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Retaking the ACT


I'm a junior, and I recently received my ACT scores. I got a composite of 35: 36 on math and reading, 35 on English, and 32 on science. I'm pretty happy overall, but I'm a little worried about my science score because it's a bit lower than all the others. I plan to apply to at least one Ivy-league level college, so my question is whether or not I should retake the test. How much weight do colleges put into individual component scores vs. the overall composite score? If I plan to major in something science-related, could this score of 32 potentially hurt me?

(I hope this isn't a chance me post. If it is, I'm sorry, and feel free to delete it.)


3 answers

answered on
Accepted answer

You're a junior and you have a 35 composite ACT score? Congratulations.

Honestly, you are done. There are only 2 schools in the past where the middle 50% had high ACT/SATs in the Top 10 and that is MIT and CalTech. 34-36 for MIT, and 35-36 for CalTech.

You can satisfy both MIT/CalTech STEM requirements with A to A+ grades in APBio, APChem, AP Calc. (preferably BC), and AP Physics (preferably C) but keep in mind that MIT is SAT 2 Subject test blind this cycle and CalTech is ACT/SAT/SAT 2 blind across the board, so they won't even look at your Std. test scores.

The hardest IVY to get into is Harvard and they do not differentiate between a 33 ACT and 36 ACT because test scores are only 1 out of like 200 criteria they use to evaluate applicants. If you have a 33-36 according to their lawsuit documents you are considered a Magna Cum Laude and will be given either a 2+, 2, or 2- score on their scorecard. Since less than 1% of all Harvard applicants are Summa Cum Laude or academic geniuses who have won some National competition or done some researched that got published in a national journal, it's futile to try to get a 1+,1, or 1- score (less than 20 people per incoming Freshman class)

If you are hoping to get into an Ivy, focus on course rigor, grades, ECs, your essay, and some tangible evidence of intellectual curiosity either through your own research, projects, or outside College level coursework.

99+% of test-takers can not get a 35 composite score so unless you are re-taking the test to prove something to yourself like getting a 36 composite, I don't see the point. After I received a 35 composite in a single seating test, not a super-scored test result, I felt it was no longer important to improve upon the score. Since I had straight 35s, I was less interested in repeating any of it but I can see that if you have some doubts about your 32, you might want to sit for another ACT and get a 34-35 on that part. Its' completely doable. I bumped my Science from a 30 to a 35.

Since you are only a Junior, you can always take it over next summer. Hopefully, they will figure out how to allow test takers to just take that 1 part over. They were going to do that this year but they canceled the program.

Good Luck and focus on other things.

Thanks so much for the in-depth answer! I didn't know that the ACT was considering allowing students to retake just one section - if that does happen, I'll consider doing that. To me, it seemed like the ACT science was more about reading and interpreting data rather than actual science knowledge, so could having good AP science scores help balance things out? (My current coursework plans include taking all the AP classes you mentioned by the end of my senior year.)
Correct doing well in the Science section had to do with knowing how to read and interpret the data and take the test versus genuine STEM knowledge. Yes, if you get like 4s and 5s on your AP STEMS that should be perfect!
Alright, thanks!
answered on

If you're already scoring so well on all the other sections, the problem might just be your familiarity with the way the ACT formats/asks its questions. I don't know how many times you've taken it, but considering that you're a junior with time to improve-- why not do everything in your power to focus on the science section and get that as high as possible by practicing with test prep books or tutoring? Science isn't really content-based on the ACT, so it should help you a lot to understand how the ACT usually asks their questions about it to be prepared. Good luck!

Thanks for your answer! I have taken a few practice ACT tests in the past (2) and both times I did well on the science section. I think my issue was that I was tired on test day and the pressure finally got to me. The only thing that's keeping me from retaking is the length of the test (I don't want to have to spend another entire morning taking it) and the fact that the pandemic has changed everything from how tests are evaluated to how easy it is to register.
answered on

Not worth taking the test(in my opinion and college opinions) UNLESS you are applying for a major related to science such as biology or chemistry. If you are applying for... lets say English. It won't matter at all.

That's the issue...I don't really know what I want to major in yet but I'm thinking about doing a STEM-business combo. (I don't think that helps very much.)