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Deciding When to Retake the ACT or SAT

Brenda A.

Taking the ACT or SAT for the first time can be an eye-opening experience. Regardless of how thoroughly you have prepared, chances are you will encounter issues on the real test that you never considered during practice tests. For this reason, it’s not uncommon for students to choose to take the ACT or ACT a second, or even third, time. But how soon after your first test should you schedule another? Today we’re going to consider some factors that will help you make this decision. Keep in mind that this list isn’t exhaustive. There are other important factors, such as your high school graduation date and college admission deadlines, that you should consider. Rather, these are some of the questions that you should be asking yourself if and when you plan to take the ACT or SAT again.


How soon is the next exam date?

ACT and SAT dates are staggered throughout the school year. (No tests are offered over the summer.) Typically, test dates are set one to two months apart. Students usually receive test results two to four weeks after the exam, but this isn’t guaranteed. In addition, ACT Writing grades often take longer to process than multiple choice ACT grades do.


Make sure you take this variance in when you will receive your exam results into account when scheduling your next test. If the next exam is only a month away, you may get your grades from the first exam back around the time of the second. This gives you little to no time to study specific areas that you need to improve in. If, on the other hand, the next exam is six or more weeks away, you will probably have time to analyze your previous exam results and learn from your mistakes.


How busy are you?

If you have little going on besides school work and your social life, you might consider retaking the ACT or SAT sooner rather than later. However, if you participate in a large number of extracurricular activities, have a sports tournament coming up, or are closing in on final exam season, you should seriously consider postponing your next ACT or SAT until you are able to devote more time to studying for it.


Are you taking both the ACT and SAT?

Whether you need to take both exams for different colleges or scholarships, or you simply want to make sure your college admission options are as covered as possible, you should carefully plan out your ACT and SAT test dates. While the ACT and SAT are more similar than they have ever been, the exams still have important differences.  One of the keys to success on either exam is consistency. You don’t want to be constantly switching gears between practicing ACT and SAT-exclusive techniques.


More seriously, taking multiple ACT and SAT exams in a row greatly increases the risk of test burnout. Both exams are extremely repetitive. You can only take so many ACTs and SATs without a break before you scores begin to plateau or even drop. Therefore, students wanting or needing to take both exams should build a “recharge period” of at least a few weeks into their schedules. This isn’t as drastic as it may sound. The ACT and SAT offer enough test dates throughout the school year that you can take a month off of testing without it adversely affecting your scores or test schedule.



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