Registering for the ACT in 2021
Updated March 26, 2021
If you’re reading this, college is probably right around the corner. With all that excitement comes a few things that aren’t as fun, like preparing and registering for your standardized tests.
While a lot of anxiety comes with taking any standardized test, all the logistics of signing up can cause a little stress as well. That’s why we’ve put together this guide to registering for the ACT.
Here, we’ll show you all the 2021 ACT dates available, along with a step-by-step registration guide, before we’ll finally answer some of the most frequently asked questions about signing up for the test.
But first—If you’re still deciding between taking the ACT and the SAT, you might want to take a look at how the two tests compare to each other before diving into the registration process. If you do decide to take the SAT, read about how to register for the SAT instead.
How has COVID-19 impacted the ACT?
In 2020, hundreds of test centers nationwide made the decision to close down for specific test dates to mitigate risk. As a result, ACT (the organization that administers the test) added new fall testing dates to their schedule, as well as more rescheduling options and refunds available for test takers.
In 2021, test centers may continue to adjust their administration dates and testing capacity, but the ACT organization will provide a refund if you’re unable to take the test for those reasons.
Is there an online or at-home version of the ACT?
At the time of writing, there is no way to take the test aside from sitting down at a standard in-person test center. There is a digitized version of the ACT, but this version has to be delivered by a school that meets network and hardware requirements, and you can’t register for this digital version as an individual student (schools register students in bulk instead). However, a remote version of the ACT is in the works!
All in all, ACT testing in 2021 will look very similar to how it has been in previous years, with the main difference being that individual test centers may change their availability or capacity.
Thankfully, most of the ACT registration process, including the test’s pricing, format options, and rescheduling or other registration changes, remains straightforward year after year. Here’s what you need to know.
When Do You Take the ACT?
Most students trying to get into selective colleges take the ACT twice, once in their junior year and again at the beginning of their senior year, if needed. The ACT is generally offered several times throughout the school year:, in September, October, December, February, April, June and July.
For exact dates, take a look at the ACT’s official registration page, or check out our graphic showing the ACT 2020-21 dates below. You may note that the test is almost always on a Saturday, but if you can’t take the ACT on a Saturday due to cultural reasons the ACT organization may make an exception.
Even though taking your first ACT in your junior year is the typical time frame, the best time to take and retake the ACT is whenever you are prepared and have time to add an additional responsibility to your schedule.
One important thing to keep in mind, though, is that your ACT timeline might change depending on when you can take a good prep course. Prep classes—which are often online—have varying times and dates, which we’ve researched and presented through our reviews of all the top ACT prep courses.
There, you’ll not only find the best ACT courses on the market, but you’ll also see their different schedules and formats. And if you do decide to prep for the ACT with a course, make sure to save using our exclusive ACT discounts!
How to Sign Up for the ACT
Once you’ve decided when you want to take the ACT, make sure you give yourself plenty of time to sign up. You need to sign up for the ACT about four weeks before you take the exam, so be sure to plan ahead to get the test date and location you want.
If you miss one of the ACT registration deadlines, you can always pay an additional late registration fee of about $30, although it isn’t ideal. Some test locations can fill up before the deadline, too, so it’s best to register early.
Before You Begin ACT Registration
ACT registration can take about 40 minutes, so be sure to set aside enough time to complete the process. If you don’t have time to register, you can set up an email or text alert to remind yourself to sign up from the ACT website.
Before you sit down to register for the ACT, you’ll need to gather a few things to make the process go smoothly. You will need to be in front of a computer with an internet connection, have a credit card or your fee waiver handy, have your high school course details, and have a headshot photo of yourself, or an available camera.
During the registration process, you’ll have to enter your high school code and your desired test location. More importantly, make sure that you have a list of all the colleges you hope to apply for (up to 6 total) so that you can send your ACT scores to them automatically instead of paying to send them later. While the first 4 reports will be free, the last 2 will cost a bit extra.
You should also know whether you want to take the ACT with or without the writing assessment, which will depend on whether the writing assessment is required for admission to the colleges you hope to attend. And if you need any special accommodations or support, make sure to have the documentation or other information you’ll need in order to qualify for those supports.
It’s best to get all of this material together before you start so you don’t have to interrupt the registration process.
To begin, you’ll register for an ACT account that will give you access to the ACT sign-up process now, and access to score and college information after you’ve taken the test. You will also get your ACT ID when you register, so be sure to keep your ACT account login information available, even after you’ve registered for the test.
How to Register to Take the ACT
Once you’ve created an ACT account as detailed above, you can begin your ACT registration.
1. Answer Personal Information
ACT.org will ask you for standard personal information, including questions about your college plans, special interests, extracurricular activities, and your past accomplishments. All of this info is used to match you with colleges, potential merit-based scholarships or other financial aid packages that you might qualify for.
2. Choose Test and Payment Options
The next step is to choose your test date and whether you’ll take the test with or without the writing section. This is also where you can add on additional services like ACT’s Rapid Review On Demand or ACT Online Prep, which are the ACT’s official prep resources. Lastly, this is where you can choose if you want additional test information sent to you, which can be good if you’re shooting for an absolutely perfect score, though it isn’t the only option if that’s your goal.
3. Upload Your Photo
After you’ve chosen your test taking options and whether you want any additional products or services, you’ll upload your ID photo. Your photo should be a clear headshot of your face, with no edits or other subjects in the frame. It should be on a plain background and show you facing the camera with nothing covering your face.
This photo needs to be representative of how you’ll look on test day, as it will be used to confirm your identity at the testing center. Also, do not take a photo of a photo; it’s better to upload a plain selfie instead.
Make sure you understand all of the ACT photo requirements.
4. Answer More Questions
After you upload your photo, you will answer more questions about your college choices, your high school career and your future plans. All of this might feel a little tedious, but it helps ACT.org better match you with schools and merit-based aid.
Here, you will also tell the ACT where to send your test scores, as we mentioned earlier. You can choose up to 6 schools and scholarship agencies to receive your ACT scores, and while the first 4 are free, you can pay $13 to send out the last 2 score reports. List them in order of priority, and don’t worry if you don’t know which ones you’d like right at this moment—you can update this list up until a few days after you take the ACT.
5. Choose Your Test Center
The next thing you’ll have to do is enter your test center code. If you don’t have it available, this page will let you search for a test location that will work for you. Enter your zip code or your city and state, and you’ll see a list of locations. Just choose the one that works best for you!
Where Can You Take the ACT?
Most students will take the ACT at a school near their home. To find a test center near you, you’ll visit the ACT’s website and enter your desired location information by following the same process we mentioned above. You can take the ACT at thousands of locations around the world.
Once you register for the ACT, you will be given the exact address and building location for where you will take the test. If you can’t find a location near you, call ACT.org at 319.337.1270 so they can walk you through your options.
6. Confirm Your Information and Make a Payment
Once you’ve chosen a test site, you’ll confirm your information. Make sure it’s correct, because any inconsistencies might mean that you won’t be able to take the test once you arrive at your testing center.
This information will also be sent to colleges you hope to attend, so it’s very important that everything is accurate. Finally, you will enter your credit card information or payment voucher information. After you hit submit, congratulate yourself. You’re registered for the ACT!
After Your ACT Registration
Once you’ve registered, you will have the option to print your ACT ticket. If you don’t print it now, you’ll have to log back into your account to print it later since the ticket is required to enter the test site.
On test day, you should bring your ACT ticket, a photo ID, some number 2 pencils, a watch (no smart watches or alarms allowed), a calculator, and snacks. Be sure to take a look at the ACT’s calculator policy, and if you have questions about how the ACT is scored and structured, make sure to also check out our ACT Scoring Guide.
Getting ready for college is a very exciting time. It can also be stressful, but registering for the ACT shouldn’t have to be. Prepare yourself ahead of time by studying well in advance of the test, signing up early, and making sure you have everything you need on your test day. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the test site and check in, and then rest easy knowing you did your best!
How much does it cost to register for the ACT?
Generally, it costs about $50 to register for the ACT without the writing assessment, and up to $70 with the writing assessment. Both of these prices include the cost of sending score reports to you, your high school, and up to 4 colleges if you provide their codes when you register.
If you have to change your ACT test date or location, you will receive a change fee of around $30. If you register for a test date late (see the ‘late’ period for 2020-2021 test dates in our graphic above) then you’ll receive a late fee, which is also around $30.
If you missed the late registration deadline but have no other test date or location options, you can sign up for standby testing for an additional fee of around $50—however, this fee is refunded if you’re denied admission to the test center on test day.
Lastly, you can request that additional score reports are sent to more colleges for $13 each, and you can also request a copy of your ACT test’s exact questions and answers for about $20.
You may be eligible for a fee waiver if you are enrolled in 11th or 12th grade in the U.S. and meet the ACT’s qualifications for demonstrating financial need; you’ll then need to request the waiver from your high school counselor.
Can I reschedule or change my ACT registration?
Yes, you can! You can change your registration details any time before the registration deadline, but it incurs an additional fee.
If you’d like to change whether you want the ACT with the writing section, you can do so for a $15 test option fee. If you’d like to change your test date or test center, there is an additional change fee of about $30. If you change the date or test center after the deadline, you’ll have to pay the late registration fee as well. To make changes, log in to your ACT account and click on “Make changes to your registration.”
How to sign up for the ACT by mail?
Most students are required to sign up for the ACT online, but if you are under 13 or are unable to pay by credit card, you will need to register for the ACT by mail. To do so, you need to request a Register-By-Mail packet. Make sure to allow a few extra weeks in your registration timeline for delivery.