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It is becoming increasingly more common for students to retake the ACT or SAT. The overwhelming majority of students who decide to retake the test do so in the hope that they will score higher in their second attempt, which will then boost their admission chances.

Asking yourself these few questions will help you get more clarity about whether or not retaking the ACT/SAT will benefit you.

How far away am I from my target ACT/SAT score?

Odds are you have a target score or you wouldn’t be thinking about retaking either of these tests. Some students set their target depending on the scores they have been getting on the practice tests. Naturally, you would expect your score in the actual test to be somewhere in the region of your practice test scores.

Other students set their target score keeping in mind their preferred college and the average test scores of their admitted students. See below for how to determine the test scores required for a particular college.

Regardless of the reason, you must first determine how far away you are from your target score before you decide to retake the ACT or SAT.

If the difference between your actual score and your target score is marginal, it may not be worth the stress to retake the test. You may actually be better off spending that time and effort on improving other aspects of your application. Only consider retaking the test if there is a big gap between your actual score and ideal score.

Why did I get a low score when I took the test the first time?

It is important to analyze the reasons why you did not get the score you expected when you took the test the first time. Were you sick on the day of the test? Or did you receive some devastating news the day before the test? Unfortunately, you cannot change the date of the test. You have to take it no matter what is going on in your personal life.

Did you not know what to expect of exam day? Did you not put enough effort into studying and preparing? There are many variables that can affect your score, after taking it once, you can start to hone in on what those are, and be ready for the next test.

Do I have sufficient time to prepare for the next test?

You’ve already taken the test once and you know how much time you spent preparing for it. Do you have that much time to prepare sufficiently for the retake? Even if the test date seems far away, can you afford to put in the time required to be adequately prepared for the test? There are plenty of other things you need to get done, from researching colleges and campus visits to getting your recommendation letters, writing personal essays, completing the FAFSA, submitting your applications and more.

Be practical. Be realistic. Before you schedule the test, give serious thought to how much time you can actually afford to spend on preparing for a retake. Keep in mind that to score higher marks you would probably need to spend more time and put in more effort than you did the first time round.

Do I have a plan for doing better?

You can’t just plan to retake the ACT and SAT and hope you will do better with your second attempt. Without some kind of realistic game plan, you are more than likely to perform the same as the first attempt. Not only will it leave you frustrated but you will have lost a lot of time and money unnecessarily as well.

If, after asking yourself all of the questions above you feel that you are justified in retaking the test, you must develop a concrete strategy for how you are going to prepare for the test so you can achieve your target score.

One way to do this is by reviewing your earlier test results and identifying those sections where you lost points because of wrong answers or because you did not know the answers. When making your preparation plans, be sure to schedule in extra time to study those areas you are weak in.

If it is a subject you are struggling excessively with and you don’t think you will be able to manage on your own, consider getting a tutor or enrolling in a preparatory class.

How do I find out the target ACT / SAT score for colleges?

If you want to aim for a score goal based on a college’s average, you can find that right here on College Raptor! Just search for the school, go to its page, and click on the admissions tab. And if you’re curious how your ACT / SAT affects your admission chances, you can check that out for free with College Raptor’s match tool.