Guest Post: What to Keep in Mind When Retaking the ACT

If you are retaking the ACT, you have a unique opportunity. Yes, a retake is a challenge. But it’s also a very good chance to improve your score and become an even more competitive university applicant. To make the most of this opportunity, there’s a few things you should keep in mind.

Think About Your ACT Strengths and Weaknesses

Knowing your strengths and weaknesses is key to getting a good ACT score. And if you’ve taken the exam before, you have insights into your strengths and weaknesses that you didn’t have the first time around. Once you identify your weak areas, you can improve on them. And you can also build on your strengths, using the academic abilities you have as a foundation to improve your overall ACT performance.

Suppose, for example, that ACT Science is a section you’re weak on. Well, ACT Science is really a combination of reading comprehension and math. If you’re good in ACT Reading, ACT Math, or both, you can find ways to apply those skills to ACT Science. Conversely, you could struggle a lot with ACT Math story problems, but feel confident in Reading or Science. Reading comprehension skills can work on story problems. And every ACT Science passage has a “story problem” component, where you make analyses and calculations based on text and numbers. These science skills too can be applied to ACT Math.

Think About the New ACT Essay

The ACT Essay is another important factor to consider. The ACT Essay has always been optional. If you’re a good writer and are confident that you can really shine on the essay, it’s a good idea to “opt in” to this part of the exam on the retake. A shining essay score can really enhance your score report and your competitiveness among other applicants.

On the other hand, you may not be much of a “writing person.” And that’s OK! Very few schools actually have a hard and fast requirement for the ACT Essay. If you don’t feel you can do well on this part of the exam, or if you simply feel your retake study time would be better spent on other sections of the test, you don’t need to take the essay.

As you consider this decision, bear in mind that the ACT Essay has recently been redesigned. Make sure you are very familiar with the new ACT essay. Even if you are a good writer, mastering the new format takes some practice.

Think About Your Competitiveness in Terms of Average ACT Score

Like I said, your ACT retake is an excellent opportunity to make yourself more competitive as you apply for schools. And what’s the most important factor in being competitive? Why, the competition, of course! Your competition is the other college applicants.

To compete well with other college hopefuls, you need to know their average ACT scores. If you’re applying to larger schools that attract students from around the country, be mindful of national ACT averages. And if you are instead looking to attend a local state school, think about your state’s average ACT score–this can be higher or lower than the national average. To figure all this out, check out this web page on average ACT score by state. (National figures are included there too.)

About David Recine

David is a test prep expert at Magoosh. He has a Bachelor of Social Work from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and a Masters in Teaching English to Speakers of other Languages from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls. He has been teaching K-12, University, and adult education classes since 2007 and has worked with students from every continent. Currently, David lives in a small town in the American Upper Midwest. When he’s not teaching or writing, David studies Korean, plays with his son, and takes road trips to Minneapolis to get a taste of city life. Follow David on Google+ and Twitter!

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