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Planning and preparing for the SAT and ACT is tough proposition. Let our experts make it easier for you and your student by reviewing some of the many options available to improve scores, grow scholarship offers, and get into the best college!

The Best Time to Take the ACT

Whether you’re a high school student or the parent of a high school student, figuring out when you or your child should take the ACT can seem like an impossible task. Let’s face it: there are thousands of teachers, career counselors, and college consultants who’ve spent their lives helping students answer this one question!

Here at Prep Expert SAT & ACT Prep, we get this question all the time. In fact, sometimes we get it a little too much! Taking the ACT isn’t rocket science, but there is a science to it, and it can be difficult manipulating the test to your schedule.

Thankfully, that’s what we’re here for.

ACT Test Dates for 2017

Test Date Registration Deadline Late Registration Deadline ACT Scores Released*
February 11, 2017
Except New York and internationally.
January 6, 2017 January 7-20, 2017 February 22, 2017*
April 8, 2017 March 3, 2017 March 4-17, 2017 April 18, 2017*
June 10, 2017 May 5, 2017 May 6-19, 2017 June 20, 2017*
September 9, 2017 August 4, 2017 August 5-18, 2017 To be posted
October 21, 2017 September 15, 2017 September 16-29, 2017 To be posted
December 9, 2017 November 3, 2017 November 4-17, 2017 To be posted

* These dates are estimates based on previous release dates from previous years and are subject to change.

It’s crucial to know and understand when the ACT is given throughout the year before planning your schedule around taking it. These dates may not be perfect but they’re great estimates of when future ACT’s will be given, so take note!

When Do You Have the Time?

When a student asks me when he or she should take the ACT, this is always my first response

Why? Because it’s all about YOU. Not about so-called “rules” made up decades ago to categorize students into rigid paths!

Taking the ACT when you have the most time to study for it is the best way to ensure that you get the highest score you can. After all, the ACT is a big deal, it requires months and months of preparation just like an AP exam does. Don’t prep for the ACT in the middle of the finals; start your ACT prep when you actually have the time give the ACT the attention it deserves.

Let’s look at a few student examples!

Tanya
9th Grade (Freshman)

Tanya is a high school freshman who just got done with her first week of high school! She’s excited, nervous…and already looking forward to taking her first ACT! Because of her younger age and lack of experience with lengthy standardized tests, Tanya’s path will vary based on her academic aspirations and goals.

If Tanya is the type of student looking to go into an IB program or some sort of advanced high school track, she may want to take the ACT as early as the beginning of her sophomore year! If not, she may want to target her junior year for a good test date, even planning her course load around it!

I know what you’re thinking. This seems really early! While it is, the truth of the matter is that the sooner you can get your ACT out of the way, the better you’ll be set up for success throughout your college application process. So if you have learned all the content of the test by 10th grade, give it a shot!

Jane
10th Grade (Sophomore)

Jane is a high school sophomore going into her spring semester with a light course-load. She has an extremely difficult slate of classes lined up for next year, including AP Chemistry, AP Physics, AP Calculus BC, and AP European History. So, when should Jane take the ACT? As soon as possible!

The content on the ACT isn’t exceptionally challenging; aside from a few difficult math questions, Jane won’t face anything she hasn’t seen before, and neither will you; you don’t even need Pre-Calculus!

There’s no reason for Jane to wait much longer to take the ACT. In fact, my advice to her would be to take the ACT twice during this time period. First at the end of her spring semester around June and second in early September. Her June test could serve as excellent practice for the exam, and the second time around will be Jane’s big test! Unless of course Jane does really well the first time around! The advantages to these dates will also be that Jane will also have some free time just as summer is starting for the first test she takes, as well as the entire summer to gear up for the next one!

Tim
11th Grade (Junior)

Tim is a junior at the start of his fall semester with a moderately difficult schedule lined up for the year. In Tim’s case, if he plans to take the ACT twice, I’d recommend that he take it once in February and again in September at the end of his senior year.

Why the February test? Well…Winter Break! Yep, that wonderful two-week break we all get in December and January is a truly great thing, not just for getting gifts and having fun with friends, but also for finally having some time to dive into studying for the ACT! We’re a little biased here at Prep Expert, so we’d also recommend a little ACT or SAT tutoring as well. 🙂

If Tim only plans only plan to take the test once, it’d be advantageous for him to stick with the September test because he’ll have the most time to prepare over summer.

Robert
12th Grade (Senior)

Robert is a rising senior about to enter his final year of high school. He has yet to take the ACT (or SAT). Robert needs to take the ACT as soon as possible! He’s not going to want to run out of time before he won’t even be able to post the biggest test of his career on his high school resume.

Robert should plan to give himself adequate time to study, though. Simply rushing into your first ACT isn’t usually a good idea (unless of course you plan to take the test twice). Knowing that, the December ACT could be the best slot for Robert. He’ll be able to take some additional time to study over Thanksgiving Break, and he won’t have to stress about the test during his winter semester finals!

So as you can see, there really isn’t one best time to take the ACT! The best time is quite simply the best time for you and your schedule.

However, things aren’t always so cut and dry, especially for students in today’s hyper-competitive classrooms. For these students, there’s always September.

When in Doubt, Look to September

Sometimes I meet students who really aren’t sure about their schedules and/or always seem overbooked. For these students, I say: look to September!

I recommend September as an excellent catch-all — if you don’t have a more opportune time that fits your schedule better — for all students, regardless of strength of schedule and collegiate aspirations, who aren’t sure how difficult their course loads will turn out to be.

Why September? September is a great time to take the ACT because there’s one thing that (just about) every high school student has in common: Summer Break!

When those May and June days roll around, it’s easy to want to get outside and relax — you should! But summer is also a fantastic time to start your ACT preparation. Even if you are working a full-time job like I and many of us at Prep Expert did when they were in high school, summer offers a time to study for the ACT in which your mind will be clear of any other subjects. Because the ACT and SAT — like all standardized tests — require studying for them independently of your regular course load, it can be a great idea to do so most aggressively when you don’t have other academic commitments.

A good number of the students whom I meet who score in the 99th Percentile took their ACT in September or October, studying for it in the summertime. Likewise with three of our four perfect scorer instructors; they too took this strategy and ran with it!

However, as I mentioned before, not all schedules are the same. You may have summer courses or want to prepare for classwork in later months. This may make another test date throughout the year more preferable, a question only you will know the answer to!

Don’t Complicate Things

The ACT is a huge, messy test. So don’t overthink it. It’s hard enough just to beat the test!

I have worked with so many wonderful, driven students who spend months and months planning to take the ACT and only a few weeks preparing for the material of the test. It’s the wrong approach.

Instead, spend the majority of your time actually preparing for the content of the exam and the length of the test through legitimate, structured practice. And don’t worry too much about when to sign-up for the test. Just give your own schedule primary consideration and when in doubt, look to September!

For more information about our ACT prep courses please visit our website. You can pick from our any of our flagship six-week courses, as well as tutoring packages and weekend camps. If you’re a parent and would like speak with one of our awesome representatives about when’s the best time for your son or daughter to take the ACT, give us a call today! We are available 24/7 to help you and your student succeed.



Shaan Patel

Shaan Patel is the founder of Prep Expert Test Preparation, a #1 bestselling SAT & ACT prep author, an MD/MBA student at Yale and USC, and winner of an investment deal with billionaire Mark Cuban on ABC’s Shark Tank. He raised his own SAT score from average to perfect using 100 strategies that we teach in our Prep Expert SAT and ACT courses.