How many times should a student take the ACT? When is enough really enough?
About an hour ago I ran into one of my high school classmates at the local post office. His sophomore daughter took her first ACT in April and got a very good starting score. We then started tallking about our ACT days back in the 80s. Times have changed. When we went to high school, you took it once, your guidance counselor was the one who gave you your score report (they were mailed to schools not home back then), and that was it.
Fast forward to the 21st Century. Every point matters as they are connected heavily to admissions and scholarships. Because of this, many college bound students will take the test 3 - 4 times to maximize their scores. This creates a good question: when is enough really enough?
I received an email yesterday from one of my students who began the ACT process during his sophomore (I recommend ALL students start no later than end of sophomore year). The following are his scores:
February, 2014: 24 composite
December, 2014: 28 composite
March, 2015: 31 composite
April, 2015: 34 composite
His goal was a 32, so he ended up surpassing that by two points. A 34 ranks him in the top 1% in the country. That's a big deal! Notice it took four attempts to get there. From beginning to end, his English improved 9 points, Reading also 9 points, Math 8 points, and Science improved an impressive 13 points.
I also want to point out that this student was a worker from the get go. He didn't just walk into the test - he prepared each time by using my class AND on his own.
I had another student score three 25s but then got a 28 on the March ACT and acheived her goal. Again, it took her four times to get there.
Four is not the magic number. I spoke to a Dad yesterday whose son got a 30 in February (first attempt) and then a 34 in April (second attempt). His son is a sophomore and extremely bright. His son is also highly motivated and took my ACT class over winter break before his first attempt.
I had another student score 23, 23, 25, 25, 26, 25, and then 30 on her last attempt. It took her seven times to maximize her score.
So when is enough REALLY enough? I believe there are two factors to consider: motivation and preparation time. Does the student want to take the test again? Parents can "force" a student to take the test early but after the first attempt students should want to take the test. If they are not motivated, they are not going to maximize their performance.
Second is preparation time. I've known too many students who have signed up for an ACT without considering if they would have time to adequately prepare for that ACT. A good example is the June ACT test date and that's the topic of my next blog: The advantages and disadvantages of the June ACT.