Do You Really Need to Retake the ACT? 5 Ways to Decide by Chris Lele


calculator-scientificTest day doesn’t always go according to plan. But committing to a retake is not always the best path. Below are five questions that you should ask yourself if you are considering an ACT retake.


  1. Did you do much better on your practice tests?

Test day is stressful. In fact, the night before is stressful. So whether you got a bad night’s sleep or you were stressing out during the test, there are many factors that can hurt your performance. One way you can tell if you were off your game test day is if your practice test scores were much higher. For instance, if you ended up getting a 32 on a practice test but 25 test day, then you should consider a retake. Of course, figure out exactly what went wrong and find a way to avoid that when you retake the test.

  1. Did you seriously prep for your first take?

The first question might not have even applied to you for the simple fact that you didn’t take any practice tests. In fact, you might not have studied much at all. Regardless of what you may have heard, standardized tests—whether the ACT, SAT, or any graduate exam—are learnable. By giving yourself enough time to seriously study, you have a better chance of reaching your potential. And taking full-length practice tests will definitely help you perform better test day.

  1. Would you have time to seriously prep for retake?

This question is a natural follow up to the last one, because if you don’t have enough time to prep, despite the best of intentions, it doesn’t make sense to sit for a retake. The exception might be if you got overly nervous on your first take and you know that, even without that much prep you’ll be able to do much better, then perhaps take the retake. If you fall into this group, my advice is take at least one more practice test before you sign up, just to make sure you are performing at least 3 or 4 points better than on the actual test.   

  1. Is your score competitive for the schools you hope to get into?

All of the questions might not be relevant for you, if for the simple fact that you need a better score to get into the school of your choice. If that is your one driving motivation, then definitely take the test again. First make sure that you have an idea of what those school’s average ACT scores are. If you are already in that range, then it might make more sense to spend time on other aspects of your application.  

  1. Is your SAT score more competitive?

If you have taken the SAT and percentile wise your score is stronger on the SAT, then there might be no reason to take the ACT. Of course, there might be some exceptions. For example, you might have stumbled in one section on the ACT yet done well on the corresponding section on the SAT. To illustrate, imagine you didn’t properly pace yourself on the ACT math section, and you couldn’t finish most of the problems. Had you not run out of time, your composite score might have been much higher, then the ACT again. This especially holds true if you took the SAT recently. The ACT math topics are very similar so you’ll be in a good position to do well on a retake.

For the last ten years, Chris Lele has been helping students excel in all things test prep: from conquering ACT math topics to mastering GRE vocabulary words. In this time, he’s coached 5 students to a perfect SAT score. Some of his GRE students have raised their scores by nearly 400 points. He has taken many GMAT students from the doldrums of the 600s to the coveted land of the 700+. Rumor has it he does a secret happy dance when his students get a perfect score. You can read Chris’s awesome blog posts on the Magoosh High School Blog, and study with his lessons using Magoosh SAT Prep.