Choosing an ACT test date can be difficult because what works for one person won't necessarily work for someone else. Ultimately, whether a test date is good for you depends on how soon you want to start prepping, what your goal scores are, and whether you have any obligations around that time.
In this guide, we give you the pros and cons of all upcoming ACT test dates and explain which dates work well—as well as which ones don't work so well—for sophomores, juniors, and seniors.
Feature image: Dafne Cholet/Flickr
2017 ACT Test Dates
Autumn and early winter test dates are ideal for juniors taking the ACT for the first time, and for seniors taking the ACT one last time before college applications are due. However, sophomores should typically avoid these dates.
September 9, 2017
This ACT test date is far too early for sophomores. At this time, you won’t know many of the major concepts tested on the ACT. What's more, you probably won't have a concrete list of where you want to apply to college yet, so there’s no point in taking the ACT if you don't have a clear goal score based on your schools.
If you really want a head start on ACT prep, though, go ahead and start doing some light studying. You might want to buy a couple of prep books or work through some high-quality practice questions online. This lets you slowly familiarize yourself with the ACT without actually taking it.
September is an ideal time for juniors to take their first ACT. Taking it early lets you get a feel for what's on the ACT and how it works, and gives you enough time to prepare for a retake in the spring or summer.
Additionally, this date lets you prep entirely over the summer instead of during the school year, which is helpful if you think you'll have trouble squeezing in ACT prep when school is in session.
You'll also have the entire summer to prepare for the test. This is especially important for seniors since it means you won’t need to juggle ACT prep with college applications. As a result, you'll feel less overwhelmed and less anxious about everything you need to do.
PSAT Test Date: October 11, 2017
It's important to keep this date in mind when choosing an ACT test date. A practice test for the SAT (not the ACT), the PSAT serves two primary purposes:
- To prepare sophomores and juniors for the SAT
- To recognize high-scoring juniors (top 1%) as National Merit Semifinalists
Despite the fact the SAT and ACT are two different tests, they share many similarities in content and structure. Therefore, taking the PSAT could give you a clearer sense of what kind of content you’ll need to know to do well on the ACT.
Don't be scared ... this next test date is right around Halloween!
October 28, 2017
This test date is still too early for sophomores. Most likely, you still won’t know where you’re applying to college and won't understand all of the concepts being tested. But if you’re really interested in getting an ACT test-taking experience, there are better options than taking the test this soon.
One (free) option is to take a full-length ACT practice test. Official tests are guaranteed to give you the most realistic practice possible.
Another, and perhaps more level-appropriate, option is to take the PreACT. This test, which began in 2016 and costs $12, is a practice ACT, similar to how the PSAT is a practice test for the SAT. Unlike the PSAT, though, the PreACT can be administered anytime from September to June; there is also no scholarship competition associated with it.
Finally, you may want to consider taking the PSAT. As I mentioned earlier, this test is nearly identical to the SAT, so it’s not totally relevant to the ACT. But since the redesigned SAT and ACT are very similar now, taking the PSAT can offer you a broader sneak peek at how college admission tests work.
If you missed the September date for your first ACT, this is another solid date for you to take it on. Like the September date, this date gives you plenty of time to prepare for a retake in spring or summer.
If you’re taking the PSAT, however, opt for a different ACT test date. Studying for both tests at once will likely overwhelm and confuse you (especially since the PSAT is slightly different from the ACT), so go with one of the two instead of both.
This is another solid choice for seniors. Most college application deadlines are around January 1, so an October test date offers plenty of time for your scores to get to schools. If you’re applying early action or early decision, this is the last date you can take the ACT and still get your scores to your schools in time.
Because you’ll likely be busy preparing your college applications in October, I suggest aiming for the earlier September test date if possible. This way you won't have too many things to keep track of and can focus entirely on getting your applications together in October and November.
December 9, 2017
This test date, too, is a bit early for sophomores. That said, if you really want to know what the ACT is like, you’re welcome to flex your test-taking muscles and try it out. Just don’t put too much pressure on yourself to do extremely well on it. (Remember, you won't have learned everything that's on the ACT anyway!)
What I recommend instead, though, is to continue working with practice questions and reviewing the various concepts tested on the ACT.
This test date, though doable for juniors, can be a little trickier since it might overlap with finals. I would only opt for this test date if you missed the two dates in the fall and want to get your first ACT over with before springtime.
For many schools, this is the last date you can take the ACT and still have your scores get to your schools in time. While it's too late for early action or early decision applicants, this test date should work fine for the majority of regular decision applicants.
The biggest problem with this date is that it might overlap with finals, so make sure you’re balancing your prep time wisely. You don't want to overwork yourself by studying for too many tests at once!
In addition, if you took the ACT in September but were unhappy with your scores, this date offers one last chance to try to raise them before your college application deadlines.
If only we could actually jump to new years!
2018 ACT Test Dates
Late winter, spring, and summer test dates are usually too late for seniors but should work well for juniors and high-achieving sophomores.
February 10, 2018
This test date is not available in New York.
Again, this date is early for sophomores. If you’re really feeling ready to test the waters, though, go ahead and try the ACT. Just don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself to get a high score, especially on Math. If you're currently in Geometry, it's better to wait to take the ACT since you won't know the vast majority of concepts it tests. If you're in Algebra II, however, you'll know most concepts and could give it a shot if you really want to. (And if you're in Pre-Calculus or Trigonometry, you should definitely be fine!)
If you took the ACT back in the fall and are getting ready to retake it, you could sign up for this date—but it’s probably better to hold off until spring. A spring test date ultimately gives you more time to study and hone your test-taking skills.
Moreover, with an early February test date, you’ll most likely need to prep over winter break, which can be difficult to do if you're trying to juggle holidays and family time.
This is the very last ACT date seniors can choose for regular decision deadlines. Unfortunately, not many schools accept February ACT scores (December is typically the last date you can take the test). If your school does accept February scores, however, this will be your final chance to get the scores you want and send them in.
As with anything related to college applications, check your schools’ policies to see whether they accept February ACT scores before you sign up for this date as a senior.
April 14, 2018
This date is the earliest I recommend sophomores take the ACT. At this point, you should be familiar with most concepts tested on the ACT, though there may still be some (particularly in math) you've yet to learn.
By taking the ACT this early, you’ll get a sense of where you’re scoring and can then use the rest of spring, as well as the entire summer, to prepare for a retake in September or October your junior year. This puts you way ahead of the game!
The April test date is a great time for juniors to take the ACT since it shouldn’t conflict with finals or most mid-terms. If you already took the ACT in the fall of your junior year, this is an ideal time to retake it and try to improve your score.
On the other hand, if you haven’t taken the ACT at all yet, definitely take it by this date. This way you'll have the entire summer to prepare for a second attempt in the fall of your senior year.
This date is too late for seniors. At this point, any scores you get on this ACT won't make it to your schools in time, so make sure you take the ACT in December (possibly February) or earlier.
Would you rather go to the beach this summer or take the ACT? Before you say, "Go to the beach, duh!" just remember that you can't get a sunburn in a test center. Think about it.
June 9, 2018
This date is another date that could work well for sophomores looking to get a head start on the ACT. A June test date means you’ll get your scores by late June or early July and can then use the rest of your summer to prepare for a retake at the beginning of your junior year. At this rate, you might get all of your testing done before even starting your college applications—and that will definitely save you a headache later on!
Unfortunately, the June date is likely to conflict with finals. So if you're already getting overwhelmed by those, it’s better to wait.
Another solid option for juniors, the June test date allows you to get the ACT over with before summer vacation and when you're still in "learning mode" for school.
As I mentioned before, though, this date might conflict with finals, so make sure you know your schedule ahead of time before registering for this date. Generally speaking, the April test date is a better option for juniors, as it is less likely to coincide with school tests and end-of-school-year events.
July 14, 2018
This test date is not available in New York.
The July date is a solid time for sophomores (who are entering their junior year) to take the ACT and see where their strengths and weaknesses lie. The biggest benefit of this date is that you’ll have completed your sophomore year and therefore learned the bulk of what you’ll need to know for the ACT.
Also, because this date is in the middle of summer, you won’t have to deal with homework or tests as you prep. Unfortunately, this also means you won’t get to have as carefree a summer as other people since you’ll be studying for the ACT—but, honestly, this might be worth it in the long run if you can avoid having to take the test your senior year!
Scores from this test date come out around August, about a month before the September ACT. Since this doesn’t give you a lot of time to analyze your scores and prepare for a retake, it’s better to retake the ACT, at earliest, in October your junior year.
This summer date offers a convenient opportunity to take the test when you have no school commitments or college applications to worry about. It's particularly convenient for juniors who want to avoid taking the ACT their senior year.
Unfortunately, this means you’ll need to spend about half your summer studying for the exam. Still, it can be worth it if you feel you’ll get overwhelmed senior year due to college applications and awkward homecoming dances.
It's time to push the big, fat "When" button—or, er, bubble?
When Should You Take the ACT? Key TakeawaysThere are seven ACT test dates in the 2017-18 testing year. These are:
- September 9, 2017
- October 28, 2017
- December 9, 2017
- February 10, 2018*
- April 14, 2018
- June 9, 2018
- July 14, 2018*
*Not available in New York.
ACT test dates are spread throughout year, from fall to summer, and offer multiple opportunities to take the ACT and get the score you want—especially if you’re a sophomore or junior.
For sophomores, the best test dates are in April, June, and July. These dates ensure you’ve learned most of the exam's content and will have plenty of time to study and retake the test at the start of your junior year.
Juniors have the most freedom and can take the ACT on any test date. Usually, we advise juniors to take their first ACT in the fall (September or October) and their second ACT in the spring (April or June). This gives you plenty of time between tests to focus on your weaknesses, study hard, and hopefully raise your score.
Finally, seniors should stick to taking the ACT in September or October—possibly December. If you want to take the ACT one last time before your college applications are due, the two fall dates guarantee your scores will get to your schools in time, no matter whether you’re applying regular decision or early action/early decision. Though December is too late for early action, most regular decision applicants shouldn't have any trouble with the December test date.
Ultimately, no matter when you decide to take the ACT, make sure you've got a solid study plan so that you'll know how much you need to prep and can carve out enough time for your studies!
Want more help choosing an ACT test date? Check out our full guide to choosing to get tips on how to find the perfect test date for you.
Should you take the ACT more than once? There are many benefits of taking the ACT multiple times, the main one being that you can improve your score on a retake!
Want to improve your ACT score by 4+ points? Download our free guide to the top 5 strategies you need in your prep to improve your ACT score dramatically.
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Hannah received her MA in Japanese Studies from the University of Michigan and holds a bachelor's degree from the University of Southern California. From 2013 to 2015, she taught English in Japan via the JET Program. She is passionate about education, writing, and travel.