OK, so you’ve gotten your ACT score report and you’re unhappy with your ACT score—now you’re wondering, “Can you retake the ACT?” Or maybe you haven’t taken the ACT test, but are already worried about whatever score you’ll earn during your initial go-around, and are hoping to take the pressure off with the possibility of a retake.
Well, breathe easy: the answer is yes, you can retake the ACT.
But a better question is, should you? There are a lot of things to consider before you make a plan to retake the ACT.
The Best Reason to Retake the ACT: Score Improvement
Taking the ACT even once requires an investment of time, money, and effort. Why bother going through it all again? The reason most people give is that they want to improve their ACT score, but just how realistic an aspiration is that?
It’s a pretty safe bet, as it turns out. In a 2016 ACT Policy Briefing, researchers closely examined the phenomenon of “multiple testers” and reached the conclusion that for the sizable minority of students (between 40-45%) who took the ACT more than once, their average composite scores were nearly 3 points higher. Moreover, there was a slight but clear trend among re-testers: with each additional time a student took the ACT again, their average score increased.
Here at Piqosity, we take data analysis seriously, and whenever we’re examining statistics (particularly about test results), we always remind our readers: don’t confuse correlation with causation. In this case, what that means is that not every student who takes the ACT for a second, third, fourth, or even tenth time is guaranteed a high score. It’s important to remember that in most cases, students who retake the ACT also spend extra time studying for their retest. Their improvement is thus partially attributable to their increased preparation.
It’s also important to note that while taking the ACT over and over again will most likely improve your scores, this doesn’t mean that eventually you will achieve a perfect score. Remember that statistic from earlier, about how students saw an average of a 3-point improvement? If you had earned a 20 the first time around, the odds of your then achieving above a 23 are worse-than-average (and the odds of getting a perfect 36 are very slim indeed).
So while there’s a clear statistical advantage to retesting, and while in most cases we recommend it, it’s not a “magic bullet” and there are always other considerations to keep in mind. Next, we will break down 5 important things to consider before diving into the ACT a second, third, or fourth time.
1. Understand Your ACT Score
Now that you know the answer to “can you retake the ACT?” is “yes,” it’s time to reflect on what you are hoping to accomplish with a retake. In order to do that, you will first need to make sure you fully understand your ACT score and what it means for you and your goals.
Generally, the first thing people want to know is, “What is a Good ACT Score?” While you might think the answer is a perfect composite score (36) or close to it, the answer is actually much more complex, as we explore in the linked article.
Note: Your ACT Student Report includes many metrics other than your Composite Score, all of which are described in the linked article. For the purposes of this article, when we refer to an “ACT Score,” we mean the Composite Score metric.
One major function of these standardized tests is to prove to colleges of your choice that your academic strengths are above average. For example: in 2021, the average composite ACT score was 20.3. For many students, earning above this number meant they attained a “good” score.
However, there are other aspects to retaking the ACT that you must take into consideration as well, most importantly how your current ACT score fits into your larger postsecondary education goals.
2. Does Your Current ACT Score Align With Your Goals?
Do you plan to attend college? Are you setting your sights on an Ivy League school? Before deciding to retake the ACT, you need to determine if your current score is in line with your goals. For example, if you’re not planning on going to college, you may have only taken the ACT because your state required it for high school graduation. If this is the case for you, you don’t need to retake the ACT.
But, if you do hope to get into a college, you may want to consider retaking your ACT. This is because your choice school may favor applicants that achieve a certain score or higher. For instance, to get into Harvard, you should aim for a considerably higher-than-average ACT score, say, between 33 and 35. For a smaller or less competitive school, like the University of Houston, you can aim a bit lower, say for a score between 22 and 27.
Note: both of these schools, like many others, are currently “test optional.” This means that neither school requires you to send in any ACT (or SAT) scores at all. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad idea to send in scores, though: on the contrary, doing so will only help your application.
Finally, regardless of where you are hoping to attend college, you may be hoping to gain more scholarship money. Higher ACT scores are often a criteria for certain kinds of financial aid. If this is one of your goals, retaking might be your best bet, just to see if you can get an extra boost financially.
In summary, ask yourself the question above: Does my ACT score align with my goals for after high school? If your answer pushes you to retake the ACT, here are a few more things to consider.
3. How Many Times Can You Retake the ACT?
You can take the entire ACT up to TWELVE times (in other words, you can retake it eleven times after your initial testing). Many students take it at least one extra time, if not a second—in 2020, just over 40% of students took the ACT more than once.
You may have heard that if you choose to retake the ACT, you have the option to only retake certain sections. While this was indeed a proposal, plans to implement section retests are currently postponed. This means that if you are planning on retaking the ACT, you will need to take the whole test again, not just one or two sections.
But while the ACT section retake is not currently available, another perk still is: the ACT superscore! If you take the ACT more than once, you have the option of receiving a superscore based on the highest scores you have attained on each section of the test. For instance, if on your retake you score better in the English and Science sections, but not Math and Reading, only the higher-scoring sections will be used to calculate your new superscore.
You might feel tempted to take the ACT over and over again until your superscore is soaring. But it’s important to note that it’s still up to individual colleges whether they consider scores on a superscore basis or not. Remember that most colleges would consider a very high one-time composite score to be more impressive than the same score achieved through superscoring.
Additionally, before committing to all of those retakes, it’s important to consider your time and financial commitments as well.
4. Does Taking the ACT Again Work With Your Schedule?
For every ACT retake you do, that’s an afternoon of time lost. Moreover, each test requires dozens of hours of preparation. Do you have the time to commit to such a feat? For many, it may be difficult to take the ACT more than once or twice, simply due to the time commitment. If this sounds like you, that’s okay. Choose the ACT retake option that works best for you and your situation.
Take a look at ACT test dates to see if you have multiple days and times available. If you do, plan ahead and keep those days free of work and social commitments.
5. How Much Does it Cost to Retake the ACT?
Taking the ACT again is also a financial commitment. Each ACT without Writing section is $60, and the ACT with Writing is $85. If you took the full ACT three times, for instance, you would be out $255 in test fees alone. (Although unlikely, if you take the full ACT all twelve times, that’s $1,020 in test fees!) And remember, this doesn’t include the cost of test prep materials, any additional fees, and travel expenses to and from your multiple tests. For some students, multiple retakes is not a very financially prudent strategy.
Regardless of how many times you are planning to take the ACT, you may qualify for an ACT fee waiver: if you qualify, you may be able to take the ACT up to four times completely FREE! To see if you might qualify, and for up-to-date information on fees, check out our post about ACT Costs & Fee Waivers.
Prepare for Your ACT Retakes with Piqosity!
So, can you retake the ACT? You sure can, but it might not be the right answer for you. Think about your goals, and if you have the time and finances to commit to such a venture. And remember, while retaking the ACT is often a good idea, it doesn’t guarantee that you will score higher—especially if you do not prepare.
So if you are going to take the ACT again, we’d recommend taking some time to carefully consider how to improve your ACT score. Spoiler alert: it’s all about preparation! And when it comes to online ACT test prep, Piqosity has you covered, with ACT practice tests with answers and explanations to help get you ready for test day.
Piqosity’s Reasonably Priced ACT Test Prep Packages Include:
- Up to 10 Full ACT Practice Tests
- Tutorial Lessons with Video Explanations
- Adaptive, Gamified Practice
- Options for Parent-Tutor Consultations
- Score Reports and Real-Time Score Predictions
- Personal “Strengths and Weaknesses” Analysis
- Printable PDFs
- Piqosity Virtual Tutor
- …and Much More!
Still not convinced? That’s okay—you can register for FREE (no credit card information required) for our Community package, which gives you access to a FREE diagnostic test and many of our key platform tools. If you decide you want more, we offer several tiers of competitively priced test prep packages, bursting with helpful test prep resources.
When you sign up for Piqosity, you have access to our test prep materials for 365 days. So, no matter how many times you take the test, you will have the resources of Piqosity on your side. Don’t hesitate, join Piqosity for free today!
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