When Should I Take the ACT?

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Standardized test are carefully engineered to be sure there is only one right answer. Unfortunately, there is more than one right answer to “When should I take the ACT?”  At Breakaway Prep, we are passionate in our belief that every student is different – in what they know, what they need, how they learn, and when they should take the ACT.  

Luckily, there are only seven tests each year, so the choices are not infinite.  And contrary to urban legends, no date is easier or more difficult than the others.  The best date will depend on your schedule and your plans on applying for college.   Here are some considerations:

Have you covered the content in school?

Foes of procrastination will advise “the earlier, the better.”  However, it is important for students to have covered the material on the test prior to taking it!  This is particularly important in math where there will be questions on Geometry and Algebra II.  For high schools using an integrated curriculum, students will have covered most of the material with the completion of Secondary Math II in sophomore year.   

In Utah, high school juniors will take the test in February - for free!

February 28th 2018 is the in-school administration date.  For many students this will be the first time they take the exam - which works well.  The results will be delivered in March, and if the scores do need improvement, there are still plenty of opportunities (April, June, July, Sept, Oct, and Dec!) to retake the test.  

Do you anticipate having to re-take the test?

It is not unusual for students to re-take the ACT.  You should definitely re-take it if you felt sick or did not understand the directions.  You should also re-take the test if you felt the score does not accurately represent your capabilities.  According to research by ACT, 57% of students improve their composite score on the retest.  At Breakaway Prep we help students improve their scores 3-5 points on average.

You may wonder how colleges view taking the test multiple times.  First of all, they will only receive the scores that you send to them.  So, unless you send scores from multiple dates, they will not know how many times you took the test. 

Additionally, some colleges will “super-score” the test - take the highest score from each section across multiple test dates. Check each college admissions website to determine its super-score policy.  If you plan to apply to a college that super-scores, and one of your ACT sections is much lower than the others, then it makes sense to re-take the test, focusing on that section.

If you do anticipate taking the test multiple times, consider taking the test in December, April, or June of your junior year and requesting a copy of your test questions and answers for a $20.00 fee.  These can be very helpful to identify where additional studying is required.  We all learn the best from our mistakes!  If you forget to request the copy at the time of registration, you can still request ACT to send it for up to 3 months after your test date. 

What does your schedule look like?

What will you have time to study? Do you play a fall sport? Are you taking AP classes and taking the May AP exams?  Really think through what commitments you and your family will have around each of the test dates.   Don't look just at the test date, but go back 2-3 months to make sure you will have adequate time to study.  

The September test works well ONLY if you commit to studying over the summer.   There is also a new July date that gives you some time to study after the AP exams and school is out.  October probably wouldn’t work well if you play a fall varsity sport.  

When do colleges need your scores?

For seniors planning to apply Early Decision or Early Action, most schools will require ACT scores from the October test date at the latest. Taking the test in December would not be an option.  

Still not sure? 

Sign up to take a free practice test and consultation.  We will work through the pros and cons of all the dates and determine the perfect strategy for You! 

The table below provides the test dates, regular registration deadlines, late registration deadlines for 2017-2018.  The information is based on data from ACT.  *February and July dates are not offered in NYC.  The 2018 fall dates are not yet published, however we expect them to follow the same timeline. Visit ACT.org for the most up-to-date schedule. 


2017-18 ACT Test Dates & Registration Deadlines

Test Date

Registration Deadline

Late Registration Deadline

September 9, 2017

August 4, 2017

August 18, 2017

October 28, 2017

September 22, 2017

Sept 23-October 6, 2017

December 9, 2017

November 3, 2017

November 4-17, 2017

February 10, 2018*

January 12, 2018

January 13-19, 2018

April 14, 2018

March 9, 2018

March 10-23, 2018

June 9, 2018

May 4, 2018

May 5-18, 2018

July 14, 2018*

June 15, 2018

June 16-22, 2018