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Kristin Fracchia

ACT Test Dates (2016, 2017): How to Choose Your Best Date

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The charts below provides up-to-date information on officially announced upcoming ACT test dates for the rest of the 2015 – 2016 school year and the 2016 – 2017 school year both in the U.S and internationally, as well as projected ACT test dates for 2017 – 2018 and 2018 – 2019.
But you can get those details from the official ACT website. So why are you here?
Because there’s so much more you need to know about how to find the ACT test date that will get you your best score! So check it out:

Below the charts, you’re going to find:




ACT Test Dates 2016 and 2017

Test DateRegistration DeadlineLate Registration (Extra Fee Required)ACT scores released beginning
June 11, 2016May 6, 2016May 7-20, 2016June 21, 2016
September 10, 2016August 5, 2016August 6-9, 2016September 20, 2016*
October 22, 2016September 16, 2016September 17-30, 2016November 8, 2016*
December 10, 2016November 4, 2016November 5-18, 2016December 20, 2016*
February 11, 2017 (except New York and internationally)January 6, 2017January 7-20, 2017February 22, 2017*
April 8, 2017March 3, 2017March 4-17, 2017April 18, 2017*
June 10, 2017May 5, 2017May 6-19, 2017June 20, 2017*

*These are projected score release dates based on past history. The ACT has not yet released precise score release dates for these months. But we will update this chart when it does!

ACT Tests Dates 2017 – 2018 and 2018 – 2019 — PROJECTED

The test date below have not yet been officially announced by the ACT, but in case you are an advance planner (like us!), here are the probable test dates based on past history. The ACT tends to be on the same weekend every month, so these are highly likely to be correct, although the ACT can change test dates at any time. We will update this post when we have the official word!

Test DateRegistration DeadlineLate Registration (Fee Required)
September 9, 2017August 4, 2017August 5-18, 2017
October 21, 2017September 15, 2017September 16-29, 2017
December 9, 2017November 3, 2017November 4-17, 2017
February 10, 2018 (except New York and internationally)January 5, 2018January 6-19, 2018
April 7, 2018March 2, 2018March 3-16, 2018
June 9, 2018May 4, 2018May 5-18, 2018
September 8, 2018August 3, 2017August 4-17, 2017
October 20, 2018September 14, 2017September 15-28, 2017
December 8, 2018November 2, 2017November 3-16, 2017
February 9, 2018 (except New York and internationally)January 4, 2018January 5-18, 2018
April 6, 2018March 1, 2018March 2-15 , 2018
June 8, 2018May 3, 2018May 4-17, 2018

Now that you know when the ACT is offered, let’s talk about finding the best ACT test date for you.

Guide to Your Best ACT Test Date


If you’re a senior, or a rising senior, you have basically four ACT test dates left that you could potentially use for college admissions: September, October, December, or February.

Early Decision or Early Action Deadlines and ACT Test Dates:

If you’re looking to apply Early Decision or Early Action (meaning for the most part, application deadlines between November 1 and December 15), you only have two ACT test dates left: September and October (and October is pushing it for the November deadlines). Most schools with Early Decision or Early Action options will allow students to submit October scores, but keep in mind you may have to submit your application before you get your scores, and it will be incomplete until your scores arrive. So don’t count on October as anything but a backup if you are applying Early; September is the ACT test date for you. Of course, it’s not a bad idea to sign up for October as well when you sign up for September. Registration deadlines for October will have passed by the time you get your September scores, and you don’t want to have to worry about signing up late or testing standby if you find you need to take the October ACT as well.

University of California System and ACT Test Dates:

Over 200,000 students apply for undergraduate admission to one of the UC campuses each year, so this affects a lot of you. The UCs have an application filing period from November 1 – November 30. This isn’t early action. That’s it. Finito. So, seniors, this means you have two test dates to choose from: September and October. See above for why you should plan on September with October as a backup.

Typical Regular Decision Deadlines and ACT Test Dates:

This is the bucket most seniors are going to fall into, and it means you have 3 realistic ACT test dates left: September, October, and December. This is because most Regular Decision college application deadlines are between January 1 and January 15, ruling out February as an option.

Later Regular Decision Deadlines and Rolling Admissions

There are some colleges that have application deadlines that run into February, or that have rolling admissions policies, which means they make decisions on applications as they come in and may continue evaluating applications into late spring and summer. For the most part, schools with later application deadlines tend to be less competitive institutions than those that have earlier deadlines, and many of them will accept February ACT scores from seniors. But if you are applying to a school with rolling admissions, you don’t want to wait until the last minute, even if you technically could: Things get increasingly competitive as spaces get filled, so get your testing done and your application in as soon as you can.

I’m a senior and I’ve already taken the ACT as a junior, should I take it again?

The answer to this depends on your college list. If your ACT test scores are within the middle 50th percentile or above for all of the colleges on your college list, your time may be better spent focusing on your schoolwork, activities, and applications than studying for the ACT again.

If you fall within the middle 50th percentile for your dream school, that’s a great start and means you have a good chance, but you’ll be even better off if you can push your score above the 75th percentile for admitted students. This generally means that your test scores won’t be a question in the admissions process. A retake in September after a summer of ACT test prep could be a very good idea if this applies to you.

If you’ve already taken the ACT three or more times, however, you might want to do so some serious thinking about whether or not you could improve your score. Maybe you didn’t prep enough the first time, Maybe you got sick during one test, your calculator died on another, and a rampaging Yeti attacked the test center on the third (that would be awful!). In these cases, your odds of an improved score on a retake are good. If you have questions, check out our guides: Should You Retake the ACT? and How to Study for an ACT Retake.

Note that 57% of students improve their ACT scores on a retake (which is good), but 22% get a lower score (not so good). So think carefully.


Juniors! I’m glad you are thinking about the ACT, because you should be. For most students, “ACT-readiness” will come in the spring of junior year. Ideally (although it’s not essential since you can fill in the gaps with test prep), you’ll have taken Algebra, Geometry, Biology, and Chemistry before you take the ACT. For top scores, you should at least have a semester of Algebra II/Trigonometry and Physics under your belt. Even though the ACT does not directly test much science knowledge, familiarity with the material will help, which is why I’m including the science subjects in here, although they are probably the least essential. A solid basis in Algebra and Geometry is important though: the ACT Math test is 30-40% Algebra and 35-45% Geometry.

In addition, familiarity with standardized tests in general can help boost your scores. Chances are by winter of junior year, you will have taken tests such as the PSAT or PreACT at least once or twice in your first few years of high school. These tests will help prepare you for the structure and rigor of the ACT by your junior year.

Early Birds:

If you’ve done test prep for the PSAT (say for National Merit consideration) or PreACT, you probably fall into this category. I often rolled test prep for these preliminary exams right into test prep for their big brothers. This means you might be ready for the ACT in December or February of junior year. Why is taking the ACT this early a good idea (if you’re ready)? Well, for one it allows you plenty of time for a retake (or two) in the spring of junior year, meaning you can likely wrap up testing by the end of the school year. It also allows you time to focus on SAT subject tests and/or AP tests in the spring when you do ACT prep early on.

Most Juniors:

Most juniors will do their best on the ACT if they take it in the spring of junior year, meaning April and/or June. By this point, you’re wrapping up crucial third year courses that will have improved your reading level for the English and Reading sections, covered the math you need for the test, and gotten you more comfortable with science.
Going with the philosophy that it’s always better to get testing over with as soon as you are ready to do so, I suggest you plan on both April and June. April for a first go and June for a retake.


First of all, you shouldn’t take the ACT before you are ready for it. While some students have acquired all of the knowledge they need for the ACT by the beginning of junior year, it’s rare for this to be accomplished by sophomore year, so don’t take the test too early. If you’re an ambitious student who’s even considering this, I’m going to guess you might have your sights set high. Say, on a top college? And if this is the case, you should know that several of the most competitive universities require all of your test scores, so don’t take the ACT on a lark before you’re ready. This could come back to haunt you when you have to send in that score in along with your later scores. In addition, the more advanced reading in school and more advanced math you do junior year will help train your ACT brain; it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get your best score during sophomore year.

Still, the ACT is a test that rewards the diligent student who is willing to put in the hard work and take numerous practice tests. ACT test-taking is a skill that can be learned, and you can start brushing up on all the required skills and targeting your weaknesses and gaps in your knowledge during sophomore year. This way you’ll be set up for success when you take the ACT junior year.

Freshmen (or earlier)

If you’re a freshman looking to map out your high school career, props to you! The earlier you start thinking about college applications, the better. If you’re just trying to figure out when you should take the ACT, check out our charts above for the ACT test dates that would occur during your junior year and read our advice for juniors above. Also make sure you map out your classes accordingly so that you are ready for the ACT. Specifically, take the most advanced classes you can handle and ideally plan to be in Algebra II/Trigonometry or Precalculus during junior year.

FAQs about ACT Test Dates

Now that you’ve read our guide to ACT test dates by school year above, we’re guessing you probably still have some questions. Here are our answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.

How long should you study before your ACT test date?

This is going to vary based on the student. Some students can get the score they want with a month of ACT prep; for some students it’s going to take 6 months or a year. The first step is typically to take a diagnostic test (or use your PreACT results) to see where you are at now. Then see what scores you need for colleges you are interested in. Set your goal score and determine how long you need to study to make that jump. And, finally, pick a first test date for the ACT based on this goal. We also have more comprehensive guides for how long you should study for the ACT and how long you should study for the SAT that can help you make this decision.

One caveat: don’t be ultra-conservative here. If you are reading this as a sophomore, don’t decide you need two years to study for the test and plan to take it for the first time in December of your senior year! Ideally, you should be done with testing by then, or it should be the very LAST test you take, not the first. Set your first ACT test date for within a year or less from when you will begin studying, as long as this falls during the winter of your junior year or later.

When is the best date to first take the ACT?

If you are going into the test planning for retakes (which you should), try to take the ACT the first time during an administration that offers Test Information Release (this means December, April, or June). This will allow you to get a copy of the test you took and your answer sheet, so you will be able to study exactly what you got wrong and why. You’ll have to allow 6-8 weeks for this information to arrive, however, so it may not arrive in time for you to take back-to-back tests. But if you take the April and/or June test during your junior year, you’ll have plenty of time to work with this information for a fall retake.

When is the best date to retake the ACT?

The ideal schedule for most students is to plan for two tests during the spring semester of junior year—so this means February with a retake in April, or April with a retake in June. Then you still have the possibility of a third test in the fall of senior year if you need it.

When is the best ACT date if I am also taking the SAT? SAT Subject Tests? AP tests?

If you are planning to also take the SAT, SAT subject tests, and/or AP tests, you need to keep in mind that this can make for a very busy testing calendar. Luckily national ACT test dates and SAT test dates never overlap (but in some months, they are only a week apart). Map out all the tests you need to take on a calendar, including your school final exams. Decide if you are going to go crazy if you cram too much together, and make sure to start prepping for your first tests early enough so that you can take them early. But also make sure that similar tests are not spread too far apart. You can roll ACT prep right into SAT prep, for example, and studying for AP tests will also prepare you for the corresponding SAT subject test. Don’t give your brain time to forget what it’s learned, either.

I’m an international student. Are international ACT test dates different?

Yes! There’s no February ACT offered internationally. But other than that, your test dates will be the same as they are in the U.S.

What should I know about ACT test dates and locations in the U.S.?

This is most crucial for students in New York. The February ACT test date is not an option in New York. This is because of certain educational legislation in the state (we won’t bore you with the details here). So if you are a New York student, heads up!

You should also know that the September ACT is a very popular test date, followed by June. Make sure you register well in advance so you can get the ACT test location you want and don’t have to wake up extra early to drive across town (or the state).

What if my ACT test date is rescheduled?

This is the potential downside to taking the February ACT in a wintery area: a higher probability of a blizzard shutting down ACT test day (Don’t freak out! That’s still unlikely!). Although it’s rare, there are a handful of ACT test centers that are unexpectedly closed every test administration: maybe there’s a power outage at the center or a local storm. If you are unfortunate enough to be affected by an isolated incident, you’ll probably be rescheduled for the next ACT test date. For more widespread closures, the ACT might decide to hold a makeup date, as happened with the January SAT when a snowstorm closed centers up and down the east coast of the U.S.

Are some ACT test dates easier? Are some ACT test dates harder?

It’s a common urban legend that there’s an easiest ACT test date and a hardest ACT test date. You may hear your friends tell you that all the Ivy League-bound, Early Decision seniors wreck the curve in September and that December is easier because it’s all slackers and underprepared juniors. These rumors are completely false. There’s no such thing as an easier ACT test date or a harder ACT test date. In fact, because ACT test are recycled before they are retired, a February ACT may be given again in June a couple years later. The “curve” does vary a bit between tests between raw and scaled ACT scores, so you may be able to miss an extra question or two and get the same score on a section, but an analysis of past ACT tests reveals that there’s no annual cycle in variations regarding the curves.

Ok, but really, when is the BEST ACT test date?

I can’t even believe you are asking that question after all the nuanced information I’ve been giving you about why the best ACT test date varies from student to student.

But ok, ok. My personal favorite is April of Junior year. You’ve gathered enough knowledge; you aren’t slammed with final exams, SAT subject tests, AP tests, and year-end events (as you might be in June); and the pressure is lower because you have plenty of opportunities for a retake. So there you have it.

Ready to start prepping for your newly discovered ACT test date? Check out Magoosh ACT prep!

Now, take our quiz!

What is the Best ACT Test Date for You?

Quiz from Magoosh!


  • It's only 5 questions long and will give you a bit of guidance about the best ACT test date for you.

  • Don't forget to read our complete guide to ACT Test Dates as well, and take into account the advice of your school or guidance counselor!
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    About Kristin Fracchia

    Kristin makes sure Magoosh's blogs are chock-full of awesome, free resources for students preparing for standardized tests. With a PhD from UC Irvine and degrees in Education and English, she’s been working in education since 2004 and has helped students prepare for standardized tests, as well as college and graduate school admissions, since 2007. She enjoys the agonizing bliss of marathon running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.

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