Retake the ACT with a 31 in the Math Section for a student interested in engineering?

D22 took the ACT as a freshman (as part of an academic talent search program) and got 36 in all sections except in Math where she got a 31. She’s interested in studying engineering (mechanical or chemical) in college. The ACT section retesting has been postponed because of the pandemic, otherwise I would have had her just retake the Math section. Should she retake the entire ACT just to try to increase her Math score if she’s aiming for a tippy top school? Her comp ACT is 35.

In my opinion, yes. Her composite score is great, but that 31 in Math will not look so good for schools like MIT. She doesn’t have to study for the English sections at all, probably. She could do a few practice science sections from recently retired tests, just to make sure that she’s up to date on the latest types of data interpretation problems they are using. What she really should concentrate on is doing as many math sections from retired ACT tests as she can, until she’s scoring really well on those.

I have a feeling that your daughter will have other achievements, too, to demonstrate her mastery of math, such as a high score on BC Calc. But I still think that it would be a good idea for her to retake the ACT and bring up that math score.

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It’s a great overall score but I agree that if she’s going to apply to a T20 engineering program, that 31 subscore could be an issue.

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Absolutely yes.

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For top Engineering schools, yes.

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Thanks for the input everyone. The April ACT is the same week as the SAT at her school so it would be nice to get it all over with at the same time.

I’m so glad D took the ACT again, her math came up to a 36. Yay!


Congrats on the new score. I presume that whatever schools she is applying to will superscore the results?

One additional thought is that you might want to look at the Common Data Set, Section C7, for the schools where your daughter is applying to find out what emphasis the schools place on test results vs. GPA. If your daughter has grades – especially in math and science – that may not correspond to very high ACT test scores in those areas, and a school gives more weight to GPA over test scores as an admission factor, then this is something that you may want to discuss with your daughter’s high school guidance counselor regarding an admission strategy (or get the GC’s opinion on whether any discrepancy would likely have an impact on admission). This was a situation that my son encountered when he was applying to various schools for their engineering programs.

Thank you! She actually got 36s across the board, so no superscoring will be necessary. I’m very happy for her. SAT scores should be released next week, but with this ACT in her pocket she’ll be in great shape for applications.

I appreciate the tip about looking at the Common Data Set. At this point it looks like she’ll be fine since she has a 4.0 UW GPA and is an IB Diploma candidate, but that’s interesting information and worth a look when narrowing the list. Thanks!

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