So you want to retake the ACT. Is this a good idea? Is it going to make a difference? Does this mean you’re a nerd? You have so many questions.
Let’s walk through some of the questions I would ask a student facing this all-important dilemma: Should I retake the ACT? Check out the video answer, then scroll down and find more info on the answers that apply to you.
Is This Your First Time Taking the ACT?
If you have time to retake the ACT before your college applications are due, you should. Statistics from the ACT show that over half of students who retake the test increase their composite score on their retake. The lower your initial composite score, the more likely your second score will be higher than your first. That means that even without prep, your chances are good that you will see some improvement. But your chances are much better with adequate test prep (see “Did you take the test without much preparation?” below).
Have You Already Taken the ACT More Than Three Times?
The first follow-up question to ask yourself if you are in this situation is whether or not you have done all the test prep you can do. If you feel you have, then stop. Focus on other aspects of your college applications: your grades, your essays, your interviews. Test scores aren’t everything, and your time might be better spent bolstering other aspects of your application. That being said, test scores are something, and you might need to revisit your college list and make sure you that have reach, target, and safety schools that are appropriate for your current scores. Or it might be time to consider some test-optional or test-flexible schools. There are more than 800 excellent colleges and universities out there that don’t use SAT or ACT scores to admit substantial numbers of students!
Did You Take the ACT Without Much Preparation?
Then you should take the test again—but this time, prepare for it with self-study, a class, a tutor, or some combination of the above. Test prep ensures you are fully familiar with the content of the test, helps you learn test-specific strategies, and boosts your confidence.
Is Your Current Score “Good Enough”?
If your current score is in range or above the range for your target colleges, your time might be better spent building other aspects of your college application than your test prep resume. But if you have ambitions that are going to require a higher ACT score to bring them into the realm of possibility, well, you may need to go full force with test prep and make it happen. Also keep in mind that several competitive schools require you to submit all of your test scores. So let’s say you feel like you miraculously scrapped a 34 on your last test, and now you are wondering: could I get a 35 or 36? So you retake the ACT and get a 29. This score might also need to go to the highly competitive universities you were targeting with the 34. It’s not the end of the world, but you’d probably prefer not to have to send it.
Are You a Sophomore or Junior?
The ACT tests some material that many students in a college preparation program won’t encounter until their junior year (maybe even the end of their junior year). So if you are a sophomore or junior, chances are you will do better on the ACT by taking it again at the end of your junior or beginning of your senior year. Summer is a also a great time to focus on prep!
Have You Thought About the SAT?
The ACT is not the best test for everyone. Some students do better on the SAT. If you haven’t considered this as an alternative option to retaking the ACT, take a diagnostic SAT or compare your current ACT scores to your PSAT scores to see if the SAT might be a better option for you. A higher score is a higher score, period.
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About Kristin Fracchia
Dr. Kristin Fracchia makes sure Magoosh's sites are full of awesome, free resources that can be found by students prepping for standardized tests. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agony and bliss of trail running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.
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