The ACT has strict rules for what you are and are not allowed to bring. While most of it is common sense, there are a couple of things you may be surprised by. Fear not, we’ll clue you in here on everything you need to know: the dos and don’ts of what to bring so you can nail the ACT!

1. #2 Pencil with a Good Eraser

If there is ever a time to not forget a pencil, it’s now. Don’t be the kid that shows up to the ACT without the most important tool. Unfortunately, scantrons don’t work with pen, crayon, marker, or blood. You MUST use a #2 pencil.

You may be wondering: what’s with the discrimination on the other numbered pencils, or your trusty mechanical pencil with the twisty eraser and comfy grip? (Do students still covet those like they did in 2010?)

Apparently, it has to do with lead hardness in the pencil and how it reads in the machines that grade your test, so to be safe and not sorry, pack that #2. Throw in an extra or two, if you’re looking to be extra prepared.

The Mercedes of mechanical pencils is unfortunately not allowed on standardized tests like the ACT.

Along the same lines, a good eraser is imperative on the ACT. If your mistake bubble isn’t completely erased, it could register as an answer that you never meant to mark, and fewer points for you! Nothing is more frustrating than smudging your whole paper up because your eraser is apparently just for appearances. Make sure the pencils you bring have functional erasers! Everyone makes mistakes, best to ensure you can erase yours from the ACT.

2. Photo ID

To ensure the person taking your ACT is actually you, a photo ID is required on test day. To avoid cheating, verifying your identity is just part of the process. This could be your school ID, a government-issued ID or driver’s license, or even a passport! Bon Voyage!  

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3. ACT Approved Calculator

Do you know what would be awful? Getting to the calculator section of the ACT and not having a calculator (or bringing a calculator that is not allowed). The second-hand anxiety is making my tummy hurt. Prepare in advance and make sure the calculator you plan to use is allowed on the ACT.  You can see which calculator models are allowed on the ACT here.

It’s also best to make sure you’re familiar with the calculator you use on the test beforehand so you don’t waste any time finding that one function that will make your ACT math dreams come true.

4. Snack

Who doesn’t love some mid-test Cheez-Its or carrot sticks (if you’re into that)? Bring something you can eat quickly during the break, this is not the time for a Chipotle burrito. Take this time to center yourself and get some sweet, sweet nourishment for the rest of the test. Brain food is real!

5. Water Bottle

While you can’t bring your water bottle into the testing room, you should still bring one for the break, in case your testing center doesn’t have drinking fountains. Or if you’re from Pawnee, Indiana.

Water is great to chase down the ACT test anxiety, but this method will probably give you covid. We suggest bringing your own bottle to drink from during the break.

5. Mask

Depending on where you live, there may still be mask mandates for public areas. If you’re unsure about the specific mandates where you’re testing, there’s nothing wrong with bringing a mask just in case. Worst case, you don’t need it. Best case, you’re prepared and ready to go!

6. Watch

This one comes with rules. While a traditional wristwatch will be just fine to help time yourself on the ACT, it must not make any noise. You can’t use it to set timers that will disturb other testers, but you can use it to silently monitor your time. The proctor of your test will also help you keep time if there isn’t a visible clock and you don’t have an old-school watch.

It also cannot be a smartwatch with any internet access. This means no Apple Watches, FitBits, or other variations of smartwatches that exist these days. Best to leave these with your phone or at home entirely.

You’ll have to remember to breathe on your own during the ACT.

7. Admission Ticket

If you registered for the ACT online, you’ll need your admission ticket on test day. This will be compared with your photo ID to verify your identity (and that you indeed paid for the test on that test date).

If you’re taking the ACT through your school, you won’t have to worry about the admission ticket. Do still bring your ID, though!

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5 Things to Leave at Home for the ACT

1. Your Smart Watch

We covered this above, but leave your fancy smartwatches at home. The internet access on them is a cheating risk, so they’ll make you take them off anyway. They can also be distracting with messages and calls coming through. You won’t be amassing steps after all, so it’ll be fine to take it off for a few hours and then meet your move goal later.

2. Reading Material

Unfortunately, you can’t bring anything to entertain you after you’ve finished and you’re waiting for the time to expire. The ACT can be a time crunch for a lot of students, so it’s unlikely you’ll have extra time to fill when you’re finished testing anyway. If you are a speedy tester, take any extra time to review your answers. Silly mistakes happen, use any extra time to lock in your answers. Another reason to make sure your eraser works well too!

3. Tobacco, in ANY Form

I know, I know. How on earth are you going to live without your vape for 3 hours? You can do it. Maybe you’ll even break the habit and never go back after your ACT! This also goes for cigarettes, chewing tobacco, nicotine pouches, or any other similar tobacco/nicotine product. Those fat clouds and spit cups can wait until after the ACT.

4. Colored Writing Materials or White Out

Here we are, back at the point that a #2 pencil is your ONLY option on the ACT. Pens, highlighters, white out, etc. are not permitted. They could negatively affect your score if there are any markings where they don’t belong. The machines used to grade the scantron portions of the ACT are calibrated to read only a specific lead hardness, found in #2 pencils.

Whiting out your answers rather than just erasing them (with the good eraser that you brought because you’re prepared and ready to crush this), is tedious and will probably mess up your answer sheet more than it helps it.

Keep it simple with trusty #2 and a good eraser. It may be beneficial to practice with the same utensils you test with too, just to eliminate all the variables on test day and optimize your score.  

5. Textbooks or Other Resources

This is so obvious, I saved it for last. Did you know you can’t bring your Algebra 2 textbook (for example) to the ACT? Any resources that could help you on the test are not allowed. You’ll even find the testing room is barren of educational posters and resources. This is intentional to even the playing field so students only have what is in their brains and given to them in the testing booklet as resources on the ACT.

The Takeaways

At the bare minimum, to take the ACT you need your admission ticket, a photo ID, a pencil and eraser, and an approved calculator. Past that, you can bring water, a snack, and an old-school, basic watch if you’d like. Remember to double-check your area’s mask mandate as well, just in case a mask is required at your testing center.

You should leave your smartwatch, tobacco products, gel pen collection, favorite book, and test prep resources at home. They’ll still be there for you when you’re done taking the ACT.

Kirsten Mann
Kirsten is the Operations Coordinator at Test Geek. She has a 35 on the ACT Reading Test and enjoys sarcasm and pop culture references.

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