Should You Retake the ACT?

Should you retake the ACT? Will it benefit you?

Source: Pixabay user lecroitg.

Wondering if you should retake the ACT? Many students benefit from retakes—in fact, 57 percent of students score higher when they take the test more than once! Retaking may not be necessary for everyone, but here are some things to consider when deciding whether you should.

A higher score can increase more than your admissions odds

If you’re planning to apply to academically competitive colleges, you likely already know that great test scores are a big advantage.

But it turns out, getting a higher score on the ACT can also automatically qualify you for more merit aid at many schools. Increasing your score by just one point could mean hundreds or thousands of dollars more per year!

Many colleges have merit scholarship calculators on their websites which allow you to estimate how much more you could receive by increasing your score. Every college is different, so you should look at each school you’re interested in separately.

Practice makes (closer to) perfect!

Has it been a while since your last test? If you’ve taken additional coursework since you last sat for the ACT, you may have more background knowledge helpful for cracking the test. Success in the math section, especially, depends on content learned in class.

Additionally, just having the experience of taking the test can help you be better prepared. No practice test simulates the test environment exactly like the real thing.

You can focus on preparation on weak areas

Maybe you didn’t prepare before you took the ACT for the first time, or maybe you weren’t exactly sure what you should be focusing on. But if you’ve taken the ACT once, you can target areas you didn’t perform so well on the first time.

Your score report breaks down your score into sections—Math, Science, English, and Reading—but it splits each of these sections into smaller subsections as well. Each subsection is worth 18 points, and your score and percentile for these can be found under your section score on your report. Subscores can help you make your study sessions more efficient.

Some colleges use “superscores”

Each college has its own testing policies. Most allow you to choose which scores you send—meaning you can send just your best test date. Others, like Yale, require you to send scores from all your test dates and consider trends in your performance.

However, some colleges “superscore” your ACT—meaning they take the best score you ever achieved on each section, and average them to create a new composite score. If you’re applying to a college with a superscore policy, it is definitely worth it to retake the ACT to bring up any weak sections which could be dragging your composite down.

When shouldn’t you retake the ACT?

In some situations, retaking may not be beneficial. For instance, if you performed extremely well the first time and didn’t have any weak areas, you could actually do more harm than good by retaking. That’s because some colleges want to see scores from each date you take the test, and you risk scoring lower when you retake, even if it’s unlikely.

Likewise, if it’s already winter or spring of your senior year and you’re not taking a gap year before applying, it may be too late to retake and have your new scores considered. Colleges set their own test-by dates—the last test date from which they’ll look at your scores—look at this date for each college on your list before registering to retake.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Join thousands of students and parents learning about finding the right college, admissions secrets, scholarships, financial aid, and more.