Should I Retake the ACT?

tl;dr:ย Retaking the ACT is a personal choice. It can help you improve your score, but it's not worth it for everyone. On average, retaking the ACT can boost your score by 2.9 points, but there's a "score ceiling" that differs from person to person. Double-check with colleges to make sure you have time to submit your score before the application deadline. Check out Fiveable's ACT guides for extra help in getting the score you wantโ€”you got this!

Quick Overview

What's poppin? ๐ŸŽˆ If you have landed here, you're probably wondering how you can earn the highest possible score on the ACT to submit for college applications, scholarships, or for your future in general! Here at Fiveable, we want to help break down this process and make sure you know the ins and outs of retakes. Need a refresher on the contents of the ACT? Check out this article.

Signing Up for the ACT

In order to take the ACT, you will need to have a MyACT account, where you can access the ACT registration portal. Once you've signed up for an account, you will sign up for an ACT exam administration. For the 2021-2022 school year, the ACT offers tests on these dates ๐Ÿ“†:

  • July 17, 2021
  • September 11, 2021
  • October 23, 2021
  • December 11, 2021
  • February 12, 2022
  • April 2, 2022
  • June 11, 2022
  • July 16, 2022

Once you have paid your registration fee, the ACT will send over instructions for your exam administration. On your test date, you'll need to bring a photo ID, test ticket, no. 2 pencil(s), calculator, and, optionally, a snack! ๐Ÿ’ช

How many times can you retake the ACT?

You'll often hear this question asked with varying answers, but what you should know first and foremost is that you are able to retake the ACT as many times as you wish - until you are satisfied with your score! Many colleges accept what's called a superscore, where your best section scores from multiple test administrations are submitted. ๐Ÿฅณ
Hereโ€™s how most students react when they find out that schools theyโ€™re applying to accept ACT superscores. Image from Pixabay

Thus, it's advantageous for you to take the ACT more than once to have the highest section scores. For instance, some people score really well on the science and math sections the first time! That means before many people retake the second time, they might focus most of their test prep on reading and English to increase those section scores. ๐Ÿ“–

The ACT will automatically calculate a superscore that you will be able to see in your MyACT account after you've taken multiple test administrations!

Should you retake the ACT?

The ACT found that, on average, students who have taken multiple ACT administrations have a higher composite score of around 2.9 points; in fact, of all 2015 graduates who retested, 57% scored higher! ๐Ÿ“ˆ
Retaking and getting a higher score on the ACT is a step by step process. ๐Ÿ˜‰ Image from Unsplash.

However, there is a 'score ceiling' to some extent, which definitely differs from student to student. By taking the same standardized test multiple times, you risk becoming burnt out from the exam itself, resulting in your composite score dropping. By taking practice tests and doing ACT prep, you'll get a better grasp of your retake "ceiling," meaning you shouldn't worry too much about your score going down from a retake. ๐Ÿ˜Œ

Something else to consider is your deadline to submit all materials (e.g., for jobs, scholarships, or college applications). Don't forget to submit your score to the recipient organization/college before the application deadline so that the recipient can process your score!โฐ

For early decision, early action, or priority deadlines in November, this means your last possible ACT date would be either in September (for early November deadlines) or October (for mid-November deadlines). โฒ๏ธ For regular decision deadlines (generally January 1), the December ACT is usually the last test administration accepted.

Your best bet is to check in with who you're sending your standardized test score to โ€” they get these questions all the time and will have the best answer on this. It really does depend from school to school and from organization to organization, so make sure to reach out and double-check if needed! โœ… โœ…

Section Retakes

You may remember when the ACT announced earlier in 2020 that you could potentially save time and retake certain sections of the test instead of the whole exam. Unfortunately, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, section retesting has been postponed, meaning that you will need to take the entire test if you decide to retake it! ๐Ÿ“

The ACT has previously announced that they plan to launch both digital testing and section retakes (which will only be available in digital format) later in 2021, so keep an eye out on the ACT website for more information.


Retaking the ACT is not as bad as you might think โ€” a large majority of students improve following a retake! With effective preparation before your ACT, you will excel and be able to reach that dream score that you might think is unattainable right now.

Alternatively, if you're not satisfied with your score you might not need to submit it at all. Many schools are adopting test-optional policies. However, it could still be worth your time to shoot for a higher ACT score even if your school is test-optional.

If you need any extra help with the ACT, check out some of Fiveable's ultimate ACT guides that going super in-depth into each subject!

If you're aiming to get 36, you have a lot of practice ahead of you. So if you're looking for even more ACT Prep resources, check out this list of some of the best!

We're here to help, and remember that at the end of the day, you've got this! ๐Ÿ™Œ

Guide Outline


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