After living through a high school career riddled with COVID disruptions and remote learning, college-bound rising juniors and seniors will be thrilled if their biggest worry right now is when to sit for the ACT exam. While a number of “real-life” challenges and a heap of uncertainty have been plopped on our plates in recent years, high schoolers must still get a handle on the tasks that lie ahead in a fast-changing and fluid college admissions landscape. The ACT test, with close to two million annual test-takers, is one such task for which those applying to college in 2022-23 or 2023-24 must develop a plan of attack. Let’s begin by looking at the ACT test dates and registration deadlines.

ACT Test Dates 2022-23

The ACT is offered in seven different months for the 2022-23 school year. The dates are as follows:

Test Date Registration Deadline Late Deadline
September 10, 2022 August 5, 2022 August 19, 2022
October 22, 2022 September 16, 2022 September 30, 2022
December 10, 2022 November 4, 2022 November 11, 2022
February 11, 2023 January 6, 2023 January 20, 2023
April 15, 2023 March 10, 2023 March 24, 2023
June 10, 2023 May 5, 2023 May 19, 2023
July 15, 2023 June 16, 2023 June 23, 2023

How do I know which ACT test dates are right for me?

During typical, non-pandemic times, college-bound students should sit for the ACT at some point during 11th grade. The goal is to maximize your exposure to a standardized test-relevant curriculum while also leaving yourself time to retake the test once or twice.

Before deciding when to take the ACT for the first time, a high schooler should ask oneself the following questions:

1)What level of math have I completed?

This is one of the most important considerations for 11th graders in determining when to first sit for the ACT. Here is a quick glance at the breakdown of math content covered by the ACT.

The ACT has the following breakdown:

  • Number & Quantity: 7-10%
  • Algebra: 12-15%
  • Functions: 12-15%
  • Geometry: 12-15%
  • Statistics and Probability: 8-12%
  • Integrating Essential Skills (applying middle school-level math concepts): 40-43%

So, what’s the takeaway from all of this? In essence, students need to at least get close to completing Geometry and Algebra II in order to be fully prepared for the ACT. If you are taking Algebra II during junior year, you may want to wait until the late spring to begin your standardized test journey. If you are an advanced math student who already has these courses under their belt by the commencement of junior year, you could consider sitting for a fall test date (of junior year). However, exposure to trigonometry and statistics will also help with some of the more advanced questions featured in both exams.

2) Am I taking AP courses junior year?

If you plan on taking multiple AP courses/tests junior year, then early-to-mid-May is going to be a hellish time already full of intense prep-work and exam-taking. Students in this situation are wise to sit for the ACT for the first time during the fall of junior year, or in April or June to avoid standardized-testing overload when AP tests are administered. This typically works out fine for such individuals because those on the AP track have typically covered the vast majority of the math subject matter by this juncture.

3) How much time do I need to study?

Research shows that studying for the ACT yields positive results. Thus, it is critical for students to carve out time for concentrated study prior to taking the exam. Students should begin studying during the summer prior to the start of their junior year, brush up on skills over winter break, and then use the summer prior to senior year to engage in targeted practice on any areas of relative weakness.

We recommend fully utilizing the ACT Academy which is offered free of charge by the company that makes the test.

4) Will my plan let me take advantage of Superscoring?

Students who retake the test end up with Composite scores 2.9 points higher than their single-test counterparts. Fifty-seven percent achieve a higher Composite score upon sitting for the test for a second time; a much higher percentage see an increase in at least one subject area. This can be immensely beneficial, especially in light of what is known as Superscoring — where colleges take the best combined subject scores across multiple test administrations.

While the vast majority of schools Superscrore the SAT, ACT Superscoring policies are more variable (for a complete list click here). When accepted, Superscoring gives you a great strategic advantage because it allows you to focus solely on the areas where you want to improve. For example, if you take the ACT in April of your junior year and score a 30 one the English test and a 23 on math, you can, in effect, “bank” your verbal score and focus 100% of your attention on sharpening your math skills.

Those who wait until senior year miss out on the opportunity to maximize their opportunities to sit for the test, engage in meaningful study, and retake the test, thus missing out on the full benefits of Superscoring.

Do I have to take the ACT?

Here’s the super-short version…Among countless other disruptions, the pandemic has dealt a crushing blow to the standardized testing industry and its millions of teenage customers. In response, a great number of colleges, including most of the Ivy League and many other prominent institutions announced a shift toward a test-optional policy for the high school Class of 2021 and, in most cases, also the Class of 2022 and 2023 (this upcoming senior cohort). A complete list of Test-Optional Colleges can be found in our Dataverse.

College Transitions’ Takeaways

  • Get to know the ACT test dates and registration deadlines for 2022-23 and make a plan!
  • Take the ACT for the first time during the first or second semester of your junior year
  • Factor in AP test dates to avoid standardized testing burnout
  • Leave yourself room to take the test again summer before senior year and a third time, if necessary, the fall of senior year.
  • Put in the time studying. Research shows that studying for the ACT produces results.
  • Superscoring is your friend. Plan on sitting for the test two or three times.