A guide to the most important and common questions about the ACT test including whether you should take the ACT, when the ACT test dates are, when ACT scores will be released, and how to understand your ACT test scores.
If you have additional questions we did not answer here, please contact the team at Powerful Prep.
- Do I need to take an ACT test or is it optional?
- Should I take the SAT instead of the ACT test?
- When do you take the ACT?
- Do I Need ACT Test Prep? What do I need to do to prepare?
- Conquer the ACT like a boss. 📚
- Best ACT Test Prep Methods
- ACT Test Dates 2022-2023
- ACT Test Dates 2023-2024
- When Do ACT Scores Come Out?
- How Do You Get Your ACT Scores?
- Understanding Your ACT Score
- What is a Good Score on the ACT?
- What is the Average ACT Score?
- How to Understand Your ACT Percentile
- ACT Percentile Chart
- How Many Times Can You Take The ACT?
- What Do ACT Benchmarks Mean?
- How To Improve Your ACT Score
- Schedule a FREE Consultation
Do I need to take an ACT test or is it optional?
There are three basic situations in which you should take the ACT:
- If you feel that your college application needs a more competitive edge
- If you can score competitively for your target school
- If the school you’re applying to requires the ACT test (a few but growing number do, now that the pandemic has enabled testing again)
In our experience, most students fall in these categories, especially those targeting competitive schools like the Ivy Leagues.
If you aren’t sure what applies to you or if you are simply interested in knowing more, we go into more depth about whether or not you should test in our guide: Do I Need To Take an SAT or ACT Test?
Should I take the SAT instead of the ACT test?
When deciding between tests , the ACT vs SAT, you only have to pick the test which is better for you. There are no colleges or universities that prefer one test over the other, so you do not need to worry about your admission chances being affected because you took the SAT or the ACT and not the other.
To figure out if should take an SAT or ACT test, start by looking at our guide and take the quiz on our infographic: ACT vs SAT: Which Test Should You Take.
To confirm the recommendation, take both tests in a practice setting and then focus on the test in which you have a better starting score. We don’t recommend skipping this step, but for a very quick recommendation:
- the ACT is generally better suited for students who do well in English and Reading and who do not struggle with working under strict time constraints,
- SAT is better for students who are strong in Math, especially advanced algebra.
If, on reading this, you think the SAT is the better test for you, then you should read the partner article of this one, 2022 SAT Test Dates & When To Expect Your SAT Score.
Can I Submit the ACT without the Writing Section?
This depends on the school. Many require the ACT writing portion, but many do not. You will need to check with the specific schools to which you’re applying.
If you are curious if you can I submit an ACT score without the writing section to a test-optional school, the answer is of course!
Test-optional does not mean test-blind. In fact, if you are a student from a reasonably privileged background, you will be expected to submit a strong test score.
When do you take the ACT?
Most students take the ACT test in the Spring of their Junior year or the Fall of their Senior year, but as we’ll explain, you can sit for an ACT test date whenever you feel prepared.
You will have likely seen all the material on the ACT in your high school classes by your Junior year. You want to make sure that you have taken at least Algebra 1 and Geometry.
If you are not sure if you are prepared, then take an ACT practice test, and see if your score is where you want it.
If your ACT scores aren’t quite there yet, don’t worry, you have options:
- Check out our list of recommend ACT study books and materials.
- Sign up for a free, live proctored ACT practice exam that Powerful Prep administers the first Saturday of each month via a Zoom conference.
- Take advantage of one of our elite ACT test prep options including an AI-driven app called Achievable or sign up for Personalized ACT Tutoring with one of our Ivy League graduate instructors.
That being said, you can take the ACT as early as you like or as late as December of your Senior year, though this is not recommended. Ideally, you should be done with testing by early Senior year.
- You should take the ACT when your ACT practice score matches your target ACT score.
- Do not take the ACT test, “just to see where you’re starting.”
- And do not take the ACT test hoping to score higher than you have been scoring on your ACT practice tests. Most students score lower in the actual test than they do in practice.
Do I Need ACT Test Prep? What do I need to do to prepare?
You need to prepare if your practice score is not in at least the 50th percentile of your target school’s accepted score.
For example, Harvard has a 50th percentile accepted score of around 33 (the ACT is out of 36). This means 50% of the students they admit have a higher score, and 50% have a lower score. If your target school is Harvard, you should score at least a 33 on the ACT.
If your practice ACT score is not there, then you should plan to prepare.
With a good one-on-one tutor, you should be able to gain about 4 points within 3 months, with some of Powerful Prep students even gaining 9 points on the ACT in the same amount of time.
How To Pick The Best ACT Test Date: When Do You Take The ACT?
Best ACT Test Prep Methods
One-on-one ACT test prep, group ACT test prep, and self-study ACT test prep are three ways students can work to improve their ACT scores.
One-on-one ACT test prep tutor
With a good one-on-one tutor you should be able to improve your ACT score about 4 points in 3 months.
- Powerful Prep students improve their ACT scores by an average of 4 points
- Some star pupils have increased their ACT scores by as much as 9 points
Our proven approach creates higher ACT scores, guaranteed.
At Powerful Prep, we guarantee outstanding results for the students we work with. With the average point gains listed above, our elite instructors help students achieve real results that propel them to better schools and brighter futures.
Group ACT tutoring
With a good group tutoring program, you should be able improve your ACT score about 2 points in 2 months.
Self Study for the ACT
With self-study, you will have a lot of flexibility, but you could gain points more slowly. Still, this is a very affordable option, and perhaps a good place to start.
We offer a test prep app that feels more like a game, which helps you improve your ACT score using the latest machine learning technology.
Raise Your ACT Score with Machine Learning!
Get access to our online ACT Course and join the hundreds of students who used memory science-enhanced practice to ensure you get your top score!
If you know you will need to prepare for the test, keep that preparation time in mind when thinking about your future test date. Most of our students prep for the ACT with us for about three months, and see a growth of about 1 point per month.
So, if you know you will need to improve your ACT score by many points, plan for a longer prep time.
If you only need to improve your ACT score by a small amount of points, you can plan for a shorter prep time.
If you need more help deciding what your test prep schedule should look like, read our article which goes into more detail on the subject:
We also recommend not waiting until the last minute to take the ACT test.
If you put all your hopes in the October/November tests of your Senior year, then you had best brace for disappointment: if you do not get the ACT score you want or need by then, then you will have practically no time to do so before college applications are due.
We recommend that you try to get all your ACT testing done 2 months before your college application deadlines. Otherwise, your ACT scores may not be available in time for college consideration.
ACT Test Dates 2022-2023
Here are the announced upcoming ACT test dates as outlined on The ACT’s website.
|ACT Test Date||Regular Registration Deadline||Late Registration Deadline|
|June 10, 2023||May 5, 2023||May 19, 2023|
|July 15, 2023*||June 16, 2023||June 23, 2023|
ACT Test Dates 2023-2024
|Test Date||Regular Registration Deadline||Late Registration Deadline|
|September 9, 2023||August 4, 2023||August 18, 2023|
|October 28, 2023||September 22, 2023||October 6, 2023|
|December 9, 2023||November 3, 2023||November 17, 2023|
|February 10, 2024||January 5, 2024||January 19, 2024|
|April 13, 2024||March 8, 2024||March 22, 2024|
|June 8, 2024||May 3, 2024||May 17, 2024|
|July 13, 2024*||June 7, 2024||June 21, 2024|
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When Do ACT Scores Come Out?
ACT scores normally come out about 2-8 weeks after the ACT test date. If you took the Writing section of the ACT test, then you will not receive your multiple choice score at the same time as everyone else. Your ACT score will instead be sent out 5-8 weeks after your ACT test date.
Use the guide below to see all of the 2022-2023 ACT test dates and their anticipated ACT score release date:
|ACT test date||ACT Score Release|
|September 10, 2022||September 20 – November 4, 2023|
|October 22, 2022||November 8 – December 16, 2023|
|December 10, 2022||December 20 – February 3, 2023|
|February 11, 2023||February 28 – April 7, 2023|
|April 15, 2023||April 25 – June 9, 2023|
|June 10, 2023||June 20 – August 4, 2023|
|July 15, 2023||July 25 – September 8, 2023|
If it takes longer than this to receive your ACT scores, then it means that there may be some issue with your ACT score, such as a delay in your booklet being sent out for grading or the identifying information on your booklet being unclear.
How Do You Get Your ACT Scores?
You will have to make a MyACT account on The ACT’s website if you want to view your ACT test scores.
ACT Customer Support cannot give your ACT scores to you by phone, email, chat, or fax.
Understanding Your ACT Score
Your ACT Composite Score will be a number between 1 and 36 and represents your overall performance on the ACT test.
The highest score you can receive on the ACT is 36. This is also the most important number on your ACT score report and the one colleges will be most concerned with.
You will also receive a score for each section of the ACT:
Each of these scores will also be a number between 1 and 36. Your Composite Score was calculated by taking the average of these four scores.
Your ACT score report will also list a score for STEM and ELA, representing your overall performance in Math and Science as well as in English, Reading, and Writing respectively. These ACT section scores will also be a number between 1 and 36.
You will also likely see Score Ranges for your Total Score and Section Scores.
Your Score Range represents the range of scores you might have gotten if you were to take the ACT multiple times on different days without additional preparation. In other words, it represents what could have happened to your score had you taken it on a “better day” or a “worse one.”
The difference between your Score Range and your Total or Section Scores will be minimal at best: plus or minus 1 point for your Composite Score or 2 points for your Section Scores.
So if your Composite Score was 21, you could expect your ACT Score Range to be 20-22. Some colleges will look at your score range when considering your application, but not all.
You may also notice a few other scores in the Detailed Results section.
These highlight your abilities in certain areas of the test, such as your mastery of basic algebra or your ability to interpret data in science. These scores are a great way of figuring out what areas you need to improve in.
What is a Good Score on the ACT?
A good ACT score is one that meets or exceeds the average accepted ACT score of the school to which you are applying. Just because your ACT score may not be competitive at the likes of Harvard does not mean that your score is “bad.”
In general, schools like Loyola Marymount look for ACT scores between 27 and 31; a school like UCLA looks for ACT scores between 29 and 32 (note that even though the UC schools no longer accept ACT scores, this is still an accurate target for similarly competitiveness schools); and Ivy League schools want an ACT score of 34 or more.
This is by no means an all inclusive list, so you should be sure to research what the average ACT scores for your target schools are—a simple Google search should do the trick.
FURTHER READING: What’s better, a 35 ACT Score or a 1550 SAT Score?
What is the Average ACT Score?
The national average ACT score in 2020-2021 was about 21. The average English section score on the ACT was 20.1; Math was 20.4; Reading was 21.2; and Science was 20.6.
How to Understand Your ACT Percentile
You can see your ACT Percentiles under the US Rank and State Rank sections of your ACT Score Report.
Your ACT Percentile is a way of comparing your performance on the ACT to other students who took the test. It represents what percentage of other students scored the same as or worse than you. So, if you scored in the 70th percentile on the ACT, then you scored the same as or better than 70% of students.
On your ACT score report, you will see percentile rankings for your Composite Score; Section Scores in English, Math, Reading, Science, and Writing; and your ELA and STEM scores.
While your percentile can show you how you stack up against other students, colleges ultimately care more about your Composite ACT Score than your ACT percentile.
ACT Percentile Chart
Use the ACT percentile chart to see what percentile to expect based on your ACT score in the table below:
|Average Composite Score Percentile||Average English Score Percentile||Average Math Score Percentile||Average Reading Score Percentile||Average Science Score Percentile|
|12 and lower||5||15||1||3||7|
How Many Times Can You Take The ACT?
You can take the ACT a maximum of 12 times.
We recommend that you take the ACT test twice if you can, as your ACT score is likely to improve during your second attempt (even if your preparations between sittings were minimal). This piece of advice is not unique to us. Most sources, including The ACT, recommend trying to take the ACT test more than once.
That said, we recommend that you take the ACT test no more than three times.
Even if you prepare seriously, your ACT score is not likely to see a significant improvement after the third attempt, and your energy would be better spent on other parts of your college application.
What Do ACT Benchmarks Mean?
Your ACT benchmarks serve as an indicator of how ready you are to attend college. Hence why you’ll notice a College Readiness Benchmark for your Composite and Section Scores on your ACT score report.
According to The ACT, here’s what your ACT benchmarks will suggest:
If your ACT score meets or exceeds the benchmark, then you have a 50% chance of earning a B or higher and a 75% chance of earning a C or higher in your corresponding first year college courses.
You do not need to worry about whether or not you reach a particular ACT benchmark: as we have said before, colleges are more interested in your Composite Score. If your ACT score is within or above the average ACT score range they accept, then colleges will not care if you meet The ACT’s criteria for college readiness.
Instead, just like the Detailed Results section of your report, ACT benchmarks are better used as a guide for helping you determine what academic areas you need to improve in.
How To Improve Your ACT Score
In all seriousness, the ACT is a heavily formulated test, and you can easily improve your score by learning its tricks and reviewing the necessary material.
We, at PowerfulPrep, have dedicated ourselves to helping students do just that, and if you are interested in improving your score quickly, you can book a consultation with us.
However, we also understand that not everyone has the time or money to invest in private tutoring, so we partnered with Achievable, an ACT test prep app that feels more like a game.
Schedule a FREE Consultation
Marc Gray, Client Success Manager
Free 20 Minute Consultation
Learn how our expertise can help your student get into their dream school using a customized test prep program.
Schedule a consultation using the calendar to the right.
Need answers now? Call us at 805-876-4687 to discuss.
Schedule a FREE Consultation
Learn how our expertise can help your student get into their dream school using a customized test prep program.
Schedule a consultation using the calendar below. Need answers now? Call us at 805-876-4687 now to discuss.