ACT Test Dates 2019, 2020, 2021: How to Pick the Best Date for You

Editor’s note: because of some Covid-19 cancellations, the ACT has added several new ACT test dates for 2020. You can read about these test dates and other updates to the ACT here.

ACT test date - magoosh
Picking an ACT test date can feel overwhelming, whether you’re a high school freshman or a senior. When will you know enough to take the exam but still have time left over for a re-take if necessary? No fretting–Magoosh can help you decide! In this post, we’ll give you up-to-date information on both international and U.S. ACT test dates and score release dates for the 2019-2020 school year, as well as ACT test dates for 2020-2021.

The quickest way to find the best ACT test date for you? Take this quiz! Then, come back to this post for more information.

Due to COVID-19, your ideal test date may not be available in 2020. This can be disappointing, but there are options available! Check out key information about ACT cancellations here to find out how to adapt your testing to the current situation.

Table of Contents

ACT Test Dates 2020-2021

Curious about ACT 2020 test dates? Here’s the ACT schedule for 2020 so you can find the next ACT test date that fits your planner! Unfortunately, none of the 2020 tests will be available as ACT at home tests. While initially, the ACT had hoped to roll out at-home testing in late fall or winter, this has now been pushed back to 2021 at the earliest as they focus on adapting to the current situation.

In June 2020, the ACT also announced that they are adding five new test dates in September and October 2020 to accommodate students affected by test cancellations in the spring. They will announce the registration information for these exams over the coming weeks; we’ll keep you posted as that information becomes available!

In the meantime, check out what you need to know about the new fall dates here:

Due to Covid-19, some ACT test centers will not be holding the July 18 exam. If you are registered for the exam, the ACT will update you about your test center’s status by the end of June 2020. If this affects your test center, you can cancel or reschedule–the ACT has added test dates throughout September and October to help affected students take the test.

Test DateDeadlineLate Deadline
February 6, 2021January 8, 2021January 9-15, 2021
April 17, 2021March 12, 2021March 13-26, 2021
June 12, 2021May 7, 2021May 8-21, 2021
July 17, 2021*June 18, 2021June 19-25, 2021
September 11, 2021August 6, 2021TBD
October 23, 2021September 17, 2021TBD
December 11, 2021November 5, 2021TBD
February 12, 2022January 7, 2022TBD
April 2, 2022February 25, 2022TBD
June 11, 2022May 6, 2022TBD
July 6, 2022*June 17, 2022TBD

* ACT national test dates exclude New York and international locations.

On the other hand, maybe you don’t need future ACT test dates, but are looking for information about past ones. If you’ve recently taken the ACT and want to know when your scores will be out or are wondering about which ACTs were cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19, take a look at the table below.

Click here for key ACT dates for 2019-2020 to help get your schedule on track!
Test DateDeadlineLate DeadlineScores First Available
September 14, 2019August 16, 2019August 17-30, 2019September 24, 2019
October 26, 2019September 20, 2019September 21-October 4, 2019November 12, 2019
December 14, 2019November 8, 2019November 9-22, 2019December 26, 2019
February 8, 2020January 10, 2020January 11-17, 2020February 25, 2020
April 4, 2020: CANCELLEDFebruary 28, 2020February 29-March 13, 2020April 14, 2020
June 13, 2020 (Check if your test center has cancelled here)May 8, 2020May 9-22, 2020June 23, 2020
July 18, 2020* (Check if your test center has cancelled here)June 19, 2020June 20-26, 2020July 28, 2020

*Test date excludes New York and international locations.

Go back to the top of our test dates for ACT post. - magoosh

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 before college admissions season starts. 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 (if you also need SAT prep) 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.

How can I work out when to take the ACT on my own?

Unsure about your quiz results? You can also work out your best ACT date by hand! To use the following process to find out when to take the ACT, work backwards from the date your first application is due. If you’re unsure of what schools you’ll be applying to, give yourself the maximum time indicated for each step!

Evaluate your application goals and take a practice test1 day-3 months
Study for the ACT3 months-1 year
Receive your official results 6-8 weeks after your test
Study for an ACT retake1-3 months
Receive your official results and send them to schools 6-8 weeks after your test

A quick note: we’ve created this timeline with juniors and seniors in mind—if you’re a freshman or sophomore, your best bet is to prepare for the PreACT in the meantime!

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 for the first time when Test Information Release is offered (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 ACT 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.

If studying for both the SAT and ACT is stressing you out, though, try converting your SAT scores to ACT scores from your practice tests (and vice-versa) and see where you’re doing better–it can help to focus on one or the other!

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

Yes! There’s no July 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 July 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 and July. 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 testing 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. You can find when that next ACT date is in the table above. 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. a few years ago.

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 easier ACT exam dates or harder ACT exam dates. 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.

What is a good score on the ACT?

For most students, a score above average (composite of 21) is a good score. If you’re applying to an elite college—a college ranked in the top 100 national universities, for example—scoring above 30 or even 33 is ideal. Find out more about what makes a good ACT score!

How much is the ACT Test in 2020?

The ACT costs $52 without writing and $68 with writing. Late registration (after the official ACT sign up dates) is $30, but you won’t need to pay this if you follow the regular registration deadline. Standby testing is $55 (but can be refunded under certain circumstances). To change the date or center, it’s $32. Score reports to more than four colleges cost $13 for the fifth and sixth, then $13 each. Check out more info about the ACT test here!

How many times can you take the ACT?

Technically, you can take the ACT as many times as you want. Practically, though, most students won’t see a huge improvement after the third time they take the test.

Remember that many colleges will superscore your ACT, meaning that they’ll select your highest sectional scores even if they’re on different test dates, combining them into your highest possible score. That’s why, for most students, taking the ACT twice is the right choice—find out more from Magoosh’s experts about retaking the ACT here.

How should I prepare for the ACT?

In brief, for ACT test prep, you should take a diagnostic, study quality materials, take and study ACT practice tests, brushing up on knowledge as needed to improve your ACT score. Lather, rinse, repeat. But for a more thorough breakdown of how to study for the ACT in a given time frame (from one week to three months), check out Magoosh’s free ACT study schedules!

How do you get your ACT scores?

Get your ACT scores online at the ACT website. Multiple-choice scores are usually available two weeks after your test date, while writing scores take about four weeks in total. The major exception to this is the October test, which can take 3-8 weeks to score.

In exceptional circumstances, multiple-choice scoring can take up to eight weeks…this is rare, but there are no official ACT deadlines for getting scores back to you. Usually, though, scores are available on schedule.

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!