Choosing Your ACT Test Date
If you’re wondering, “How do I choose an ACT test date?”, you’re in the right place. When you test will depend on a few factors: when the test dates themselves fall, when you have availability to test, and when you’ll be ready based on your academic background. Given recent changes to admissions policies at many universities, you may not have to test at all. Check out this blog post about navigating the test-optional (and test-free) environment. Speak with your college counselor to see if you need to test or if it would be helpful or desirable to submit test scores heading into application season.
National ACT test dates fall in September, October, December, February, April, June, and July each year, typically on the second or third Saturday of these months. Many school districts will have their own in-house ACT test dates in either the fall or spring semesters, typically on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Check your school’s academic calendar to see if that may be the case.
Given the seven available national test dates during the academic year and summer, think about your own extracurricular and academic life: when during the year (fall, spring, or summer) will you have time to settle in and study for a test like this? Are there seasons when you don’t have sports or other obligations? Are there times of the year when you definitely don’t have time to study?
In addition to considering the test dates themselves, consider your own academic development and education. It helps to have taken some classes either in advance of or concurrent with your ACT studies. The ACT Math section tests a little bit of everything from math we encounter from the fifth grade through (in some cases) senior year: pre-Algebra, Algebra I & II, Geometry, Precalculus, Statistics, and Probability. The ACT Science section will have reference to Biology, Chemistry, and Physics, as well as a handful of topics within those broader subjects. It is often helpful to have some familiarity with these subjects heading into the test itself.
If you are taking Algebra II as a junior in high school, the math on the ACT will feel much more accessible later in the year (spring or summer test dates). If you are taking Precalculus and/or Statistics as a junior (or higher level mathematics), the ACT math may feel accessible in the fall of junior year.
Regardless of which test date you select, all exams are of a roughly similar difficulty level: there are no easier or harder tests administered on specific dates through the calendar year. We address that in our Testing Myths blog.
Collegewise offers free diagnostics exams and follow-up consultations to help you determine what timeline might be appropriate for you. Contact us at any time.
How long does it take to get ACT scores back?
For most test dates, initial ACT score reports come back 10-15 days after a test date, with a more comprehensive overview of performance arriving a week later. The ACT will give itself up to 8 weeks to report scores after a test day, so that, in rare cases, you may wait nearly until the next test day.
ACT scores will be returned digitally and appear in your ACT account at www.myact.org. The exact return dates are posted on the ACT's website and are found below for the remainder of the 2020-2021 academic year.
ACT Score Release Dates: Spring and Summer 2021
April 17, 2021
April 27th - June 11th
June 12, 2021
June 22nd - August 6th
July 17, 2021
July 27th - September 10th
What time of day are ACT scores made available?
ACT scores are typically released early in the morning (around 6 AM Central Time), starting on the earliest reporting date. Is there any need to wake up that early to check your scores? Nope. But, you may be able to see your scores before the ACT notifies you that the numbers themselves are available. Because ACT test dates are on Saturdays and score reports are available starting 10 days after a test day (in most cases), results often return on Tuesday mornings.
Not every single student’s test results are released that first day. If your scores are not available within 10 days of a test date, don’t fear: it may take a little bit more time to receive your results.
Why would it take more than 10 days for my ACT scores to return? Why are there sometimes delays?
A number of reasons factor into the time it takes for scores to turn around. It is worth noting that, for any of the below scenarios, the ACT is unlikely to explain the reasons behind a delay.
Scores will ordinarily take longer than 10 days for the following reasons:
- If a test-taker has multi-day accommodations, scores usually return in 4-6 weeks from the final testing date on which an ACT section is completed.
- If a test is administered as part of a district exam date—and not a national test date—scores will typically return 3-5 weeks after the test date.
Scores will be delayed if there are aberrations like the following:
- If a test-taker mis-bubbles their identifying information (for example, name or test number), ACT scores will take longer to return to a test-taker.
- If there is cheating suspected in a testing room, scores will often be withheld until scores can be verified.
- After an exam is completed on test day, if there are delays in the mailing out of collected bubble sheets and the bubble sheets cannot be scanned quickly, score reporting may be delayed as well.
How Do I Check My ACT Scores?
The easiest way to check your ACT scores (or just to confirm that they are available) is in your ACT account at www.myact.org. You created a username and password in order to register for the test itself; use that login information to access your account. Scores will be available upon logging in.
ACT score reports will be mailed to your physical address 3-8 weeks after a test day.
If I took my ACT during a school day—not on a Saturday—when and how will I get my results?
School day testing is available in certain states and districts. The tests are administered during a weekday, though the administration of the exam itself is fairly similar to that of a national test day exam. More information can be found on the ACT website. Note that score reports for these exams typically become available three weeks or more after a test day and often arrive by mail before they are available online.
How Do I Understand My ACT Score Report?
Your ACT scores are a reflection of your performance on the exam itself. It is not a measure of intelligence or reasoning abilities or potential academic success. When combined with a student’s GPA, ACT scores might indicate how well a student will do their first semester of college. And even that, you should take with a big old grain of salt.
As a whole, the ACT is scored on a scale of 1-36 in one-point increments, where 1 is the low and 36 is the high. The ACT itself has four main subjects—English, Math, Reading, and Science—and each section is also scored on the 1-36 point range. Your composite score is an average of all 4 subject scores.
An average ACT score in each section is roughly a 21. An average composite ACT score is also roughly a 21. Information on ACT scores and percentiles—how a test-taker ranks compared to other test-takers in terms of ACT performance—can be found here.
You may be asking yourself, “So what is a good ACT score?” A good ACT score is the one that helps you get into the schools you’re applying to. Typically, that means a score that is at or above the mean or median scores for the individual colleges or universities you’re interested in. That score may be an 18, a 21, a 25, a 30, or higher or lower, depending on your hopes and goals for the admissions process.
Higher scores do not guarantee admissions to more selective colleges, and lower scores do not preclude admissions to many schools.
Even though most universities are test optional for the 2021-2022 school year, there are some instances in which test scores may be required. Scholarships and merit aid are sometimes tied to test performance, and some specialized programs—like combined advanced degree programs (like BS/MD programs) —may require test scores, too.
To test, submit scores, or determine when it’s time to stop testing is a nuanced process. Consult your counselors or other college admissions professionals to help you sort through the myriad factors you’ll need to consider.
When do ACT scores become available to the colleges and universities I’m applying to?
First and foremost, make sure that your final formal test date is early enough in the calendar year such that scores can arrive by the application deadlines for the universities to which you’re applying. If you have deadlines in mid-October of senior year, for example, it is possible you won’t be able to submit test scores from the October ACT test date. Check in with the university admissions departments to see what the last test date is from which you can submit test scores. This will vary from one university to another.
On their website, the ACT notes that your score report will be available to you within 2-8 weeks of a test date, and those results will be reported to your high school in roughly the same timeframe. However, ACT scores will be sent to individual universities only after the scores themselves are available, and the delivery timelines will vary from school to school. As such, check with the university admissions departments to see what the final dates for submission (and, by extension, test-taking) would be.
I received my ACT scores. What's next?
Once you receive your ACT score report, speak with your counselor about sending it to universities or if it may be worthwhile to retest.
For a quick judgment, check the mean and median scores at the schools you're considering. If your score is at that level or above, you probably want to report the score. If it’s below the mean or median, then you may consider testing again provided you can still meet deadlines, or going test-optional if the school has such a policy. The same would apply if test scores are tied to scholarship considerations; if it may be financially advantageous to test again, speak with your counselor and make a decision from there.
If you plan to retest, order a detailed breakdown of the questions you missed along with the actual problems themselves, if it’s available for your test dates. The Test Information Release (TIR) is available for the December, April, and June national test dates, as well as the April Special Testing window.
It is advisable to order the TIR before the test dates when it is available, and there is no guarantee that the TIR will arrive in time for the next (succeeding) test date.
Remember, it is a milestone just to take these tests. Even if you want to test again, take some time to celebrate the accomplishment of meeting this milestone.
Do Colleges or Universities See All My Scores?
The ACT will only report the data from the test dates of your choice, which means you can select individual test scores that you would like sent to schools. All sections from that date would be sent: you cannot isolate, for example, the Math or Reading scores from a single date.
Different colleges and universities have their own policies on score reporting: while most schools allow you to choose which dates you’d like sent, there are still a few that require you send ALL scores from ALL dates. Check the policies of the colleges and universities you’re applying to in order to confirm what data you will need to submit by your application deadlines.
Finally, the ACT will automatically superscore your results from across different administrations. This means that the ACT will take your best subject scores (English, Math, Reading, and Science) and combine them to form a singular, "super” composite.
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