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How Many Times Can You Take the ACT?

Preparing for standardized tests can seem overwhelming, especially if you feel as though it’s your only shot at getting a good score. As you study, you may be wondering how many times you can take the ACT. Luckily, you have up to 12 opportunities to take the ACT in search of a better score. While most students end up taking the test far less than 12 times, it’s good to be reminded of how many opportunities you have, should you wish to take them.

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, and how to prepare for it. Then, we’ll discuss how scores typically improve, and how you can use the ACT superscore to your advantage. Finally, we’ll 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?

Most students take the ACT between 2-3 times. But if you take the test more than 2-3 times, don’t worry. Colleges will not view this as a negative. Conversely, they will not view it as a positive, so don’t take the test over and over just to impress schools. 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.

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 can use this information to fine-tune your performance on the real test. It’s also a good idea to take the actual test at least two 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 officer.

Also see: Average ACT score by state

Preparing for the ACT

Preparing for the ACT is a long process that is best begun early. Perhaps the most important step is to find 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. And don’t forget — you should study to focus on your weaknesses, not your strengths. It may be tempting to practice the skills you already have down-pat. This can help reinforce your confidence and provide valuable review. But don’t let this deter you from practicing the things you normally make mistakes on. Your weaknesses are the main reason that you are studying!

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.

Also see: How many times can you take the SAT?

When to start taking the ACT

The best possible option is to 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. 

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 best suits you.

Related: When should you take the SAT/ACT?

Will my score improve?

While it’s impossible to be sure whether your score will improve, you can rest assured that it can’t decline. 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 an amalgamation 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.

Related: What is an SAT Superscore?

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:

  • SAT – has a no-calculator math section, whereas the ACT does not
  • ACT – covers a wider ground of math subjects
  • SAT – offers more time per question, but they tend to involve more thinking
  • ACT –  has a science section, while the SAT has science questions throughout other sections

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.

Also see: ACT vs SAT: How to decide which to take

Summing it up

  • 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
  • Taking the ACT multiple times is especially helpful for schools that accept superscores
  • Finding a good tutor is key!

We wish you the best as you prepare for the ACT! Remember to check our site for other college admissions resources, such as when to apply to college, how to complete the FAFSA, and how to pick a college. We can also help you with 10 tips for successful college applications, an insider view of college admissions offices, and finding a financial safety school.

Also see: ACT test dates 2021-2022