? What’s the last test date you can take for your schools to still consider it? The ACT requires registration well in advance, roughly six weeks from test day at a minimum, given that there are only six ACTs offered per year. And furthermore, do you have time between now and test day to adequately prepare for a retake? These practical considerations are important to bear in mind before you schedule a test retake. You can look ahead to ACT test dates here.
Going forward, you can stay on top of SAT test dates and deadlines by signing up for the College Radar, our newsletter for parents about staying on top of college admissions.
Do I Have a Strategy?
This last question is quite possibly the most important. The ACT is not like a roulette wheel; retaking the test again and again at random in the hopes that you’ll land a better score will just leave you exhausted and frustrated. If you want to retake the ACT, you’ll need a strategy of how to approach it. Take a look at your previous test: what areas do you need to improve on? What areas are already your strengths? Have you taken the writing section before? Will you do so again? How will your study plan for your retake differ from your first test, and what strategies worked well and can be kept?
It’s important to develop a concrete plan of action when you’re studying for your retake. This can mean reviewing scientific concepts, practicing grammar concepts, or brushing up on math. You might also consider looking to one-on-one Coaching, like with Testive, especially if you haven’t before. An individualized strategy and someone “on your team” keeping you accountable and helping you along as you prepare for your test.
How do I find the score I need?
- Take a look at your ACT results and point out the content areas, like Algebra, Problem Solving and Data Analytics, where you scored the lowest
- Make a prep plan that focuses on those content areas
- We kick off Testive Coaching programs by uploading your practice test scores to Testive learning software. Then, your Coach will create a curriculum designed to improve these weak areas