Should I take the test again?
Most of the time students need to take a standardized test more than once. I always tell students that “one and done” is very rare and they usually think they will be a “one and done” anyway. Sometimes new clients ask whether a student should repeat a test. These are the questions that I typically ask.
What did you do to prepare for the last attempt?
If a student spent less than 30 hours preparing for the ACT or SAT, they probably should take the test again. The vast majority need to put in a bigger effort than that.
Are you a nervous test taker?
Everyone is nervous when taking a standardized test, but some are more nervous than others. I have had students that had to leave the room to vomit, had to leave the room to pee, squeezed their hands on the legs of their chair as hard as possible between sections of the test, did breathing exercise between test sections, etc. If you are a nervous test taker it is very likely that you will need to repeat the test.
Are your test results consistent with your transcript?
You should be able to find out the average ACT or SAT score for your school. Averages for public high schools often appear in the local newspapers. It may be more difficult to find averages for a private school, but you might be able to do some detective work to find out or maybe your parents could ask.
If you are getting Bs in school then your standardized test score should be about the same as the school average. If you are getting Cs in school then it is likely your standardized test score will be below the school average unless you make a strong effort to prepare. If you are getting As in school then your standardized test score should be above the school average. Grade inflation in schools has distorted these rules of thumb somewhat, but I think they still apply. Also take into account the level of the classes (regular, honors, AP).
Are your test results consistent with the target schools on your college list?
Eventually you will develop a list of colleges that will contain safety, target and reach schools. If your test results are consistent with the scores desired by the target colleges on that list then perhaps you should not test again. Be careful here. Unless you are a recruited athlete (or have some other specialty), or you are a legacy applicant, or you will be the first person in your family to attend college, your scores should be above the average for the target school. On the other hand, some of the factors above may cause you to test again.
How do your actual scores compare with your target scores?
As you review your practice tests, count the number of problems that you should have had correct but did not because of some silly mistake, like bubbling in the wrong answer, making a simple calculation mistake, etc. Add those silly mistakes to your raw score and re-calculate your scaled score to approximate your target score. You should do this for every section of every practice test. If your score on a live test is at or above target, you probably should not repeat the test unless some of the factors above apply.
… Hope that helps!