ACT Test Dates: Know Them Now and Plan Early

Posted by John LaPlante on Monday, November 14, 2016
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John LaPlante

John was a lawyer and a teacher before joining Testive, where he’s a full time coach and works on perfecting the learning content on Testive’s website. After graduating with honors from Princeton University, John spent six years teaching high school in Switzerland and San Francisco, where he helped prepare hundreds of students for the SAT and ACT.

If you have decided to take the ACT this year - either for the first time or as a repeat attempt - it’s useful to start thinking early to decide which ACT test dates are right for you.

Although it may be tempting simply to choose the next ACT test date without much thought, it is actually an important decision that shouldn’t be overlooked as you prepare to apply to college. The last thing that you want is to choose an ACT test date that’s too soon and doesn’t allow you to prepare properly, or to wait too long to take the test so that you’re not able to take advantage of ACT superscoring.

With that in mind, the first step is to know when the ACT is administered and the various registration deadlines for each testing date. Basically, there are six ACT test dates throughout the school year, running from September through June and occurring roughly every other month.

ACT Test Dates in 2017

Test Date Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline (Fee Required) Multiple Choice Scores Released
December 10, 2016 November 4, 2016 November 5-18, 2016 December 20, 2016
February 11, 2017 January 13, 2017 January 14-20, 2017 February 22, 2017
April 8, 2017 March 3, 2017 March 4-17, 2017 April 18, 2017
June 10, 2017 May 5, 2017 May 6-19, 2017 June 20, 2017

Projected ACT Test Dates in 2017 and 2018

Test Date Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline (Fee Required)
September 9, 2017 August 4, 2017 August 5-18, 2017
October 21, 2017 September 15, 2017 September 16-29, 2017
December 9, 2017 November 3, 2017 November 4-17, 2017
February 10, 2018 January 5, 2018 January 6-19, 2018
April 7, 2018 March 2, 2018 March 3-16, 2018
June 9, 2018 May 4, 2018 May 5-18, 2018
September 8, 2018 August 3, 2018 August 4-17, 2018
October 20, 2018 September 14, 2018 September 15-28, 2018
December 8, 2018 November 2, 2018 November 3-16, 2018

You can register for the ACT and access scores on the ACT website.

Right now, the ACT hasn’t released registration deadlines for the 2017-18 ACT test dates, but it’s safe to bet that the deadlines for regular registration will be approximately five weeks before the ACT testing day, with an additional two week “grace period” for late registrations (that also costs an extra fee - so register early!). As always, these ACT test dates are subject to change, but it’s unlikely that they will vary too much from the typical pattern.

It is also important to note that if you’re taking the test outside of the U.S., the February ACT test date is not offered.

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When Should You Take the ACT?

Depending on whether you’re a rising senior or a rising junior, the timing of the ACT test dates can be particularly significant.

When Should Seniors Take the ACT?

If you’re going into your senior year and considering applying either Early Action or Early Decision to your top choice school, there are only two ACT test dates - the September and October administrations - to take the test. If you’re not planning to apply early, then the December ACT test date will still work, but that should definitely be a last resort - by that time, you should be focusing on completing your applications and finishing the first semester of your senior year as strongly as possible.

I highly recommend that you avoid taking the December ACT during your senior year unless absolutely necessary. Also, it’s not too late for current juniors to sign up and prepare for the June test, so don’t think you have only the fall to consider. The best thing you can do is pick an upcoming date, block off your calendar, and get going now!

When Should Juniors Take the ACT?

If you’re entering your junior year, you have many more options, so it’s important to take advantage of these choices and to select your ACT test date carefully. When considering which ACT test date to choose, think about the big picture and be realistic about when you will be best prepared to take the ACT. That means considering your schedule and what else will likely be happening in the weeks leading up to the test. For starters, ask yourself the following types of question:

These are just a few of the questions you should ask when selecting the ACT test date that works best to your advantage. But selecting the right ACT test date can really pay off in the end.

What is the Best Time for Most Students to Take Their First ACT?

Rising juniors with a relatively light schedule have an advantage; they have the luxury of time. Time is a powerful tool for driving up scores for a couple of reasons. First, you can take the test as many times as you like without negatively affecting your admisions chances, and second, knowing you have plenty of time and thus plenty of chances to take the test is what allows you to relax and take it easy in the test center. Relaxing is how you get in the zone and give your beset performance.

For most students, the best time to take their first ACT is the summer before junior year. There are a bunch of reasons for this. Here are some of the big ones:

1. Summer is a great time to prep.

Prep is a big, long ordeal. You don't want to make things worse for yourself by doing it half-way. The most efficient thing to do is pick a concentrated period of time, and allocate serious time to it, then finish, and be done.

2. It's difficult to squeze prep in during the school year.

During the school year, time is precious. Prep has to compete for that time against all other things, and my experience from working with thousands of kids, is that it's difficult to push the time committmemnt past about 6-hours per week during the school year without really cutting against other activities and sanity. Prepping during school is okay, it just takes longer. Instead of 3 months during the summer for 10 hrs per week, it'll be 6 months during the year for 5-hrs per week.

3. You also want to make sure that you plan enough time to do three sittings of the test.

You don't have to actually sit for the test three times, but you need to make sure that you have time to do so. This is very important, becuase you can't control how you will perform on test day. The best you can do is set yourself up for success, but no matter what you do, something could always go wrong. One time, I was taking a test with the flu and I actually fell asleep during the test. Needless to say, my performance on that test was a disater. Not my fault. Luckily, I had time to re-take the test. Phew!

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