Retaking the ACT is a lot of work. It isn't just about paying the money and taking the test again, you also have to consider the extra work put into studying and if you will realistically be able to score higher than you did the first time. However, retaking the ACT can also do you a lot of good if you bombed the first time and need to get a higher score to get into the college of your choice. Here are 5 things to consider before retaking the ACT.
1. What's your target score?
Consider whether or not your target score is realistic, and specifically which scores you want to improve on. ACT.org gives the national rankings for subject and composite scores so that you know how you compare with the rest of recent high school graduates who took the test. If you got a composite score of 27, for example, 86% of the rest of the people who took the test scored a 27 or lower, i.e., only 14% of people scored a 27 or higher.
What this means is that if your target score is unrealistic, for example you first scored a 22 and now want to score a 30, it isn't necessarily impossible, but it will take a lot of work. Most people won't be able to improve their score by that much if they don't take ACT prep classes, take a couple of months to study, and dedicate a lot of time to achieving their goals. This isn't meant to discourage you from retaking it, but merely to say be prepared for the work ahead.
2. Do you have the time and motivation to reach that score?
The nice thing about taking the test again is that you know what types of questions to expect. This can go a long way for doing better the second time around. The bad thing about taking the test again is that you will have to do a lot of studying in each of the subject areas to improve your score. Are you ready and motivated to reach your target score?
Also, do you have time to do it? If your admissions packet is due soon, then you will have to also have to allow enough time to schedule another time to take the test and for your scores to be sent to your potential schools. Sadly, ACT testing centers only test at certain times, and for some, this is only a couple of times per month. Sometimes stressing out about the time constraints is enough to prohibit learning.
3. How many times have you taken the test?
If you have taken the test multiple times and you don't see your scores significantly improving, it may be time to accept it. However, if you've only taken it once or twice and continue to improve, taking it a second or third time might be a good decision if you are looking to qualify for a scholarship or hit the score you need to get into a college of your choice.
Remember, you only have to report the scores you want to report, and colleges will accept the highest score you submit. So, if even if you submit multiple scores, they will only consider your highest score when looking at your admissions packet. Likewise, if you take the ACT multiple times and only submit one of your scores, the college won't know you have taken multiple times, nor are they likely to care if they do know.
4. Are you studying the right way?
How you study is as important, if not more important, than how much you study. If you are spending a lot of time studying and aren't getting any better, then you should reassess your technique.
Dean Vaughn's Memory and Retention System is a great place to start as it offers proven techniques for remembering certain facts and subject areas. Also, consider taking an ACT prep class or tutor to help guide you in the right direction. These can give you lots of studying techniques that you may not have been aware of.
5. Will it really matter if you score higher?
Ultimately, the question becomes, "Will it really matter if you score any higher?" It all depends on the schools you want to get into and why you are taking the test in the first place. If you are going to a school that doesn't require a target score or requires a score you've already gotten, then why take it again? If scoring one point higher won't get you any further, then there is really no point in taking it again.