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Retake the ACT? YES!!! Scale showing happy and sad faces.

ACT, ACT, ACT. Luckily saying it three times does not have the same effect as Beetlejuice.  Still, the name might conjure up images of #2 pencils, bubbling circles and that sinking feeling when you realize you blanked on a math problem.  Lucky for you, life is full of second chances.  Retaking the ACT can be a strategic move that seriously ups your college application and scholarship game. Here’s why a retake might be the secret weapon you’ve been overlooking.

Supersize your score

Some colleges use a magical little thing called a “Superscore” when evaluating applications. This basically means they take your highest section score regardless of which exam it is on. Let’s say you crushed the Reading section the first time, but bombed Math. If you decide to retake the exam and focus on your math score but your other scores decline you can still get a higher Superscore.  According to a 2021 study by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, over 1,200 colleges reported using the Superscore option. That’s a lot of schools giving you the opportunity to showcase your best work and your perseverance.

Better each time

Think of your first ACT as a practice run. You get a feel for the format, question styles, and the whole testing environment. Now, imagine going in the second time around, armed with that knowledge. The biggest benefit to taking multiple stabs at the exam is knowing what you are up against. If you struggled with a subject, then spend more time studying that part.   Studies by the ACT organization itself show that students who retake the ACT see an average score increase of 2-3 points. That might not seem like a lot, but consider the academic awards of the colleges that interest you. Often you will find common breakpoints for scholarships every 3-4 points. Retaking the exam to bump your score from an 18 to a 21 could earn you thousands of dollars a year in academic scholarships.

Early and often

We get asked a lot about the best time to take the ACT. While the answer is different for each student here are some common times to take it and things to consider.

Junior Year Fall: Much of the exam covers sophomore and junior year content. For that reason, I encouraged my daughter not to study for the exam when she took it early in her junior year. One, this reduced the stress that comes with experiencing the exam for the first time. Two, it established a baseline for her to build on.

Junior Year Spring: This is the most common time to retake the exam, especially in Nebraska. All juniors take the ACT to round out the year. Because it is part of the academic calendar it is not the exam you want to take lightly. Make sure you study and do your best for this test.

Summer Before Senior Year: My top recommendation for students is to retake in the summer. Without the burden of homework and daily classes, you have more time to study. We have plenty of older blogs where we address ways you can get the most out of your study time. If you are really struggling, and can afford it, it might not be a bad idea to invest in some test prep help.

Retaking the ACT isn’t a punishment, it’s a chance to show colleges your dedication and perseverance. There are often offers for a free retake which helps a lot of students every year, so take advantage of those opportunities.  Colleges like to see well-rounded students, while the ACT is a great way to showcase your academic abilities, it is not the only way. Keep working on your GPA and stay involved in your community.

By Jason Combs