Editor’s note: because of Covid-19, there have been some changes to the ACT, including postponing ACT section retakes. The following information is still relevant, though the start date for section retesting is TBA.
The ACT has announced their intention to offer a new option: to retake individual sections of the ACT exam, rather than taking the entire test again. Depending on testing conditions, this will happen in 2021 at the earliest. This is great news for students who may love their ACT score in one, two, or three of the four ACT test sections, but have a particular area (or areas) that’s bringing down the overall (composite) score. Your ACT sectional retesting lets you focus entirely on that section.
Retaking specific sections of the ACT instead of retaking the entire ACT has a lot of benefits. Not only will it be cheaper (yay!), but it’ll also allow you to get out of the test center a whole lot faster. Perhaps most importantly of all, it will let you focus your ACT prep on the area that most needs it.
With all of that said, we know that you’re likely to have lots of questions. Not to worry! Magoosh’s experts have done the research to find out everything you need to know about ACT section retesting and how to retake ACT sections.
What are the requirements for an ACT section retake?
There are two main requirements for ACT section retesting. First, you have to have taken the ACT in full at least once before. Makes sense, right? Otherwise, how would you know which part(s) you want to retest?
Secondly, you’ll only be able to retake the ACT at test centers offering online testing. Luckily, there are more and more of these—but check the ones in your area, just to be sure!
How much does it cost to retake ACT sections?
Nobody knows yet—well, presumably ACT officials do, but they’re not telling! In 2020, it currently costs $52 to take the ACT without writing. We hope that taking individual sections will cost less than this due to decreased administration costs of scoring it, but ACT hasn’t made any announcements about this yet. Watch this space for updates!
One thing that the ACT has announced is that fee waivers will be available for sectional retakes for eligible students. You can ask for up to four fee waivers—but one waiver will be enough to retake up to three sections on a single test day, which is even more good news!
When can you retake the ACT by section?
ACT retake dates will be the same as regular ACT dates. Because ACT test dates are already spread out throughout the school year and summer, with no more than one per month, you can retake parts of the ACT as soon as the next month.
Keep in mind, though, that it takes about ten days to get your ACT scores in the first place, so you may want to register for a section retake before you even receive them if you walk out of the test center feeling like you bombed a particular section.
If you’ve taken a gap year and are wondering if you can retake ACT sections after high school, you definitely can. High school students aren’t the only ones who can retake the ACT! You can even retake the ACT in college if you want to—although college admissions committees in charge of transfer applications will look at your performance in college courses much, much more closely than your test scores, so it’s better to spend time working on your grades, rather than test prep.
The ACT has recently announced their plans to postpone the rollout sectional retakes, since COVID-19 has influenced testing so much this year. The original plan was to roll them out in fall 2020. However, ACT has not yet announced precisely when this option will be available, though it’s looking likely that it will be 2021 or later. We’ll update you as they release more news!
What You Need to Know Before Retaking a Section
Why should I retake the ACT? Why should I retake an ACT section?
The first answer is (relatively) simple: retake the ACT if you’re unhappy with your score and you have enough time for a retake. This is particularly true if the average ACT scores for the schools you’re applying to are higher than the score you received.
However, retaking an ACT section requires a little more analysis. You’ll need to review your ACT sectional scores (check your ACT score report!) and see if your performance was particularly low in any area. Even if you’re not happy with your scores in two or three areas, this makes you a great candidate for ACT section retesting!
Let’s look at two examples. Say you’re a junior applying to Ivy League schools. A good ACT goal is above 32. However, your sectional scores look like this:
- English: 29
- Math: 29
- Reading: 29
- Science: 29
Your composite score, or the average of your scores from all sections, would be (drum roll) 29! So to make yourself a more competitive applicant, it would be a good idea to retake the ACT senior year (or again junior year, if you can manage it!).
But now, imagine you’re another junior with a composite score of 29, applying to the same schools. However, your sectional scores look like this:
- English: 34
- Math: 24
- Reading: 34
- Science: 24
Deciding to take the entire ACT wouldn’t be a great idea. You don’t really need to study for English or Reading again with those awesome scores, but your scores in those areas could potentially drop if you didn’t focus on them. This would split up your study time, diverting attention away from where it’s really needed.
Guess what? You’d be a great candidate for ACT section retakes!
Instead of studying for the entire exam over again, you could actually “keep” your 34s and just retake Math and Science. Let’s say you do and get the following scores:
- Math: 30
- Science: 30
Your composite score just shot up from 29 to 32—and you were able to make this leap without retaking the entire test!
How does the section retest impact the ACT superscore?
The ACT’s recommendation to schools is that they use ACT section retakes for ACT superscores. This is awesome news! To find your superscore when you’ve retaken ACT sections separately, just find your highest score from every section, no matter when you took it.
How should I study for a retake of a single section?
Focus is your mantra for this retake prep! Here’s your basic plan:
- Identify your weaknesses
- Keep using your strengths
- Use the Test Information Release Service if possible
- Set your goals
- Pick your methods
- Use score choice
- Set yourself up for success mentally and physically
Find out more about studying for an ACT retake here!
How many times should I retake the ACT?
The ACT has announced that students can retake individual sections an unlimited number of times…but that doesn’t mean you should! Taking the exam twice is still an optimal ACT retake goal. If, after your first test, you only need to retake one or two sections the second time, all the better!
However, with sectional retakes now available, planning for an optional third session to retake any lagging sectional scores is a great idea. You can focus your prep exclusively on weak areas between your second and third exams to help lighten your load.
What if I do worse in my retake?
While thorough prep will usually help you improve your ACT score, things happen! If you get lower test results on your first retake, know that you have options. Check out information about ACT score choice and superscores to see if those options will help you.
And remember, you can always retake the section again! If you still have time, schedule another single-section retake and reflect on what went wrong last time. Addressing those areas in prep—with ACT practice tests, targeted questions, and great materials—can help you get there!
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About Rachel Kapelke-Dale
Rachel is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. She writes and updates content on our High School and GRE Blogs to ensure students are equipped with the best information during their test prep journey. Rachel has helped students around the world prepare for various standardized tests, including the SAT, ACT, TOEFL, GRE, and GMAT, and she is one of the authors of our Magoosh ACT Prep Book. Rachel has a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature from Brown University, an MA in Cinematography from the Université de Paris VII, and a Ph.D. in Film Studies from University College London. For over a decade, Rachel has honed her craft as a fiction and memoir writer and public speaker. Her work has appeared in over a dozen online and print publications, including Vanity Fair Hollywood. When she isn't strategically stringing words together at Magoosh, you can find Rachel riding horses or with her nose in a book. LinkedIn
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