Ahh, May. What a wonderful time of year. The weather has warmed up, the trees are blooming, summer is knocking on the door, and we all start thinking about the next ACT test date.


Today, we’re going to answer 10 of the most frequently asked questions about the ACT. By the end of this article, you’ll know not only when the next ACT test will happen, but you’ll have many of your other ACT questions answered as well.

Question One: When is the next ACT test?

These are the national ACT testing dates for the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years. For information on ACT testing outside of the United States, visit the “International” page of the ACT’s website, accessible under the “Area of Interest” toolbar on the home page.

The next ACT is scheduled for June 11, 2022. Not sure that test date will work for you? Not to worry. The ACT has seven national testing dates each year.

Tests happen in February, April, June, July, September, October, and December. Usually, the test is given on the second or third Saturday of the month at 8 am. Personally, I encourage coffee beforehand. I’m a yearlong cold brew fan, and the baristas at my local mom-and-pop coffee shop always tease me because I keep asking when it is coming back. Apparently, some people think it has to be warm outside to drink good coffee?

In addition to the nationwide testing dates, which are always scheduled on Saturdays, many school districts have their own in-house ACT test dates. These can happen in the fall or spring, and most often take place on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Check your school’s academic calendar to see if a testing date is scheduled. 

What if none of the scheduled testing dates work for you? Unfortunately, this isn’t Burger King, and you can’t have it your way. If you want to take the nationwide ACT, you’ll have to take it on one of the scheduled days. The only exception is for students who cannot test on Saturday because of religious convictions (more info on that here).

However, there is another option that might be beneficial if none of the nationwide tests work with your schedule. Many colleges will provide on-campus ACT tests. This is a self-administered ACT test that can be given and scored any day of the week.

The catch with on-campus ACT testing is that the score can only be used by the school providing the test, and not on any other college applications. In order to take an on-campus ACT test, students need to have applied, or be in the process of applying, at the school where they are testing. Learn more about on-campus ACT testing here.

Question Two: How do I register for the next ACT test?  

Visit this link to register on the ACT’s official website. You can also sign up for email and text reminders to stay updated on important news and registration deadlines.

To register, you’ll create an account on the MyACT website. This will be helpful later if you need to view, access, or edit your registration. You will need to have the following available when you register:

  • About 30 minutes (The length of one Superfan episode of The Office, which are fantastic, by the way)
  • Computer with internet (Your smartphone or tablet will also work)
  • Credit card or other payment (Some states offer discounted/free ACT tests. More on that later) 
  • A recent photo of yourself (To make sure no one attempts to steal your identity on test day)

When you start the process of registering for the ACT, you’ll be prompted to enter your zip code, and you’ll be shown test locations closest to you. Depending on when you’re registering, and how in-demand your testing date is, some locations may be full. You can visit this link to see other testing locations.

As you register, you’ll see options to purchase additional materials to help with study prep. If your testing date is TIR (Testing Information Release) eligible, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase a copy of your test that you can review afterward to see how you did. You. can also order copies on test day, but you’ll save money by doing this ahead of time.

What if you need to change or cancel your reservation? This is possible, depending on how far in advance it is done. However, there are usually additional fees associated with changing an existing reservation. 

Question Three: When is the deadline to register for the next ACT test? 

Typically, the deadline to register for a test is between four and six weeks prior to the testing date. After that, you can still register, but there will be a late fee applied to your cost of registration. Click here for a current list of scheduled testing dates and registration deadlines.

The registration window will close around three weeks before the day of the test. At this point, you may qualify for standby testing, but your spot will not be guaranteed. For more information on standby testing, visit this link.

My advice is to register far enough in advance that you can be aware of any possible conflicts and plan around them. While some situations are unavoidable, it would be no fun to plan a Saturday around being on test standby, only to show up and not have a seat. Also, signing up early will give you plenty of time to adequately study and prepare. We’ll talk more about preparation later. 

How it feels when your friends are taking the ACT, but you were on standby and didn’t get in

Question Four: Are there different types of ACT tests?

There is an optional writing portion on the ACT. This is an essay test that contains one writing prompt along with three possible perspectives on the problem. Should you choose to take the writing test, you’ll register when you schedule your main ACT test.

On the writing test, you’ll share your own view on the issue, which could be one of the three choices given or a perspective you create yourself. You’ll also have to analyze the relationship between your perspective and at least one of the other views given by the test.

Your score on the writing test is based on four categories: 

  • Ideas and Analysis
  • Development and Support
  • Organization
  • Language Use and Conventions

The writing test is scored separately, and your score on the writing test won’t affect your composite score or any of your subject scores. You’ll get five scores on the writing test: a single writing score between 2-12, and four “domain” scores based on the categories above.

More information about the ACT writing test, including sample prompts and essays, can be found here.

Question Five: How much does the next ACT test cost? 

The base cost of the ACT is $63. If you choose to include the writing portion, that will cost another $25. There are costs associated with registering late, releasing scores to more than four colleges, or changing your test date/location. Get all the details you need here.

Some students qualify for the ACT fee waiver program. This includes four free tests, with or without the writing portion, along with free learning resources, additional score reports, and the possibility of a waived college application fee. To learn more about the ACT fee waiver program, and if you may potentially qualify, visit this link.

Also, many states have a contract with the ACT to offer free tests to all high school juniors and seniors. These are typically states that either require students to take the ACT or provide statewide and/or district-wide testing. A good place to learn more about this would be your state’s Department of Education website.

Question Six: Do I have to take the ACT? 

For current updates on whether or not an ACT score is required with your college application, check in with your college admissions counselor.

This is a tricky question. Over the past two years, because of the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools have made temporary exceptions to admit students without requiring ACT or SAT test scores be submitted with their application. We have another TestGeek blog post about this issue.

You’ll definitely want to pay attention to the expectations of the school where you’re applying. If your school of choice is test-optional, the answer is no, you don’t have to take the ACT, but it certainly may help your chances of being admitted if you can provide a strong test score. 

Also, because no permanent decisions have been made, you can’t be sure if your school of choice will remain ACT-optional in the future. This may be especially important if you’re a sophomore or junior looking at applying for schools in the next 1-2 years.

Question Seven: When is the best time to take the ACT?

The major factors to consider here are when the test dates fall, when you’re able to test, and when you’ll be ready. Traditionally, September, June, and July are the most popular test dates. If you’re planning to take the ACT on any of these dates, you may want to register sooner rather than later to ensure you have a spot.

Beyond that, the answer really depends on what grade you’re in, and what your goals are for testing. If you’re a senior, it’s smart to choose the earliest available test date, so you can meet college application deadlines. If you’re a junior, you may prefer to test midway through the year (perhaps in December or February). This will ensure you’ve had plenty of class time to cover everything that will be on the test, while still giving you time to re-test and boost your score before you have to submit your college applications. 

You’ll also want to consider when Test Information Releases are provided. It usually takes 6-8 weeks to get your test back, but it could really help you prepare for a retake.

Check out this article to learn more about when you should test. 

Question Eight: What can (or should) I bring with me on test day?

Best to leave the Blackberries and Palm Pilots at home (or at the museum) on test day

Here’s a list of what you need to bring:

  1. Your printed admission ticket (accessible online via your MyACT account)
  2. Approved Photo ID (Must be hard plastic, not paper or electronic)
  3. Mask (You won’t be allowed into the testing facility without one)
  4. Number 2 Pencil (This can’t be a mechanical pencil)

Here’s a list of things that aren’t required, but a good idea:

  1. Watch (The alarm must be turned off. If it sounds during the test, you could be asked to leave)
  2. Calculator (Make sure yours is approved before test day)
  3. Snacks (Shameless plug – my snack of choice lately has been Kirkland brand protein bars)

And here are some things that you should NOT bring:

  1. Textbooks, dictionaries, or other printed material (We all love the teachers that give open-book tests. Unfortunately, the ACT isn’t one of those tests.)
  2. Notes, scratch paper, or any other aids (There is scratch paper provided in the testing booklet for the math test)
  3. Any electronic device other than a permitted calculator (Best to leave the pagers at home. I’m sure that’s what the ACT had in mind when they wrote this rule. If you’re not sure what a pager is, visit your local Circuit City or Radio Shack)
  4. Reading Material (The ACT has plenty for you to read)
  5. Tobacco in any form (You won’t have time for any smoke breaks)

If you choose to bring a cell phone or any electronic wearable device other than an approved watch (smartwatch, fitness tracker, etc), it must remain turned off and placed out of sight during the test. This includes during break times. 

The ACT has all of their testing rules and guidelines posted on their website. You can check that out here.

Question Nine: When will I get my ACT scores back?

The ACT says it can take up to eight weeks to get scores, but only on rare occasions does it actually take that long. Your score can be delayed if there are multiple accommodations made, or if your test happened on a district administration date and not a national testing date. Even in these cases, you can normally expect your score back within 4-6 weeks.

Usually, initial reports come back around two weeks after your test. A week or so after that, you’ll get a more extensive review of your performance. You can access your ACT scores online via your MyACT account.

If you requested your score be sent to a particular college (or colleges), this may not happen immediately. If you’re up against the application deadline, you may want to confirm with the colleges you’ve applied for that they have received your score before the deadline.

Find more information on score reporting here.

Question Ten: How much time do I need to prepare for the next ACT test? 

This question largely depends on your test-taking preferences and style. What’s your target score? How comfortable do you already feel with the test material? How do you normally feel about taking tests? 

The regular registration deadline for the ACT is usually three weeks before the testing date. If you study two hours a week for three weeks before the test, that gives you six hours total of study time, or two hours per section (Reading, English, and Math). For some students, that may be enough. Other students may prefer additional time.

A good starting point is to take a practice ACT test and see how you do. If you feel good about your score, you may not need as much study time. If you’re far from where you would like to be, you may want to plan to test later, and give yourself additional time to prepare.

Bonus Question: What can I do to prepare for the next ACT test?

Here at Test Geek, we like to over-deliver. Some test prep websites would promise to answer 10 questions, and that’s exactly what they will do. But we’re not most test prep websites. So in addition to lots of chuckles and the occasional self-deprecating comment, here’s a bonus (but certainly not unimportant) question: what should I do to get ready for the ACT?

Hopefully, by now, you have a good idea of what happens before, during, and after the test. These are all good things to know, but they aren’t really helpful if you don’t know what material is covered, and how to answer the questions the test will ask you. We want to help you prepare well so that you can score your best.

Brady Ross

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