Knowing the basics about the ACT test, such as test structure, dates, location, and scoring system can help you prepare to achieve the ACT scores you're hoping for

The ACT® (American College Testing) is a general entrance exam used by colleges and universities as a means of measuring academic achievement during a student's high school career. This test is used as a factor in determining admission for a student applying to a college or university. Often other factors for admission include information provided in the application for admission, letters of recommendation provided by the student, and the result of interviews, essays, and other considerations.

ACT test times and prices

The ACT is conducted 6 times per year, and students can register online at There is a testing fee to take the ACT Test. Currently these fees are $39.50 for the basic tests (which includes the basic Reading, English, Math, and Science Sections), and $56.50 for the basic test plus the optional writing test. Although the writing test is optional, it is highly recommended, as it is a requirement for admission into several schools. There is a deadline to register for each testing date, and a late fee for those who register after that deadline.

The testing typically starts at 8am on the day of the test. If you are taking just the basic test, the test takes just over 4 hours. This time includes the timed test for the four basic sessions, instructions regarding each test, and a break between the first two tests and the last two. Each of the four sections of the test are scored separately. The composite ACT score is the average of all 4 scores. The writing test is considered a sub-score. If you chose to also take the writing test, then the entire test is about 30 minutes longer.

Retaking the test

The ACT test can be taken in a student's junior or senior year in high school. It is important to note that the ACT test can be taken more than once, and many students choose to take the test once in their junior year, so that they can take it again in their senior year if they are dissatisfied with the score. The student then chooses which ACT test score gets forwarded on to colleges. Re-testing is recommended if a student was ill during the test, did not completely understand test directions, or for some other reason is dissatisfied with their score on the test.

Trends indicate that if a student scores fairly high on their first test, they are less likely to improve if they re-take the test. Conversely, the lower the scores on the first test, the higher the likelihood that the student will improve by re-taking the test. It is important for students to consider their option to take the test multiple times and test early, so that they will have opportunity to retake the test if needed. The scores on a student's ACT test can be the deciding factor in college admission, so it is important that they are the best possible scores. 

Get the best score on the ACT: See practice tests, sample questions, and the ACT Prep Guide.