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When Should I Take the ACT for the First Time?

While every highschooler knows that they should take either the ACT or the SAT at least once before they graduate, many are not sure exactly when they should take the test for the first time. 

Thousands of students struggle to figure out the perfect time to take the ACT:

Should they wait until senior year when they’ve covered all of the material that will be on the test? Should they take it early in their junior year so they can have extra time to study before they retake the test? Should they take the test during the spring or during the fall? Does their test date even matter?

If you find yourself in this boat, and you’re wondering when you should take the test for the first time, here are some factors you should keep in mind:

Retaking the ACT

It might seem strange to think about retaking the ACT before you even take it the first time, but it is important to remember that you will want to take the ACT more than once before applying for college.

Considering the colleges and scholarships you would like to apply for during your senior year, you will need to come up with a target ACT score. It may take you two or three attempts before you reach your target score, so you need to be prepared to take the ACT more than once.

This means that your first time taking the ACT needs to be before your senior year of highschool so that you have plenty of time to study and take a prep course before you retake the test.

An ideal schedule for a student who takes the ACT three times to reach their target score might look like this:

  • Test #1- fall of junior year
  • Test #2- spring of junior year
  • Test #3- summer or fall of senior year

The ACT is offered 7 times a year. Taking your first test in the fall of your junior year gives you twice as many opportunities to take the test and plenty of time to learn from your mistakes so you can improve your score when you retake the test.


Studying for the ACT takes hardwork and dedication. Before you take the ACT, you will want to devote several hours to preparing for the test and mastering the material that you will see on test day.

When you are deciding when to take the ACT for the first time, you should keep your schedule in mind. Are you playing two sports in the fall during your junior year or starring in the school play? You might want to take your first test in the spring of your junior year. If you know your spring is going to be full of AP or IB classes and exams, try to prep early by taking your test in the fall when your schedule is lighter.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing when to take the ACT, so it is important that you consider your specific schedule and how much time you will have to study when you are deciding on a test date.


The math section on the ACT covers math concepts all the way through Algebra II. There are also a small handful of questions that will test pre-calculus topics.

If you will not have completed Algebra II by the early fall of your junior year, you may want to wait to take your first test until that winter so that you will be more prepared.

Regardless of whether or not you have taken Algebra II, I still recommend that you take the ACT at least twice before the summer of your junior year, but you might consider taking a winter and spring approach instead of a fall and spring approach if you’re taking the class during your junior year.


Another factor that should be considered when you are deciding when to take the ACT is your level of preparation. If you haven’t had a chance to study for the test, you will probably want to wait to take your first test until you’ve had the opportunity to prepare. Don’t wait too late, though! You still want to make sure you have taken the test at least twice before July of your junior year.

If you are worried about preparing for the ACT, Prep Expert is the perfect resource for you. Prep Expert offers high quality ACT tutoring and ACT prep courses that will make sure you are ready to tackle the ACT on test day.

Learn more about how Prep Expert can help you get ready to take the ACT when you visit our website.

Prep Expert

Written by Prep Expert

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