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    How Many Times Can You Take the ACT?

    By Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman

    Gabriel Jimenez-Ekman is a content editor and writer at Scholarships360. He has managed communications and written content for a diverse array of organizations, including a farmer’s market, a concert venue, a student farm, an environmental NGO, and a PR agency. Gabriel graduated from Kenyon College with a degree in sociology.

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    Reviewed by Caitlyn Cole

    Caitlyn Cole is a college access professional with a decade of experience in non-profit program and project management for college readiness and access organizations.

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    Edited by Maria Geiger

    Maria Geiger is Director of Content at Scholarships360. She is a former online educational technology instructor and adjunct writing instructor. In addition to education reform, Maria’s interests include viewpoint diversity, blended/flipped learning, digital communication, and integrating media/web tools into the curriculum to better facilitate student engagement. Maria earned both a B.A. and an M.A. in English Literature from Monmouth University, an M. Ed. in Education from Monmouth University, and a Virtual Online Teaching Certificate (VOLT) from the University of Pennsylvania.

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    Updated: November 10th, 2023
    How Many Times Can You Take the ACT?

    As you study, you may be wondering how many times you can take the ACT. It can be nerve-racking thinking that your one attempt at a test might be your only shot. Luckily, you have up to 12 opportunities to take the ACT in search of a better score. 

    Now that you know how many times you can take the ACT, let’s dig into how to use this information. We’ll go over how many times students typically take the test, how scores typically improve, how you can use the ACT superscore to your advantage, and help you strategize how best to balance your SAT and ACT preparations. Let’s get into it!

    Related: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool

    How many times do students typically take the ACT?

    Although you could take the ACT up to 12 times, most students take the ACT between 2-3 times. Even if you are happy with your first score, there’s a good chance you could score even one point higher by taking it again. That point would make it worthwhile; it might put you over the edge for a scholarship or admissions decision.

    If you take the test more than 2-3 times, don’t worry. Colleges will not view this as a negative. Keep in mind that you do not have to send a school all your ACT scores. Once you have a score that you are happy with, and you are confident that you can’t improve it, you can move on from the ACT.

    Preparing for the ACT

    Preparing for the ACT is a long process that is best begun early. Below we’ve put a couple tips and strategies to help you prepare!

    Take practice tests

    We do recommend taking at least one ACT practice test beforehand. These tests offer individualized feedback that can help you pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses. You’ll get a question-by-question breakdown of your results. You’ll also start to get an idea of how to pace yourself during the test and even feel more confident knowing how the test is laid out and how to use the answer sheet. You can use this information to fine-tune your performance on the real test. 

    Find a tutor

    If you and your family have access to a test prep budget, we highly recommend finding  a good tutor. You’ll want to find someone who meets you where you are and suits your learning style. Make sure to devote a set amount of time for practicing every day. 

    Study with a strategy

    Early in your ACT test-taking, you may want to focus on studying areas where you don’t feel as strong. For example, tightening up a couple basic skills in algebra could really help you in the math section. However, if you’ve taken a couple of ACT exams and you see your math score remains the same, you may consider actually looking at the areas you did well and seeing if you can improve further. Since you already have a strong grasp of these subjects, you may find it’s easier to get more points in those areas versus struggling with an area that isn’t your strength.

    Free online resources

    Students without a test prep tutor also have a lot of free resources at their disposal to study. The ACT has assembled a great host of resources to help you study. If you find you are distracted by the computer, you can try printing some of these out, or buying an ACT prep workbook. These are typically much more affordable than a tutor. Becoming familiar with the subject matter and flow of the exams is a crucial step towards success on the test. There are also popular test prep companies that offer some free resources. Kaplan and the Princeton Review offer an assortment of free resources that can help you prepare for the ACT. 

    When to start taking the ACT

    Knowing when to start taking standardized tests is often the hardest part. We recommend students start taking practice ACTs as early as possible. This way, you can get a picture of your strengths and weaknesses early on. You’ll have more time to create a learning plan with yourself or your tutor. Make sure you know when all the ACT test dates are as well, so that you can create an accurate picture of your timeline. 

    Beginning to take the real ACT early on is also a good idea. We recommend that you take your first ACT in your junior year. In case you take the test on an off-day, you’ll want several opportunities to retake it if necessary. If you take it early, you’ll have many opportunities to retake it whenever it best suits you.

    Create a goal

    While there’s no way to guarantee you’ll receive a certain score, it can still be helpful to have a goal score in mind. Start by assessing the average ACT scores for your state. From there, look at the average scores for students admitted to the colleges you’re applying to. Remember, these are averages, so there are plenty of students who score above or below the number you see; don’t be discouraged if you see a score that feels like a lofty goal. Of course every student would want to receive a perfect score, but it’s just not realistic. Assess how much time you have to study, and the factors above to create a more realistic picture of what you might receive. Additionally, examine the scores from your practice tests to help determine your score as well!

    Will my score improve?

    While it’s impossible to be sure whether your score will improve, colleges will always consider your highest score. You always have the option of submitting your best score. Furthermore, there is a good chance that your score will improve if you use your previous results to focus your studying. If you know what you need to work on it and you put in the time, you should perform better.

    Related: Advice for low test takers

    ACT Superscore

    One of the greatest advantages to taking the ACT multiple times is the possibility of a superscore. Some colleges will allow you to submit a superscore, which is a combination of the highest scores you got on each section, across every time you took the test. That means your superscore may be higher than any of your individual test scores.

    Let’s say you take the ACT 3 times. You get the same overall score each time – a 30. But let’s say you scored a 32 on math the first time, a 32 on science the second time, and a 32 on reading the third time. Your superscore will be a 32 — a whole 2 points higher than any individual score.

    So, if you are applying to superscore schools, each time you take the ACT, you’ve got a good chance of improving your score. In situations like these, it might make sense to take the test 3 or more times.

    Considering other tests

    While the SAT and ACT share many similarities, there are some key differences. Most students tend to perform a bit better on one or the other. Make sure to consider both tests and see which plays to your strengths. Some of the key differences between the two are:

    ACT SAT
    • Covers a wider ground of math subjects
    • Has a science section, while the SAT has science questions throughout other sections
    • Has a no-calculator math section, whereas the ACT allows calculators
    • Offers more time per question, but they tend to involve more thinking

    It’s a good idea to try your hand at both. If you take practice tests early on, you can see which suits you better. Then, you can tailor your studying towards that exam. If you’d like more information about the SAT, we have articles about how many times you can take the SAT, what an SAT superscore is and a list of SAT test dates!

    Key Takeaways

    Key Takeaways

    • You can take the ACT up to 12 times, but students typically only take it between 2-3 times
    • You won’t be penalized or given preference for taking the test more than the average number of times
    • It’s a good idea to start preparing early with tutors, free resources and practice tests
    • Taking the ACT multiple times is especially helpful for schools that accept superscores
    Key Takeaways

    Frequently asked questions about how many times you can take the ACT

    How many times can I take the ACT in a year?

    The ACT does not have a limit to the number of test attempts you can take in a year. They simply have a lifetime limit of 12. We do not recommend that you take more than 2-3 attempts in a year. Between each test you should aim to improve your score. This takes time, which means you should not rush the process.

    Which ACT test is the hardest?

    The hardest ACT sections will vary from student to student. Some students may be exceptional when it comes to math, while others may find it’s their most difficult subject. The same can be true for all the other subjects. We all have subjects that we’re stronger in than others. Be sure to identify these before taking the test so that you can spend extra time studying for these parts of the exam.

    Is a perfect score on the ACT or the SAT harder?

    A perfect score on either exam is easy. The number of people who receive a perfect score on one of these exams can’t be compared to those who received a perfect score on the other exam because the number of people who take each test is not the same. Our advice would be to take each test at least once and decide which test you felt suited you better. You may find that you naturally score higher on one than the other. If this is the case, put time and effort into studying for that exam to receive the highest score possible.

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