When Should You Take the ACT? Test Dates and Deadlines

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  • Make sure to schedule your ACT well in advance of your college application deadlines.
  • You can choose from several ACT test dates throughout the academic year.
  • Consider retaking the ACT if you want to try to raise your scores.

Many U.S. colleges use the ACT and SAT to assess students' preparedness for higher education. ACT and SAT scores provide a helpful metric that schools can use to compare applicants and make both scholarship and admission decisions.

To take the ACT, you must register ahead of time. But when do you take the ACT exactly? Most high school students sit for the ACT in the spring of their junior year and, if needed, again in the fall of their senior year.

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When Are ACT Test Dates 2022-23?

Most U.S. states offer the ACT seven times a year in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July. Alternatively, you may be able to take the exam on a school day as part of district or state testing.

All ACT test dates offer both regular and late registration deadlines. If you register for a test after the regular deadline has passed, you'll need to pay a $36 late registration fee.

Even if you miss the late registration deadline, you may still be able to take the ACT on that date by requesting standby testing, which follows a first-come-first-served model. If admitted to the test center on that day, you must pay a $63 standby fee, in addition to the standard exam fee.

National ACT Test Dates 2022-23
Test Date Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline Standby Deadline
September 10, 2022 August 5, 2022 August 19, 2022 September 2, 2022
October 22, 2022 September 16, 2022 September 30, 2022 October 14, 2022
December 10, 2022 November 4, 2022 November 11, 2022 December 2, 2022
February 11, 2023 January 6, 2023 January 20, 2023 February 3, 2023
April 15, 2023 March 10, 2023 March 24, 2023 April 7, 2023
June 10, 2023 May 5, 2023 May 19, 2023 June 2, 2023
July 15, 2023 June 16, 2023 June 23, 2023 July 7, 2023

Source: ACT Inc.

When Should You Take the ACT for the First Time?

Most high school students take the ACT for the first time in their junior year.

While you may wait to take it until the fall of your senior year, it's usually best to sit for the ACT sooner, ideally by the spring of your junior year. This ensures you have ample time to retake the exam (if desired) to try to raise your scores before your college application deadlines.

We recommend picking a test date that's at least two months before your college applications are due. Students typically receive their ACT score reports 10-24 days after taking the test. If you took the ACT with Writing, expect to receive your scores in around 4-8 weeks.

How Many Times Should You Take the ACT?

If you're not satisfied with your scores, you can retake the ACT. ACT Inc., which administers the exam, lets you take the test up to 12 times, though it's best to take it no more than 2-3 times. Beyond that, you're unlikely to boost your scores substantially.

What's more, multiple retakes might reflect negatively on your college application.

In addition to potentially boosting section scores, retaking the ACT gives you a superscore. Your ACT superscore comprises your highest section scores (in English, Reading, Math, and Science) across all test dates you've sat for. College admissions officers will be able to see your ACT superscore in addition to individual test scores on your ACT score report.

When to Take the ACT: 4 Key Factors to Consider

When should you take the ACT? Consider factors like your schedule, scholarships, and how many times you plan to take the exam to help you decide.

1. College Scholarship Opportunities

A high ACT score can qualify you to earn merit scholarships for college. Many schools take college entrance exam scores into account when allocating awards because these scores partially reflect a student's academic achievement.

If your first ACT score fails to qualify you for a scholarship, consider retaking the exam to try to raise your score. Even an improvement of just 1-2 points could result in scholarship money.

2. Your PreACT Scores and Test Prep

Students typically feel more confident if they dedicate time to preparing for the ACT. How long you should study depends on your target ACT score, where you're currently scoring (which you can see by taking an ACT practice test), and what colleges you're applying to.

If you're in eighth, ninth, or 10th grade, you can take the PreACT (for 10th graders) or PreACT 8/9 (for eighth and ninth graders). These practice exams predict where you'll score on the actual ACT. If your practice scores fall below your target ACT scores, consider holding off on registering for the exam until after you've had more time to prepare.

3. How Many Times You Plan to Take the ACT

While you can take the ACT up to 12 times, it's generally best to take it no more than 2-3 times in total. Students interested in raising their scores or trying to earn a particularly high superscore might begin testing as early as the fall of their junior year. This would give you enough time for multiple retakes, if needed.

If you only want to take the ACT once, be sure to register, at the latest, for a fall date at the beginning of your senior year. This ensures you (and your colleges) receive your ACT scores well before applications are due.

4. Your Academic and Extracurricular Schedule

If you participate in sports, extracurricular activities, clubs, or other programs, take time to familiarize yourself with upcoming ACT dates and deadlines. Doing this can help you avoid scheduling conflicts that might force you to take the ACT later than you initially planned.

You should also learn to manage your time and balance preparing for the ACT with other obligations. For instance, you may need to make room for studying for AP exams and devoting enough time to your college prep classes.

Frequently Asked Questions About When to Take the ACT

Is it bad to take the ACT four times?

While taking the ACT multiple times can improve your score, attempting it more than 2-3 times probably won't raise it significantly. In fact, college admissions officers might even look unfavorably upon students with many test attempts.

What's more, retaking the ACT several times requires considerable preparation and additional registration fees.

Can you take the ACT in 10th grade?

Students can take the ACT during their sophomore year of high school, if desired. If you're unhappy with your score, you can register for the test again at a later date. Sophomores who choose not to take the ACT might still benefit from preparing for it or taking the PreACT instead.

Another option is to start prepping for the exam and seeing where you're currently scoring by taking official ACT practice tests.

What is the best month to take the ACT?

Students planning on 2-3 attempts should register for their first ACT during the fall or spring of their junior year. If you only plan to take the test once, you should sign up for a test date no later than the fall of your senior year — this should allow enough time to get your ACT scores and have them sent to colleges before applications are due.

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