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Can You Take the ACT in College?

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Posted by Vero Lecocq | Apr 6, 2016 6:00:00 PM

ACT General Info




If you took the ACT in high school, you were probably perfectly content to bid it farewell when you want on to college. If you didn't take it in high school, you were probably just as glad to get a pass on that particular trial. But what if you need to take it after you graduate? Can you take the ACT in college?

Yes! It's absolutely possible to take the ACT in college; there's nothing standing in your way. This article will discuss reasons to take the ACT as a college student, what the process is like, and what makes it different than taking it in high school.


Reasons to Take the ACT in College

There are a few reasons a person might need to take the ACT in college.

Some scholarships—and even jobs—require applicants to provide their scores. Usually that means scores from a high school test date, but, if you didn't take the ACT in high school, or if you need higher scores and you think you can do better, then it may become necessary to take the test later on. Always be in contact with the organization you're applying to or through in order to get the most precise and specific information.

Most of the time, if you're thinking about taking the ACT in college, it's connected to a prospective transfer. Many schools require ACT scores, and you want to put your very best foot forward. That may mean retesting, if your high school scores weren't great.

Some schools have different requirements for different circumstances. They may require scores only for first-year and possibly second-year applicants. They may require scores only if students already took the test.

Other schools are test-optional or test-blind. This means that you will not be required to submit test scores, whether you're a transfer or applying afresh. Test-optional schools will accept scores but do not require them, where as test-blind schools will not look at your scores at all.

The moral of the story is, you need to know the policy of the college in question.

If you can't find the necessary information online—and many colleges have web pages specific to transfer policies—it's important to contact someone at the school. The website may have an email address for the administrative offices; otherwise, you'll have to pick up a phone and call. 

body_thoughtfulman.pngThis student is wondering just how badly he needs those ACT scores.


Logistics of Taking the ACT in College

The mechanics of taking the test will be largely unchanged for you as a college student. If you took it in high school, it's going to be the same basic deal, logistically, as it was then.


How to Register

You can register online or, technically, by mail. Now, it's not especially convenient to do it by mail, but it's possible.

You'll be required to submit a picture and provide some very basic personal information, and you'll be asked to answer a number of non-mandatory questions about coursework, etc. Online, the process is said to take about 40 minutes.


Where Can You Take It

You're going to be taking the ACT at a test center. This might be a high school, or it might be a college campus; either way, you'll be taking it with local high schoolers.

The fact that you're a college student isn't treated specially. You'll be taking the ACT the same way, in the same place, as all the other test-takers.


Advice for Testers in College

Remember, the ACT is designed for high schoolers. Don't think, though, that it'll be a breeze for you just because you're in college. You've probably gotten a little rusty on some of those high school topics.

Recall that the ACT tests reading, math, English, science, and writing. Depending on your major, you may not have been covering all of these topics in your college coursework. In other words, one way or another, it's been awhile since you were fully fluent in everything the ACT tests you on. As such, it's important to prep for the test and get back up to speed on anything that's fallen by the wayside.

Realize that the test does undergo changes from time to time. There hasn't been any major overhaul recently, but there have been a few pronounced adjustments. As of last year, there are now paired passages on the Reading test, and the Writing test has been completely redesignedThe test is going to be at least a little different than the last time you took it (if you've taken it at all). This is another reason to prepare.


body_emergencyexit.jpgOn the ACT, as in an emergency, it's always best to be prepared.


3 Key Tips on Preparing for the ACT in College

The logistics of registration may not change much from high school to college, but your strategy on how to prepare should.


Get Familiar with the ACT's Unique Style

Questions on the ACT are not designed to mimic our everyday interactions; the questions are dense and rigid, as are the answer choices.

It's definitely not anything insurmountable, but you don't want to let this fact slow you down on test day. Therefore, it's important to take a practice test and examine practice questions to get a feel for the style and tone of the test.


Review Topics You're Not Fully Secure On

As mentioned above, there are bound to be a few subjects you've kind of forgotten.

It's not wise to take the test cold; if you do, you're taking a serious gamble. If your score is not what you want, you've lost the test fee and several hours of your weekend—for nothing. A little preparation in the first place will save you that headache and help you avoid needing to take the thing yet again.


Consider Your Schedule and Your Needs

College, for many people, is an extraordinarily busy time. It's a time when we're learning how to balance involvement in the activities we're passionate about with the need for downtime.

Classes are already grueling; add on sports, clubs, jobs, and hanging out with friends, and things can get out of hand quickly.

Be realistic, then, about your limits. Give yourself plenty of time to study. Check your schedule and your syllabi—don't commit to taking the ACT in the midst of midterms or anything like that!


body_testroadsign.jpgYou don't want too many tests piling up on the horizon.



There are a few reasons to take the ACT in college, and we've talked a little about how to approach the task.

The whole process is basically the same as it is for high schoolers: you'll be registering the same way, and you'll be in a test center with high schoolers.

Still, you need to recognize that you're approaching it at a different age and from a different era in your life. The main relevance of this is the importance of studying for the test ahead of time; it's not designed for college students, so you need to get used to the way it works.


What's Next?

Read more about the logistics of the ACT in general. It's a good idea to be familiar with the process of the test.

Remember that all questions on standardized tests can be viewed as analytical. Let that inform your approach on the test.

Since the essay may be a little different than what you're writing in your classes, take some time to get used to how to handle the Writing section.


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Vero Lecocq
About the Author

Vero is a firsthand expert at standardized testing and the college application process. Though neither parent had graduated high school, and test prep was out of the question, she scored in the 99th percentile on both the SAT and ACT, taking each test only once. She attended Dartmouth, graduating as salutatorian of 2013. She later worked as a professional tutor. She has a great passion for the arts, especially theater.

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