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Thomas Broderick

How Many Times Should I Take the ACT?

Maybe you’re about to take the ACT for the first time, or maybe you’re planning to retake the ACT. No matter what your situation, I bet you’re considering a question that comes up in every test taker’s life: How many times should I take the ACT?

Good question. Though the answer might be different for everyone, here’s my concise, sage advice:
You should take the ACT twice.

Yep, that’s it. No more to see here, kids. Just let me get my coat and…

What’s that? Oh, you want to know why. And you want to know what to do if you’ve taken the exam twice and still aren’t happy with your score.

Don’t worry! Let’s take a closer look at some possible scenarios you might be dealing with.

So How Many Times Should I Take the ACT?

Generally, the magic number is between one and three times. For a lot of people, it’s two. Most students will maximize their ACT scores by taking it twice.

Of course, if you’re happy with your score the first time, you don’t need to take the ACT again!

Liam got a 35 on the ACT. Get a higher ACT score with Magoosh.

On the other hand, if you’re struggling with one particular section, you may find that taking the ACT three times helps boost your sectional (and thus overall) score. And sometimes a fourth time can help you get that score up even higher.

Generally, though, if you’ve taken the test once but scored lower than you’d like in most of the sections and are still wondering How many times should I take the ACT?, plan on making it two.

Why Twice Is (Usually) Enough

If you’re just starting your ACT journey, twice will probably be enough. Why? For a lot of people, the ideal process looks like this:

  1. You sign up for the ACT and create a study routine to get your score where you want it to be.
  2. You take the ACT for the first time. Often, this will be in the spring semester of your junior year in high school.
  3. If you’re not happy with your score, analyze the results to see your strengths and weaknesses.
  4. Sign up to retake the ACT while you customize a new study plan based on your weaknesses and what you want to achieve.
  5. Study for your retake during the summer between your junior and senior year.
  6. Retake the ACT, usually at the beginning of your senior year of high school.

With this plan, your score will most likely end up where you want it to be.

Planning for Your 2nd ACT

Here’s where the twist comes in. Many students who take the ACT twice take it the second time during the fall of their senior year of high school. At that point, with college application deadlines coming up, it is possible that you may have to send your scores to colleges before you even see the results.

One way to get around this issue is to pay close attention to fall test dates. For example, ACT offers both September and October test dates. If you want to see your scores before sending them off, go with September. Also, September has the added benefit of being early in the school year. There will be fewer academic distractions competing for your time and attention. I’d recommend registering for the September date early if you are currently a high school junior.

Third Time’s a Charm

If you’ve taken the exam but still haven’t hit whatever your magic score is, first of all—you’re not alone. A lot of students find themselves in this scenario. And so here are a few tips to making your third time taking the ACT your best (and last!):

  • If you’re struggling with just one section of the ACT, save your brain power and study just for that section. Don’t completely blow off the other parts of the test, but if the college/scholarship you’re applying for accepts superscores, why push yourself in areas where it doesn’t really matter?
  • If you’re still struggling with the ACT as a whole, spend time looking at the test as a whole and how you can maximize your score in all sections. Our Study Schedules provide some great advice on preparing for all sections—no matter the time frame you have to work with.

Won’t My Dream College See My Lower Score?

Not if you don’t want it to. (For the most part, anyway. There is a handful of schools that do require all scores, so do your homework!)

If you knock the ACT out of the park on the first try, that’s great. Just don’t send colleges that score until after you get your ACT results. A good rule of thumb is that the results of ACT #1 are for Your Eyes Only.

Even if your dream college(s) has/have already seen your lower ACT score, it’s not the end of the world. At the end of the day, college admission counselors care about your highest ACT score. Some even accept superscores. In fact, raising your ACT score shows grit, something colleges (and future employers) love.

In other words, if you fear that admissions officers will take one look at your scores and ask, “Why should our super-duper selective school admit someone who couldn’t test right the first time? Rejected,” you don’t need to worry!


Taking the ACT Twice and Your College Applications -Magoosh

Not an accurate depiction of a college admissions office.

For more on how many times you should take the ACT, check out this video from Kristin, our ACT Expert!

See you in the testing center, ACT scholars!

About Thomas Broderick

Thomas spent four years teaching high school English, social studies, and ACT preparation in Middle Tennessee. Now living in Northern California, he is excited to share his knowledge and experience with Magoosh's readers. In his spare time Thomas enjoys writing short fiction and hiking in the Sonoma foothills.

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