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Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Free ACT Tests by State

Stack of coins over map of U.S. representing saving money with free ACT by state - image by magoosh

You may already know that some students are eligible to take the ACT for free through fee waivers (PDF). But did you know that there are also states that provide the free ACT exams to their 11th-grade students?

It’s true! However, what this looks like can vary wildly by state. For example, some states offer the ACT with writing, some offer it without. Some require juniors to take the test, whereas some just provide the opportunity. And some will let you take the ACT or the SAT for free, but not both!

map of states that provide the act for free - image by mapchart.net

So what does this mean for you? Here’s more info by state!

Table of Contents


 

States with Free ACT Exams


 

Alabama

Alabama requires juniors in public schools to take the ACT with writing as a graduation requirement. Here’s what you need to know about the test:

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No
  • With writing? Yes
  • Offered in public high schools only?* Yes

Taking the Alabama ACT or want more info? Find out more about taking the ACT for free in Alabama!

 

Arizona

Arizona is one of the newest states to join those offering the ACT for free—or it will be, as of 2022! Here’s what will happen next year:

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? Yes (chosen by district)
  • With writing? No
  • Offered in public high schools only?*Yes

Taking the Arizona ACT or want more info? Find out more about taking the ACT for free in thisArizona Statewide Assessment Press Release (PDF)!

 

Arkansas

If you’re a high school student in Arkansas, you’ll be able to take the ACT in 11th grade—which means that, yup, it’s free!

  • Required for graduation? No
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No
  • With writing? No
  • Offered in public high schools only?* Yes

Taking the ACT in Arkansas? Find out more about free Arkansas ACTs !

 

Florida

Floridians, you can take the ACT sponsored by your state—but now you also have the option to take the SAT instead! Note that this was implemented as part of COVID-19 relief in 2021 and may not last, so check back for updates. Here’s the info in a nutshell.

  • Required for graduation? No
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? Yes
  • With writing? No
  • Offered in public high schools only?* Yes

Want more info on Florida’s ACT programming? Here’s what you need to know from theFlorida Department of Education Announcement (PDF)!

 

Hawaii

As if we weren’t already jealous enough of Hawaiians, they’re also among the rare states to offer the ACT with writing for free!

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No
  • With writing? Yes
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Want to know more about the ACT in Hawaii? Here are the details on free Hawaii ACTs!

 

Kansas

Kansans, you’re among those who can take the ACT for free! Here’s what you need to know!

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  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No
  • With writing? No
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Curious about taking the ACT in Kansas? Here’s all the info on Kansas ACTs that you need!

 

Kentucky

To graduate in Kentucky, you’ll need to take the ACT as a junior. The good news (or bad news, depending on your applications)? No writing’s required. Here’s the breakdown.

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No
  • With writing? No
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Are you taking the ACT in Kentucky? Here’s more info about taking the Kentucky ACT!

 

Louisiana

Louisianans, your state offers the ACT for free—in fact, it requires that students take it to graduate. No writing requirement here!

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No
  • With writing? No
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Curious about taking the ACT in Louisiana? Here’s more info about the Louisiana ACT (PDF)!

 

Minnesota

Lucky Minnesotans, you have the choice of taking the ACT OR the SAT for free. Here’s what you need to know about the ACT in your state.

  • Required for graduation? No
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? Yes
  • With writing? No
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Want details on taking the ACT in Minnesota? You can find more info here about the Minnesota ACT!

 

Mississippi

Mississippi students, your state requires you to take the ACT to graduate. The plus side? It’s free. No writing, though.

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No
  • With writing? No
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Will you be taking the ACT in Mississippi? Find out more details about the Mississippi ACT here!

 

Montana

Montana, there’s no doubt about it: your state is among those with the strictest ACT requirements. But the bonus for you is that you get a free ACT with writing!

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No
  • With writing? Yes
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Want more info on taking the ACT in Montana? You can get all the details you need about the Montana ACT here!

 

Nebraska

If you live in Nebraska, you get the full package: ACT required for graduation, with writing. Here’s how it breaks down.

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No
  • With writing? Yes
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Curious about taking the ACT in Nebraska? Find out more about the Nebraska ACT here!

 

Nevada

Nevada students get to take the ACT, with writing, for free! Here are some fast facts:

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No
  • With writing? Yes
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Want details about taking the ACT in Nevada? Find out more about the Nevada ACT here!

 

North Carolina

If you’re a North Carolina student, you can breathe a sigh of relief: the ACT is offered for free in your state. However, the writing test isn’t.

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No
  • With writing? No
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Need more info about taking the ACT in North Carolina? Find out more about the North Carolina ACT here!

 

North Dakota

North Dakota, you’re a relatively recent addition to those lucky few who get to take the ACT for free—but you can now, and you can do it with writing!

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No
  • With writing? Yes
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Want details about taking the ACT in North Dakota? Find out more about the North Dakota ACT here!

 

Ohio

The thing about Ohio is that it’s round in both ends, high in the middle…and offers the ACT for free. If you’re a student in Ohio, you’re among those who can take the ACT for free! Do you have to? Not if you take the SAT instead. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? Yes
  • With writing? No
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Curious about taking the ACT in Ohio? Find out more about the Ohio ACT here!

 

Oklahoma

Not only do you have a catchy musical about your state, Oklahomans, but you also have the chance to take the ACT with writing for free! Well, some of you do—it varies by district. Here’s what you need to know.

  • Required for graduation? Yes (or SAT)
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No (varies by district)
  • With writing? Yes
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Will you be taking the ACT in Oklahoma? Find out more about the Oklahoma ACT here!

 

South Carolina

South Carolina students can take either the ACT or SAT to meet graduation requirements.

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? Yes
  • With writing? No
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Will you be taking the ACT in South Carolina? Find out more about the South Carolina ACT here!

 

Tennessee

If you live in Tennessee, your district will choose to give you either the ACT or the SAT for free. If you’re super lucky (or super unlucky, depending on how you look at it), your district can also choose to give you both!

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? Yes (varies by district)
  • With writing? No
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Will you be taking the ACT in Tennessee? Find out more about the Tennessee ACT here!

 

Texas

Texans, your state will let you take either the SAT, the ACT, or the TSIA for free your junior or senior year! Here’s what you need to know.

  • Required for graduation? No
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? Yes
  • With writing? Yes
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Want details about taking the ACT in Texas? Find out more about the Texas ACT here!

 

Utah

Utah students, your state’s setting you up for college success at schools with all kinds of requirements by offering you the ACT with writing for free! Here are the details.

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No
  • With writing? Yes
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Need more info about taking the ACT in Utah? Find out more in thisUtah ACT Overview (PDF)!

 

Wisconsin

Wisconsinites, you not only can take the ACT with writing for free, but you have to in order to graduate high school. So…yay? Here’s the info!

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No
  • With writing? Yes
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Curious about taking the ACT in Wisconsin? Find out more about the Wisconsin ACT here!

 

Wyoming

If you’re a student in Wyoming, the ACT with writing is a graduation requirement. The upside? The state pays for it! Here are the details.

  • Required for graduation? Yes
  • Choice of ACT/SAT? No
  • With writing? Yes
  • Offered in public high schools only? Yes

Need more info about taking the ACT in Wyoming? Find out more about the Wyoming ACT here!

*Some states use the ACT to meet federal accountability measures. In these cases, tests are often only available to students in public schools.

 

FAQ: Free ACT Exams by State

Click on each question to get the answer!

My state’s not on the list. What’s up?

Don’t be confused if your state offered the ACT for free last year but isn’t on the above list. ACT contracts with states change on a yearly basis. Some years, states choose to offer the test. Other years, they may switch to offering the SAT, or not offering a standardized admissions test for free at all.

We may see an increasing number of states offering standardized admissions tests for free in the future. Why? According to the Department of Education, states must test high school students at least once to show they’re meeting federal educational standards.

So, rather than spend money and time on developing their own tests, states are turning to standardized admissions tests like the SAT and ACT. This has the added benefit of helping students through a big part of the college admissions process.

At the end of the day, though, it doesn’t really matter why states are offering the tests for free. You can still send your scores to colleges, even if you took the ACT for free at school.

I took the ACT for free, and I don’t live in any of those states. What’s happening?

Ah, yes. States aren’t the only ones offering free testing these days. Individual school districts can also choose to offer the ACT to their students for free. Nice!

In fact, while only the above states currently provide the ACT for free, lots of districts in other locations have taken the test through their schools (i.e. for free) in the past decade. Some school districts provide the test for free in states where not all districts do.

How do I take the free ACT?

States usually use free ACTs to measure how they’re meeting educational standards. This means that you’ll likely take a free ACT at your school. There are pros and cons to this!

“What cons?” you may be thinking. “I’m saving either $55 or $70 (depending on whether the state offers the ACT with writing—more on this in a bit). Why should I be complaining?”

We’re with you—there’s a lot to love about free ACT testing. For example:

  1. It’s free! You’re saving either $55 or $70!
  2. You can take the test twice with ease.
  3. You won’t have to sacrifice a weekend morning to take the exam.
  4. Some school districts have started using the online version of the ACT—meaning no pencil callouses. This isn’t widely available elsewhere yet, you lucky guinea pigs.
  5. You take the exam at school, so don’t have the hassle of picking a day, choosing a test site, figuring out logistics, getting lost, all of that gnarly practical stuff.
  6. You may be able to get out of taking a second standardized test for the state’s benefit! (Not so fast, Wisconsin—we said MAY.)

And while all of this is definitely awesome, students taking the exam at their school for free should still be aware of some potential pitfalls. These include:

  1. States and districts are able to offer the ACT with or without the essay. It’s cheaper for them to offer it without the essay. However, some colleges require the essay as part of your application. If you live in one of those states and are applying to one of those colleges, this means that you’ll have to pay to take the regular off-site exam anyway. You probably won’t get out of taking the school-based test, either (though it will provide you with a great test-day experience! Bright side.)
  2. Your choice of test dates is limited. The testmakers only offer school-based tests on certain days, and these days don’t come around often.

    School-Based ACT Test Dates, 2021

     

     Official Test Date (Paper)Online Testing Window
    Early Spring March 2, 2021 (Test Window 1)
    March 16, 2021 (Test Window 2)
    March 2-4, 2021
    (Test Window 1)
    March 9-11, 2021
    (Test Window 1)
    March 16-18, 2021,
    (Test Window 2)
    March 23-25, 2021
    (Test Window 2)
    Late Spring
    March 30, 2021
    (Test Window 1)
    April 13, 2021
    (Test Window 2)
    March 30-31, 2021
    (Test Window 1)
    April 1, 2021
    (Test Window 1)
    April 6-8, 2021
    (Test Window 1)
    April 13-15, 2021
    (Test Window 2)
    April 20-22, 2021
    (Test Window 2)
    Late April 2021Online onlyApril 20-22, 2021
    (Test Window 1)
    April 27-29, 2021
    (Test Window 1)

    Information from ACT: States and Districts.

    On the other hand, this might force you to get your study plan going early, so it may be a “pro” for you.

  3. Sending score reports can be more confusing. If you use the school-based test as a practice exam and take the test more than twice in the same month, be really really sure that you tell the ACT which scores you want reported to colleges.
  4. The digital format might throw you for a loop. Yeah, I know we just listed this format as a pro. For some students, it is! For others, though, it’s a con. You may be less comfortable on a computer than with a pencil-and-paper exam. Maybe your prep has been entirely off-line, and transferring that knowledge to a digital for is an extra frustrating step you don’t need. Just be aware, people.
  5. Some colleges may prefer the SAT, or you may score better on the SAT. While some states are super generous and offers both free SATs and ACTs to its juniors, most states don’t. It’s a good idea to take a practice SAT and ACT beforehand. If you score significantly better on the SAT (in terms of projected percentile), you may want to consider registering for a non-school-based official SAT exam and send only those scores to colleges. Also, some states do also provide the SAT for free, so it’s a good idea to see if yours is among them!
Can I take other tests in the ACT Suite for free?

Even if you’re not currently a high-school junior, you may still benefit from states’ partnerships with the ACT. Various states offer different ACT tests (oh, yes—there’s more than just the official ACT we know and love!) to different groups of students. Take a look at the ACT State and District Solutions page to see what your state offers.


 

The Final Word on Free ACTs

Even if your state isn’t listed as one that provides the ACT for free, you should absolutely check with your guidance counselor before dismissing this option. Depending on your state’s federal reporting deal, you may have to take the ACT at school anyway, and it’s better to be prepared!

Once you know with certainty whether your state or district offers the ACT for free, you can start preparing for the test—not to mention maximizing the test’s value to you. Ask questions like:

  • Will this be my first time taking the test?
  • Does my school offer free ACT prep?
  • Will I take the test again outside of school in a month or two—or take the test again at school next semester?
  • Do I want to take the SAT as well?

There’s lots to consider, but for students in states that provide the ACT for free, whether or not to take standardized admissions tests is no longer a concern.

About Rachel Kapelke-Dale

Rachel is one of Magoosh’s Content Creators. She writes and updates content on our High School and GRE Blogs to ensure students are equipped with the best information during their test prep journey. Rachel has helped students around the world prepare for various standardized tests, including the SAT, ACT, TOEFL, GRE, and GMAT, and she is one of the authors of our Magoosh ACT Prep Book. Rachel has a Bachelor of Arts in Comparative Literature from Brown University, an MA in Cinematography from the Université de Paris VII, and a Ph.D. in Film Studies from University College London. For over a decade, Rachel has honed her craft as a fiction and memoir writer and public speaker. Her work has appeared in over a dozen online and print publications, including Vanity Fair Hollywood. When she isn't strategically stringing words together at Magoosh, you can find Rachel riding horses or with her nose in a book. LinkedIn


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