How to Deal with Disappointing ACT Scores

The ACT scores are in…and they’re not what you wanted. Being disappointed with your ACT scores is tough, but know that there are ways to recover from the blow and go on to succeed. In this post, we’ll take a look at how you can deal with disappointing ACT scores, and how to move on from here.

Feel Your Feelings

How to Deal with Disappointing ACT Scores -Magoosh

Because everyone makes mistakes.

It’s okay to be disappointed, as long as you don’t beat yourself up about your performance. There are certain things you can control right now, and those scores aren’t one of them. Give yourself a day or two to deal with the frustration and shock—but know that you’re moving on to bigger and better things! This includes a possible higher score on a retake. All is not lost!

Consider What Went Wrong on the ACT

Once your head is in a better place, take some time and evaluate what happened on test day. Thankfully, an ACT score report breaks down your areas of strengths and weaknesses. Even if your composite score was low, you most likely excelled in some areas.

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses will set you up well for retaking the ACT. With this information, you can create a study plan perfectly tailored to your needs. Reviewing all the concepts the ACT covers will probably be necessary before your retake. However, by starting with an evaluation of this exam, you now know where to best allocate your time.

Prepare for your Retake

Once you know where you need to improve, sign up to retake the ACT, preferably in the summer between your junior and senior year of high school. Without other academic pressure, you’ll be able to commit more time and energy to preparing.

If you didn’t have a study plan before taking the ACT, now is the time to make one. Like any long-term project, set goals for each day and week leading up to the test. Doing this in advance will help you focus during your study time, and you’ll get more out of every hour you put into it.

Be Strategic about your ACT Scores

If you are one of the number of students whose composite score was dragged down by a single sub-score, see if the college(s) you are planning to apply to accept superscores. If the answer is yes, you can plan ahead to put most of your studying energy into just that one section.

On ACT Test Day

If you’ve done your best studying for your retake, test day is sure to be successful. Leave the past in the past, and do the best you can. You’ve put in the work—now it’s time to shine!


  • 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.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!