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 prep for the ACT test date that will get you your best score! So check it out:
Below the charts, you’re going to find:
- Our exclusive ACT Test Dates Quiz that will tell you exactly when you should take the ACT.
- Our ultimate guide to finding the best ACT test date for you whether you are a freshman, sophomore, junior or senior.
- Answers to the most frequently asked questions about ACT test dates!
ACT Test Dates 2018, 2019, 2020
|Test Date||Deadline||Late Deadline||Scores First Available|
|February 10, 2018**||January 12, 2018||January 13-19, 2018||February 21, 2018|
|April 14, 2018||March 9, 2018||March 10-23, 2018||April 24, 2018|
|June 9, 2018||May 4, 2018||May 5-18, 2018||June 19, 2018|
|July 14, 2018 (more information)***||June 15, 2018||June 16-22, 2018||July 24, 2018|
|September 8, 2018||August 10, 2018||August 11-26, 2018||September 18, 2018|
|October 27, 2018||September 28, 2018||September 29-October 14, 2018||November 13, 2018|
|December 8, 2018||November 2, 2018||November 3-19, 2018||December 18, 2018|
|February 9, 2019**||January 11, 2019||January 12-18, 2019||February 20, 2019|
|April 13, 2019||March 8, 2019||March 9-25, 2019||April 23, 2019|
|June 8, 2019||May 3, 2019||May 4-20, 2019||June 18, 2019|
|July 13, 2019***||June 14, 2019||June 15-24, 2019||July 23, 2019|
|September 14, 2019||August 16, 2019*||August 17-26, 2019*||September 24, 2019*|
|October 26, 2019||September 27, 2019*||September 28-October 7, 2019*||November 5, 2019*|
|December 14, 2019||November 15, 2019*||November 16-25, 2019*||December 24, 2019*|
|February 8, 2020**||January 10, 2020*||January 11-20, 2020*||February 18, 2020*|
|April 4, 2020||March 6, 2020*||March 7-16, 2020*||April 14, 2020*|
|June 13, 2020||May 15, 2020*||May 16-25, 2020*||June 23, 2020*|
|July 18, 2020***||June 19, 2020*||June 20-29, 2020*||July 28, 2020*|
*These are projected dates based on past history. The ACT has not yet released precise dates for these score releases or registration periods, though they have released the test dates themselves. But we will update this chart when the test-makers do update the info!
**Test date excludes New York and international locations.
***The July test is a new addition to the ACT schedule! It debuted in 2018. This test date excludes New York, California, and international locations. For more info, check out our post, Who Should Take the New July ACT?
ACT Test Dates 2020-2021 — PROJECTED
The test dates 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. Keep in mind, though, that the ACT can change test dates at any time. We will update this post when we have the official word!
|Test Date||Registration Deadline||Late Registration (Fee Required)|
|September 5, 2020||July 31, 2020||August 1-14, 2020|
|October 24, 2020||September 18, 2020||September 19-October 2, 2020|
|December 5, 2020||October 30, 2020||October 31-November 13, 2020|
|February 6, 2021**||January 8, 2021||January 9-16, 2021|
**Test date excludes New York and international locations.
Guide to Your Best ACT Test Date
If you’ll be a senior in the fall, you have basically seven ACT test dates left that you could potentially use for college admissions: April, June, July, September, October, December, or (next) 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 five ACT test dates left: April, June, July, 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 five test dates to choose from: April, June, July, September, and October. See above for why you should plan on September with October as a backup at the very latest.
Typical Regular Decision Deadlines and ACT Test Dates:
This is the bucket most rising seniors are going to fall into, and it means you have six realistic ACT test dates left: April, June, July, 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 rising senior and I’ve already taken the ACT, 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 last try (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 and Rising Juniors
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, you’ll have taken Algebra, Geometry, Biology, and Chemistry before you take the ACT. But note that it’s not essential since you can fill in the gaps with test prep. 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.
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 will do their best on the ACT if they take it in the spring of junior year, meaning April and/or June. Now, you also have the option of taking it in July! 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. For those rising juniors (that’s those of you who will be juniors in the 2018-2019 school year), you’ll also have the July test date to choose from. In other words, April, June, July: pick two.
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 students to accomplish this by sophomore year, so don’t take the test too early (we recommend taking the PreACT if your school offers it). If you’re an ambitious student who’s even considering this, I’m going to guess you 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. Make sure you also map out your classes accordingly so that you are ready for the ACT. Specifically, take the most advanced classes you can handle. Ideally, you should 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 (or July, if you’ll be entering your senior year in 2018).
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 are the best test dates for ACT 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 for ACT 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 (and July) ACT test dates are 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!
The July ACT test date also isn’t an option for California students. However, all the other test dates for ACT will still be available to you.
You should also know that the September ACT is a very popular test date, followed by June. We also don’t know how popular the July 2018 ACT will be yet—but we’re guessing, pretty popular. 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 unexpectedly close during every test administration. Maybe there’s a power outage at the center or a local storm, for example. 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 tests 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 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.
Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in May 2016 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.
Ready to start prepping for your newly discovered ACT test date? Check out Magoosh ACT Prep!
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What is the Best ACT Test Date for You?
Quiz from Magoosh!
- This quiz is 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
Dr. Kristin Fracchia makes sure Magoosh's sites are full of awesome, free resources that can be found by students prepping 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 agony and bliss of trail running, backpacking, hot yoga, and esoteric knowledge.
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