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David Recine

Which ACT Scores Should I Send to Colleges?

Suppose you retake the ACT. Should you send the highest score, the most recent score or both? What about the optional ACT Writing Test? Or the ACT Compass? Which ACT scores should you send to colleges?

Which ACT Scores Should you Send to Colleges After an ACT retake?

It really is a good idea to retake your ACT if you’re not satisfied with the score you got the first time, because there’s no real risk in doing so. You see, universities only want to see your highest ACT score, even if you’ve done multiple retakes. If you score higher on a later try, great! If you score lower on a retry (sad, but it happens), you can still submit your earlier, higher score. And don’t forget that some colleges superscore, so you may need to send all of your scores to get the highest superscore you achieved recorded by those schools.

Tread carefully with a few highly selective schools, though, that do require all of your ACT scores. It doesn’t mean that a somewhat lower score from another test date will necessarily hurt you, but you don’t want to take the ACT unprepared and get a much lower score than what you are capable of.

If you’ve steadily improved over the course of your re-takes, sending a school your multiple scores on the ACT can demonstrate academic improvement. However, not all universities have an interest in multiple ACT scores, or demonstrated ACT improvement. Consult with an admissions representative if you are considering sending in more than one score for the general ACT exam.

Should you send in your ACT Essay score?

The ACT Essay is optional on test day. To take the ACT Essay exam, you need to register separately for it and pay an extra fee, and it comes with a separate score report. For the most part, universities also make the ACT Essay optional. But there are a handful of highly competitive schools that do require the test. So be prepared to send this score to schools upon request.

For that matter, it certainly can’t hurt to complete the ACT Essay and send your score to any school you apply to… provided you scored well. Universities want their applicants to demonstrate good writing ability in a variety of ways. A high-scoring ACT Essay is a certainly one way to show your strength as an academic writer.

Should you send your ACT Compass scores to schools?

The ACT Compass is an application exam for many community colleges. However, if you’re applying to community colleges, you shouldn’t actually send ACT Compass scores with your other application materials.

It’s a bad idea to include ACT Compass scores in your community college admissions package because the Compass exam is used for placement decisions rather than admissions decisions. By this I mean that your Compass score determines what level of math, science, and English classes you can take in your first year of studies.

So it’s best to take the ACT Compass as close as possible to the beginning of your studies. That way, the test results will reflect your current ability accurately, and you’ll be placed in level-appropriate college classes where you can succeed. To facilitate this, most community colleges allow their applicants to take the ACT Compass onsite at the school.
If you’re not fully comfortable with how ACT scoring works, don’t worry. Click to learn all about ACT score ranges and figure out what your target ACT scores.

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About David Recine

David is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent. Currently, David lives in a small town in the American Upper Midwest. When he’s not teaching or writing, David studies Korean, plays with his son, and takes road trips to Minneapolis to get a taste of city life. Follow David on Google+ and Twitter!

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