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Retaking the ACT? 5 Ways to Improve Your Score

As you’re reading, see how many of the top ACT vocab words you can find in this post. Improving your test scores is not just about cramming new information into your head, it’s about integrating it into everything you do!

Retaking the ACT requires a certain amount of tenacity. Very few high school students enjoy sitting for a 3-hour exam, and fewer still get a thrill from taking a test two or three times, but doing so will help get you where you want to be. Whether you’re setting your sites on the Ivy League or aiming for a full college scholarship, putting in the extra work to earn a good ACT score will show that you’re engaged and dedicated. While test scores themselves are quite black-and-white, improving upon your ACT score shows that you not only deserve a scholarship, admission into your dream school, and a high-five from the admissions officer who reviews your application, but it’s also a signal that you’re the type of person who is not afraid to work hard to reach your goals.

If you’re unhappy with the scores you received from the June ACT, now is the time to start preparing for your retake. The deadline to register for the next exam is August 4th. Here are some actionable steps to take in order to improve your score this time around!

There’s No Need to Go it Alone

Sitting for an exam is a solitary endeavor. It’s just you, a pencil, and a test booklet. But preparing for an exam doesn’t need to be lonely at all — in fact, it’s your best opportunity to learn from other people’s successes, mistakes, and random knowledge. Ask your parents to help support your goals by hiring a tutor who will work with you to improve upon your first ACT score and provide insights that might be difficult to reach on your own.

There are tons of great study resources to be found online, but with so much information available  it can sometimes be hard to differentiate between what’s important and what’s just noise. A tutor will help you determine where to focus your studies in order to achieve the particular goals you set out for yourself.

Say you live in Houston and you’re trying to get into one of the highly competitive colleges nearby. A local tutor can come right to your house for your study sessions and help you improve upon exam areas that are particularly important to the specific Texas schools you’re applying to. If you’re applying to Texas A&M because they have an awesome engineering program, for example, you’d want to focus on getting all 40 of the science questions on the ACT correct. If you’re more of a liberal arts type and you apply to Trinity University (where the average ACT score is 29.2) it is important to focus on each of the ACT sections equally. A tutor with local knowledge can help you by bringing more to the table than just book smarts.

Figure Out Where You Went Wrong

If you’re taking the ACT again, there’s a good chance that something didn’t go the way you had hoped. Don’t be too hard on yourself; it happens to the best students. The most useful thing you can do is learn from your mistakes and get the score you want the next time around. Not all your mistakes will be glaring, and no matter how big or small the issue, a tutor can help you pinpoint the underlying causes.

Underperformance on an exam is generally due to one of a few factors. Either your comprehension of the material just wasn’t where it needs to be, you rushed through questions too fast, you took too long on each question, you experienced test anxiety, or you had trouble grasping the questions themselves. There are ways to prevent and manage each of these issues, and it all starts with seeing them.

Be Strategic

The next step in acing your retake is to take all those critical thinking skills you’ve been honing and apply them to the study-process itself.

Your ACT results will be broken down and scored by section, which is really helpful when you’re thinking about how to study for a retake. You will have earned between 1-36 points per section of English, Math, Reading, and Science, and your final score is an average of those. Start by focusing on the section that you got the lowest score in. Chances are, you just need to brush up on the material and concepts a little more than you did the first time around. As the exam draws nearer, move your focus to the other sections while remembering to review the hardest subject at the end of each study session. If you omit your problem-subject from your studies in the days preceding the test, you’re more likely to forget the material and do worse than you’d hoped.

Know That You’ll be Better Off This Time

One of of best parts of retaking a test is that you already know what you’re in for. You don’t have to worry about the kinds of questions on the test, how long you’ll have for each section, which part you’ll struggle with most … you’ll already know the answers to all those questions.

Standardized tests like the ACT are known as endurance tests for a reason. They’re not only meant to test the extent of your knowledge, but they also gauge how good you are at handling time constraints and pressure. With the latter out of the way, your retake will feel exponentially easier than the first time around. If you and your tutor are strategic about your preparation, you won’t have to worry about the process part of the test all. You can just focus on remembering the facts.

Be Ready for Test Day

The final tip for improving your ACT score is really quite intuitive: make sure you’re ready for test day. Pack your things the night before. Write up a review sheet to study while you’re waiting. Don’t stress. Eat a good breakfast. And get plenty of sleep the night before. Simple right?

On the day of the test, know that you’ve done plenty of preparation, and really, sitting down and filling in a few multiple choice bubbles is the easy part.

If you feel your enthusiasm for studying start to slip in the weeks before your retake, just remember that these test scores do matter. For starters, the skills you develop will make you better equipped to succeed in other exams. And simply put, the better your ACT score, the more competitive your college application will be.The better your application, the more likely you are to receive a scholarship. These days finding a good scholarship is no small thing. The great ACT score you’ll earn by putting in the extra effort will not only give you a leg up in admissions, but it’s likely to help you for years to come by dramatically lessening your student debt. Trust me, it’s worth it. Good luck on your retake; you’ll do great.

How many ACT vocabulary words could you find in this article? Share them in the comments!

Brooke Faulkner is a lifelong student and mother to two boys. When she’s not helping the kids with their homework, she can usually be found binge-watching PBS history documentaries.

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This post was written by a friend of Magoosh.

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