Should you retake the ACT or SAT?

College Admissions | SAT Prep | ACT Prep

After all the toughMeasure.jpg questions on the ACT or SAT, you have another one to answer when your scores arrive: Should you take the test again?

There isn’t a universal right answer to this one. The best choice depends on you and the colleges you’re applying to. When you’re making your decision, consider these questions:

How accurately does your score reflect your ability?

You probably have a good sense of how well you should do on the ACT or SAT based on your practice test scores and your experience in school. If your score is far below your results on practice tests or if your percentile rank is far below where you usually fall in your class, you have a good reason for thinking you could improve your score on a retest.

How did you feel the day of the test?

Were you sick or upset about something? If a distraction made you feel that you were performing worse than you usually do on a test, it would probably be worth taking the ACT or SAT again when you’re feeling well enough to do your best.

How does your score measure up?

Check out the ACT and SAT averages or ranges of students admitted to the schools you’re applying to, and see how your score compares. If you’re already far above the qualifications your schools look for, there’s probably no need to bother with a retest. If you’re below your schools’ averages, you might want to try for a higher score.

How will the next time be different?

If you plan to take a prep class or take another course in school that covers ACT and SAT material (Algebra II, for example), you’ll be better prepared for the test. But if your preparation is the same the second time, your score might be, too.

Should you retake the ACT or SAT?

Retaking the test will require time for preparation and testing and will cause extra stress at a time when you’re probably already busy with school. If you think you can do significantly better, it’s worth the time and stress to improve your chances of getting into your top-choice colleges. But if you don’t really need extra points or if your score is unlikely to change much, your effort would probably be better spent on the other parts of your college applications.

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Image: "measuring tape" courtesy of Seth MacEntee