Each year, tens of thousands of students take big, life-changing exams, such as the SAT or the ACT. And every year, hundreds or thousands of students get a grade on that test which sorely disappoints them. But what’s a person to do at that point?
Many people, of course, consider retaking it. That’s because most of us believe that the more times we take a test, the better we’ll do on it. And actually, statistics tend to agree with this. According to one study, 55 percent of people who retake the SAT or ACT improve their tests the second time they take it. (It’s not always true, of course, as the 35 percent who did worse the second time can attest).
So should you retake the SAT or ACT–or some other similarly big test? In most cases, there’s little reason not to (other than the financial cost involved with taking it). Although you might think that a college would frown on a person who required two or three takes to get a good SAT score, this is not true. In fact, the only score that most colleges consider is the highest score. Lower scores are automatically discarded. This is also usually true with the ACT (although not as much as with the SAT).
So how do the colleges which consider both grades record your results? In these instances, they usually use a “cumulative score.” In other words, those who have scores on file for more than one ACT will be expected to have a certain total between both tests.
If you do plan to retake a test, here is some advice to consider. First, make sure that you learn from the mistakes you made on the first test. Check the breakdown on the score and the explanations for why you missed each test item. This is your first step as you prepare for the retake.
Also, develop a modified study plan. If you studied 15 minutes a night before the first test, then adjust it for the second go-around. Now maybe you’ll study a half hour a night and include weekends, too.
Hire a tutor! This should preferably be someone who has already had success taking the test that you’ll be retaking. Discuss with your tutor the items that you missed on the test and give him or her time to study on that material. This will equip him or her to clarify the material for you so you don’t miss it again.
Finally, remember that an important part to doing better on a test retake is to not over-study. Because you’ve already taken the test, you have a big advantage: You already know which parts of the test you’re good at and which parts give you trouble. So if the test has shown you that you’re excellent at geometry related questions, why waste time studying for it for the second test? Instead, use that time to bone up on the items that gave you trouble.
In fact, some people, as part of their preparation for the retake, also take a practice test before their real studying begins. Why? Because this test will help to confirm that the troublesome areas, if you missed them on both tests, are truly the areas where you’re studying should be focused. On the other hand, if you missed something on the real test, but the practice exam shows that you seem to really know that material, then maybe you just had a bad day when you took the actual test. If so, then those are items that you can save for last when you begin your studying.
Whether or not to retake a major exam is an issue that you’ll have to decide. But if you do decide to take it again, just make sure that you’re better prepared the second time.