The ACT standardized test is designed to assess high school students' general educational development and their readiness to complete college-level work. It is used for college admission decisions, some scholarship qualifications, and NCAA eligibility. All US colleges and universities accept ACT results.
When does my student take the test? The ACT is offered six times during a given school year. These are usually in September, October, December, February, April, and June. Students generally take the test first during the spring of their junior year. It is best to take it as early as possible, as your student may want to take the test again to get the best score possible. For exact dates, please click here.
When and how do I register? A registration packet should be available at your student’s high school, but you may also register online at www.actstudent.org.
Try to register at least eight weeks in advance. The sooner your student registers, the easier it is to get your student’s ideal location. Each test date has its own registration deadlines and locations available.
What is the test's structure? The ACT consists of four, multiple-choice tests in English, math, reading, and science, as well as an optional writing test. We highly recommend you complete the optional essay. Many times students decide not to take it and colleges ask that they take the test again. Here is a more detailed explanation of each section:
How is it scored? Each subject (English, math, reading, and science) is scored from 1 to 36, and then the composite score is calculated as an average, with the highest being a 36 overall. The scores are rounded to the nearest whole number. Fractions less than one-half are rounded down; fractions one-half or more are rounded up. Each score is a scale score – which means that is equivalent to all the different forms of the ACT, no matter which test date a test was taken. Because the ACT essay section is optional, its score does not affect the overall composite score.
How many times can I take the test? A student can take the test multiple times without penalties, but we recommend students make no more than three attempts.
What should my student bring to the test? Your student should bring an approved calculator, a snack, pencils, his or her ticket, and a picture ID. Do not bring a phone.
Which Calculators are approved? Many well-known brand calculators are prohibited, such as the following: Texas Instruments: any model that begins with TI-89 or TI-92 or the TI-Nspire CAS (the TI-Nspire (non-CAS) is permitted); Hewlett-Packard: hp 48GII and any models that begin with hp 40G or hp 49G; Casio: Algebra fx 2.0, ClassPad 300, and any models that begin with CFX-9970G. In essence, any calculator with a built-in computer algebraic system will not be allowed. For up-to-date information on prohibited calculators, please click here.
What are the costs of the test? The test costs change year by year. In fall 2017 it was $62.50 with the writing section and $46 without. These fees include reports for the student, his or her high school, and four schools of the student's choice. For more information on fees, please click here.
Can I change a date once registered? Yes, life situations may keep your student from being able to meet a previous commitment and, thus, you may need to change a date. The ACT organization will charge a change date fee, which, at the present time, is $26.
Can I get a copy of the test? Yes, you may order the Test Information Release (TIR) it within three months of the date that the test was taken but ONLY for the following test dates: December, April, and June. There is a fee of $20 for the TIR service, and it is well worth it especially if your student took his or her first test during one of those months.
What is the registration schedule for the current academic year and when should I start preparing?
Click here to see our test tracker - where you will see a brief summary to the ACT test dates for the current academic year and our suggested start date to prepare based on an average 8 to 10 week preparation time. Call us at least 12 to 15 weeks ahead of a test date to get a diagnosis of what is needed for your particular case and to be able to get you into our schedule.
It will all depend on the date – see our OFFICIAL TEST TRACKER.
Is the ACT easier than the SAT? No. However, here's a better question: “Is the ACT easier or better than the SAT for me?" The best way to determine this is to take our ACT vs. SAT Comparison Test. Some students definitely do find the ACT to be easier than the SAT, while others find it equally or even more difficult. The ACT tends to be more straightforward and less cryptic than the SAT. The ACT has a science section; 84% of the ACT science questions involve data analysis, mostly interpreting graphs and charts. ACT grammar has a different emphasis than SAT grammar, and the questions are all reading-passage based. Many consider the ACT reading section to be harder than the SAT reading section. For many, it is difficult to finish within the time allotted. Unlike questions on the SAT, the ACT reading questions do not follow the order of the passage. Slow readers may have a great deal of difficulty with the ACT.
Should I take the ACT in addition to the SAT? No. For most students, that is not a good idea. First, figure out which test is best for you, then focus on that test. Vogel Prep's ACT vs. SAT Comparison Test is a great place to start.
I have heard that Midwest colleges prefer the ACT, while East Coast and West Coast Colleges prefer the SAT. Is this true? No. Colleges do not prefer one over the other. Marilyn McGrath-Lewis, director of admissions at Harvard University, says, “Either is fine with us, and we don't have a feeling that either favors students with any particular profile.” It would be difficult to find one college that does not accept the ACT as readily as it accepts the SAT. Some colleges even accept the ACT in lieu of both SAT and SAT Subject Tests!
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