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While general discussion about the ACT test is allowed by ACT, discussion of test questions may violate your agreement with ACT. Please be thoughtful in your posts and replies.

34 vs 36 on ACT

19soccer19soccer Registered User Posts: 32 Junior Member
I just took my ACT for the first time, and I got a 35 in English, 35 in Math, 36 in reading, and 30 in science. Is it worth retaking to get a 35 or 36, if I'm looking to apply to some top-tier schools, or is the difference between a 34 and 35/36 not too important?

Replies to: 34 vs 36 on ACT

  • intparentintparent Registered User Posts: 35,360 Senior Member
    I'd take it again, unless your application is uniformly very, very strong. Just me, I expect some people will say not to. If you are aiming for HYPS, you need to do every little thing you can to strengthen your application.
  • viphanviphan Registered User Posts: 1,270 Senior Member
    Between a 34 and a 35, not really. But 35 and 36 (not to mention 34 and 36)? Only a handful amount of people get a perfect score. It may cause double-takes by the AO just by that one point of perfection.

  • dancegirl98dancegirl98 Registered User Posts: 22 New Member
    Hey! I just took my ACT for the first time too, and I got a 34 too. My scores were almost identical to yours, except I got a 36 in English and a 33 in Reading. I'm retaking the ACT just because I want to see if I can get the perfect score. But honestly, it's up to you. A 34 seems like a pretty good score. If you look at all the Ivy League schools, their 25th percentile is a 32 and their 75th is a 35.
  • HereToHelpYouHereToHelpYou Registered User Posts: 855 Member
    @19soccer Congratulations on a great score. There is no real reason to retake unless your targeted schools superscore the ACT. If so, consider a plan that would boost your science score. Otherwise, work on the aspects of your application.
  • BMWM550DBMWM550D Registered User Posts: 64 Junior Member
    edited February 2015
    If you are applying for top tier schools, give ACT + writing.
  • micmatt513micmatt513 Registered User Posts: 409 Member
    Are most people here of the opinion that you just need to be in a school's middle 50% to be competitive, or that it actually is a plus the higher your score is? I feel like there's a diminishing return if you have an evenly distributed 34 on the ACT or 2250 on the SAT (figure between a 33 and 36 for every score on the ACT and between 730 and 800 for every score on the SAT).

    Maybe I just don't know a ton about how admissions to top colleges works, but I feel like Harvard just simply doesn't care after a certain point. I'm sure a perfect score is something that any college would like because they can brag about that, but other than that does it really matter? I feel like a good score is a good score, without really any extra consideration to it. I don't think admissions officers read that deeply into a single afternoon's worth of testing, regardless of the fact that it's "standardized."

    I'd say that unless you're confident you can bring up every single score or get a 36 on the science section, it's a waste of your time to even consider retaking it. The curves on science and math can be quite unforgiving and I wouldn't be surprised to see you decrease in those areas unless you're a very strong math student. Science is kind of hit or miss and you could definitely see improvement with minimal extra prep, but you could also have your score stay the same. I don't think it's worth it to retake unless the schools you want superscore the ACT. You're more likely than not to put yourself into a bad position.
  • HereToHelpYouHereToHelpYou Registered User Posts: 855 Member
    @BMWM55OD makes a good point about writing. You will most likely need a writing score.
  • Wje9164beWje9164be Registered User Posts: 1,247 Senior Member
    D got a 35 without writing then a month later 36 as part of Illinois state tests. You need the writing component for about 40 percent of the top 100 colleges. With the writing you can forego subject tests for about half the colleges that require subject tests. To answer your original question, if you look at nationwide percentiles there is very little difference between 34, 35 and 36. A 34 is a rock solid ACT score and for most students time would be better spent on subject tests or visiting colleges or ECs. I will let you know in about six weeks when Ivy decisions are announced if 36 makes a big difference
  • tdallegetdallege Registered User Posts: 22 New Member
    Just imagine yourself as someone looking at different applications. Obviously someone with a 36 will look better than another with a 34. Even though the ACT has a "high margin of error" just getting a 36 shows that even if you got lucky, you have the skill to get a 34 no problem, whereas with a 34 you could have gotten lucky and your floor is lowered to around a 32.

    I was in your situation after getting a 34 my first time. If you take 1-2 more science practice tests you'll get the hang of it and then it just depends on whether you have a good testing day or not. I invested less time into my second ACT as my first (albeit either amount was still not a lot :P) and still got a 36. Why settle when you can go for gold?
  • collegemom2boyscollegemom2boys Registered User Posts: 170 Junior Member
    edited February 2015
    If you have time I would take it again. There is room for your science score to go up and increase your composite. If this helps any, my son took the Dec and the Feb ACT. He said Science was more difficult on the Feb test than the Dec test and also of the practice tests he has taken. His Science actually went down 3 points from the Dec test (33 to 30). All his friends at school scored lower than usual on the Science section on the Feb test as well. So I believe there is a good chance you would go up on the next test.
  • 19soccer19soccer Registered User Posts: 32 Junior Member
    @BMWM550D‌ writing scores unfortunately haven't come out for the Feb. test yet
  • sanwalsanwal Registered User Posts: 122 Junior Member
    If you have free time left after preparing for SAT2, HS courses, EC's and you are applying to colleges that super score ACT (somewhere in this forum there is a link), then take it again. Otherwise, 34 is a great score. Congrats!
  • CaliCashCaliCash Registered User Posts: 2,828 Senior Member
    Take it because you need the writing. Not because you need a higher score. Harvard still rejects 75% of those applying with perfect SAT and ACT scores. So keep that in mind. Once you get to 34, it doesn't make a different. They aren't going to accept a 36 over a 34 just because they have higher test scores. I mean, it's widely known and pretty much every elite colleges admissions officer has said that.
This discussion has been closed.