Emily Faison

What is the ACT Residual Test?

It can be a pain that the ACT is only offered 6 times per year. What if you need to take it next week in order to get your scores on time? Or what if you aren’t able to make it to one of the few dates the ACT is offered?

Hopefully you won’t find yourself in either of those situations, but if you wind up needing to take an ACT on a date not offered, taking a residual ACT may be an option for you.

What Is the ACT Residual Test?

Let’s say that you’re thinking of applying to a particular college and they require the ACT. Maybe they even already want to admit you (yay!) Or maybe you’ve even already enrolled and the college wants ACT scores to know which classes to place you in… but you didn’t take the ACT.

This is where ACT residual testing comes in.

In ACT residual testing, colleges offer their applicants, future students, and/or current students the opportunity to take the ACT outside of the official national test dates. They also offer it on-campus, making it easier for most students to take advantage of the testing opportunity. However, there are strict requirements about who can take the ACT residual test, and for what purposes. Notably, you can only use your score at that college.

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There are a lot of other factors to consider when thinking about ACT residual testing, as well. For example…

Advantages of the ACT Residual Test


  • The Residual ACT is offered more frequently than the National (regular) ACT.
  • The Residual ACT is offered directly through participating college campuses. Some colleges offer the Residual ACT every week, every month, or a few times per school year. It can be a great option for students who find out they need to take an ACT immediately in order to be considered for admission, or to remain at the university.

  • The Residual ACT is the same test offered nationally.
  • Since the Residual and National ACT exams are the same, if you’ve already studied for the ACT, you have nothing to worry about. The material is the exact same, and Residual ACTs are not harder or easier than the regular ACT offered nationally. The Residual Test isn’t different from the National Test, but offering the ACT more frequently at different institutions makes it easier for some students to take the ACT.

  • You can view Residual ACT Scores sooner.
  • Because your scores aren’t sent away with thousands of other students scores all at the same time, you can find out your results much sooner than if you wait for National ACT score reports. Some schools have unofficial scores ready within a day, while others have scores available within a week.

  • It can be easier to register and pay for the Residual ACT.
  • Since you’re taking the Residual ACT through a specific institution, you’ll pay the school for your registration fee. Residual ACT registration fees can range from $40-60, depending on the institution. Often, you can simply pay on the day of the test at the university testing center or registrar’s office. No worrying about deadlines, late fees, or standby tickets!

    Disadvantages of the ACT Residual Test


  • ACT Residual scores are only valid at the institution where the test was administered and scored.
  • The biggest difference between the National and Residual ACT is that scores from the Residual test are only valid where you take the exam!! This means that those scores cannot be sent to other colleges if you decide to transfer, and may not be acceptable for external scholarship requirements. This is very important to keep in mind if you do decide to take a Residual ACT.

  • It can be more difficult to register and pay for the Residual ACT.
  • I know, I know, I just said it can be easier! This one really depends on your personal preference. At many institutions that offer a Residual ACT, you can register and pay on the same day of the test…but you can’t register online. For many students, having the option to register and pay online is important. Again, because various institutions handle registration and payment for Residual testing differently, each school may have different deadlines, requirements, and options to wade through (some schools are even cash only!). Colleges may require you to have already applied for admission at their institution before allowing you to take the Residual Test at their campus. While some schools allow you to retake the Residual ACT several times, others restrict how many times you can take the Residual ACT in a certain period of time.
    The bottom line is: make sure to check all of your institution’s requirements!

  • You may not be able to take advantage of special accommodations with the Residual ACT.
  • This is another one that depends on the institution. Some college testing centers are equipped to meet potential accessibility needs, but others may not be. The ACT does allow for some accommodations when taking the Residual ACT, but it’s best to contact ACT directly to find out how you can qualify for special testing accommodations before arriving at the university Residual Testing center. Some schools also require official documentation via the university, in addition to ACT allowances.


    At the end of the day, Residual testing can be a great way to quickly get ACT scores if you’re in a bind and your institution offers ACT Residual testing. Otherwise, it’s a much safer bet to register online and wait for the regular ACT, so that your scores count at colleges and universities nationwide!


    • Emily Faison

      An avid reader and art enthusiast, Emily has degrees in English from Florida State University and Southeastern University. When she’s not editing web content for a local magazine, you’ll probably find her catching up on her Netflix queue or reading a novel with a fresh cup of coffee at a local cafe.

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