How Many Times Should You Take the ACT?

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What’s Covered:

 

Every college that accepts the SAT to fulfill its standardized testing admissions requirement also accepts the ACT. This year, in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, many institutions have dropped the testing requirement altogether, going test-optional or test-blind.

 

But if you’re able to take the ACT, we recommend doing so. That way, you’ll have the option of sending your scores, and if you’re unsatisfied with them, then you don’t have to do so — or, you can take the test again. 

 

Should You Take the ACT More Than Once?

 

There’s no quick answer to this question. It depends on the student and their goals. 

 

During COVID-19, for admission to most schools, you don’t have to take the ACT or SAT at all. But we do recommend taking one test at least once, so you’ll be able to send your scores should you perform well. 

 

Your performance on your first test will serve as a starting point to determine your strategy and whether you should take the ACT more than once. 

 

Typically, you’ll see the greatest improvement between your first and second sittings, so it’s often a good idea to take the ACT multiple times — unless, of course, you do amazingly at your first opportunity.

 

How Many Times Do We Recommend Taking the ACT?

 

Again, this depends on the student. But generally speaking, we recommend taking the ACT 2-3 times. After three attempts, you’re unlikely to see much improvement, and admissions committees tend to see this in a negative light.

 

Recently, the ACT implemented superscoring in their score reports. This means that they average a student’s best scores from each section across multiple sittings into a single superscored composite score (they also will provide a regular composite score and the section scores for each test included in the superscore).

 

For example, if your English score was better in sitting #1 and your Science score was better in sitting #2, superscoring would reflect your English score from sitting #1, your Science score from sitting #2, and your top scores from other sections.

 

Previously, the ACT had planned to allow students to retake individual sections of the test, but the plan was put aside because of the pandemic. Superscoring means students must sit for the entire test if they want a redo.

 

While ACT superscore is advantageous to students, you should still keep in mind that because the policy is new, some colleges haven’t yet adopted it. Other schools have been superscoring for years on their own, without the help of the ACT score report.

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How Can You Improve Your ACT Score Before Your Next Test?

 

Start early.

 

Think 9th grade is too early to begin preparing for the ACT? Think again. While you don’t need to start buying ACT prep books, you should focus on gaining knowledge so that you’re well-equipped when test-taking time comes.

 

In 10th grade, practice more actively, such as by beginning to work on practice tests to help you establish your baseline.

 

Use your high school courses to prepare.

 

The ACT is meant to reflect material you’ve learned in your courses. You know your GPA is important anyway, and studying and paying attention in your classes will have the added benefit of preparing you for the ACT, too.

 

Take plenty of practice tests. 

 

But don’t just take them. Go through each test and focus on which questions you got wrong and why. You’ll likely start to notice patterns, which will give you insight into which areas you should hone and focus on in your preparation.

 

Understand how scoring works.

 

The ACT is comprised of four sections: Reading, Science, Math, and English. Each section is scored on a scale of 1-36, and you’ll also receive a composite score that’s the average of the four sections. There’s a separate, optional Writing section that is scored on a scale of 1-12 and doesn’t factor into your composite score.

 

Don’t let test anxiety get the better of you.

 

Test anxiety is a real issue that affects many students. If you suffer from it, you should discuss it with your guidance counselor or a trusted teacher, who may be able to provide internal or external resources, such as therapy or a tutor.

 

How Does the ACT Impact Your College Chances?

 

Most highly selective colleges and universities use the Academic Index (AI) to filter out students based on their GPA and standardized test scores. So, your ACT can make a real difference in your chances of getting into your dream school. 

 

CollegeVine’s chancing engine can help you estimate your real chances of getting into more than 500 colleges and universities across the country. Using your ACT scores, GPA, extracurricular activities, and other factors, it will inform you about your odds of admission — and give you tips to improve your profile.

 

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Short Bio
Laura Berlinsky-Schine is a graduate of Johns Hopkins University, where she majored in Creative Writing and minored in History. She lives in Brooklyn, New York and works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She dreams of having a dog.

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