Should I Retake the ACT?

Students taking an exam
Getty Images | David Schaffer

When you sign up for the ACT—register, pay the appropriate fees, choose a test date—and then actually take the exam, you never really expect that you'll be considering the prospect of having to retake the ACT. Sure, you may have planned to retake the exam just in case, but if you have to retake the test because you didn't get the score you really wanted, then that's a whole different ball game, isn't it? If you are wondering whether or not you should retake the ACT or just use the scores you've currently earned, then here is some advice for you.

Taking the ACT the First Time

Most students opt to take the ACT for the first time the spring of their junior year, and many of those students go on to take the ACT again in the fall of their senior year. Why? It allows them enough time to get the scores to universities in order to get an admissions decision before graduation. There are some kids, however, who start taking the ACT in middle school, just to see what they'll face when the real deal rolls around. It's your choice how often you take the exam; you'll have the best shot at scoring big on it, though, if you master all of your high school coursework prior to testing.

What Could Happen if I Retake the ACT?

Your scores could go up if you retake the test. Or, they could go down. Odds are pretty good that they'll go up, though. Take a peek at this information provided by the ACT test makers:

  • 57% of testers who took the ACT again increased their composite score on the retest
  • 21% had no change in their composite score on the retest
  • 22% decreased their composite score on the retest

If your composite score was between a 12 and 29, you typically gain about 1 point when you retest, if you've done nothing in between the time you first tested and your retake to improve your score. And keep in mind that the lower your first overall score, the more likely your second score will be higher than the first score. And, the higher your first ACT score, the more likely your second score will be the same as or lower than the first score. For example, it would be rare to score a 31 on the ACT the first time around, and then, after having done nothing to prepare for the second test, take it again and score a 35.

So, Should I Retake It?

Before you sign up to take the test again, the ACT test makers recommend that you ask yourself these questions:

  • Did you have any problems during the tests, like misunderstanding the directions or having an illness?
  • Do you think your scores do not accurately represent your abilities? Or have you found an error with your ACT score?
  • Are your ACT scores what you expected based on your high school grades?
  • Have you taken more coursework or an intensive review in the areas covered?
  • Do you want to apply to a college that requires or recommends the Writing Test and you didn't take ACT Plus Writing previously?

If your answers to any of these questions are "Yes!," then you should definitely retake the ACT. If you're sick, you're not going to perform as well. If there's a large discrepancy between the way you typically perform on tests in school and the ACT exam, then chances are good your score was a fluke and it will improve if you retake it. Doing additional prepwork will obviously help your score, too, especially if you focus on the areas in which you performed the lowest. And yes, if you are interested in applying to a school that wants to know your Writing score from the ACT and you didn't happen to take it, then you should definitely register once more.

Are There Any Risks If I Retake the ACT?

There are no risks to retaking the ACT. If you test more than one time, you can choose which test date's scores to send to colleges and universities. Since you can take the test up to twelve times, that's a whole lot of data from which to choose.

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Your Citation
Roell, Kelly. "Should I Retake the ACT?" ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, Roell, Kelly. (2023, April 5). Should I Retake the ACT? Retrieved from Roell, Kelly. "Should I Retake the ACT?" ThoughtCo. (accessed May 30, 2023).