Test Day Experiences

The ACT test day will begin with the student checking in before the assigned test time, usually 8 AM except for special circumstances or test center practice in some areas. The student will provide their admission ticket-unless the student is trying to test on a standby basis-and acceptable form of identification to test center personnel, who will verify the validity of the information against a list of registered students if applicable. Once verified, the test center personnel will show the student to the test room and their assigned seat, as well as provide the testing materials. At the assigned test time, the registered students (and any standbys there are seats for) will be allowed to start the exam.

After two exams, the test proctor or center personnel will announce a break, and students can walk around, stretch their legs or use the restroom. No cell phones or any electronic devices may be used during the break, and students are not allowed to bring any food or drinks back to the test room. After the break, testing will resume. Most students will be dismissed after approximately four hours and fifteen minutes depending on length of break, except for students taking the ACT Writing exam, who are generally granted another break after the last multiple-choice exam to relax before the essay begins. Before leaving the test center, the student must inform the proctor or center personnel whether or not the student wants the test scored. If the room supervisor isn’t informed of the student’s decision, all tests attempted will be scored.

When score reports are sent to the schools listed on the registration packet, the recipients can view the composite scores, individual exam scores and subscores, as well as the student information and interest data provided at registration. However, each score report corresponds to only one testing date. Thus, if a student took the ACT exam set twice but only designated his high school as a recipient on the second set, the school will only receive the most recent score report. ACT does not combine scores; each test date has its own report, although students can send multiple test date results to the same school if they wish. It is recommended that students take the ACT more than once if they’re not satisfied with their initial results, as research has indicated that scores do tend to go up on the second time.

For students that take the ACT Plus Writing exam set, the essay is included in the score report. Schools that the student designates as recipients of the score report are able to view an image of the essay online. This image is made available to schools for viewing for up to a year after the student has graduated from high school. Schools that are designated later for receiving score reports are also granted access to an online image of the essay. There is no additional charge to students for this viewing service.

In addition to these viewing options, students that do not wish to have scores retained on their records can request that scores be removed. Requests to remove test scores permanently must be submitted in written format; ACT will then send a printed form to the student that needs to be filled out and returned. To begin this process, students must send a letter requesting the score removal to ACT Records, P.O. Box 451, Iowa City, IA 52243-0451.

ACT Prep Tips

Besides the studying and exam prep activities most students do before taking the ACT exam, there are several basic steps students can take to help maximize their test results:

  • Every test booklet has instructions on the front cover; read them carefully. Failure to do so can result in incorrect results or dismissal for not abiding by them.
  • In addition to the test booklet instructions, each test has a separate set of instructions. Read these instructions carefully as well.
  • Read every question carefully. The ACT test does not use “trick” questions, but some of the questions will depend on a nuanced interpretation of the material, so it is important to be clear on what is being asked.
  • Be sure to take the test at a measured pace. There are hundreds of questions to go through, so spending too much time on one question or passage can affect your overall progress.
  • An announcement is made at five minutes before the end of each test. Pay attention to these announcements, so you can finish before time is called.
  • Only no. 2 pencils with good erasers should be used. Mechanical pencils, pens and correction fluid are not acceptable.
  • In interest of time, answer the easy questions first, then go back through and answer the harder ones. This gives more time to consider the options.
  • The ACT does not penalize students for guesses, so if you encounter a difficult question, it is best to eliminate the obviously incorrect answers and make an educated guess from the options left.
  • Answer every question on the exam; scores are based on the number answered correctly, so as mentioned before, there is no penalty for guessing.
  • If you finish a test before time is called, go back through and review the exam. Check your work and, as long as there is still time, make corrections if necessary.
  • Score sheets are read by computer, so it is vital that you make marks neatly and minimize smudging. If a mark needs erasing, be sure that the mark is erased completely and neatly.
  • Once time is called on an exam, you should put down your pencil and make no further marks on the sheet. Failure to do this will result in being dismissed from the exam and the score sheet being discarded.