ACT Test Dates 2020: When to Take the Exam

Padya Paramita

ACT Test Dates 2020: When to Take the Exam

As junior year knocks on the door and you start thinking about college applications, one of the ways you can take advantage of the time you have before the pressure of senior year kicks in is by getting standardized testing out of the way. If you think that you’d benefit from a science section, the use of multiple-choice questions across the board, and the allowance of a calculator at all times, you might prefer the ACT. Once you’ve made your decision of ACT vs. SAT, you’ll need to find out when the ACT test dates 2020 are.

Knowing when you’ll take the ACT can help you stay organized. Once you look through when the test is offered, it’s important that you use the time until exam day to practice as hard as you can. To help guide you through the planning process, I’ve outlined the upcoming ACT test dates 2020, provided you with more of a concrete picture of the ACT exam, and gone over factors to keep in mind when deciding if the ACT is right for you and if so, when you should take it. 

List of ACT Test Dates 2020

The following table lists all of the ACT test dates 2020 along with the registration dates that have been announced so far on the ACT website. Use this information to ensure that you give yourself plenty of time to prepare and achieve the best score possible.

Test Date Registration Date Late Registration Window
February 8, 2020 January 10, 2020 January 11-17, 2020
April 4, 2020 February 28, 2020 February 29-March 13, 2020
June 13, 2020 May 8, 2020 May 9-22, 2020
July 18, 2020 June 19, 2020 June 20-26, 2020
September 12, 2020 TBA TBA
October 24, 2020 TBA TBA
December 12, 2020 TBA TBA

If you miss the regular registration deadline, the ACT test dates 2020 also come with a late registration period. You have to pay an additional $30 on top of the regular ACT cost, which is $52, and $68 if you opt for the writing section. The last thing you want is to study hard and practice for weeks, only to have the deadline pass you by accidentally. It’s safer to act fast and make sure you register as early as you can so that you don’t miss the deadline. Clear up the logistical matters so that you can focus all your energy on studying when the time comes!  

SAT vs ACT: Understanding the Difference in Structures

Since the majority of schools that want you to submit standardized test results accept both SAT and ACT scores, you might be wondering which of the two exams is more suitable for you. One of the most significant differences between the two lies in the fact that the ACT includes a science section. The science section isn’t about knowing hard science facts, but it's almost like a reading comprehension test. If that sounds like something you’d be good at, you might prefer the ACT. Take a look at the structural differences between the two to gain a better understanding of what sets them apart:

Criterion SAT ACT
English (ACT); Writing and Language (SAT) 35 minutes; 44 questions 45 minutes; 75 questions
Math 80 minutes; 58 questions 60 minutes; 60 questions
Evidence-Based Reading 65 minutes; 52 questions 35 minutes; 40 questions
Science N/A 35 minutes; 40 questions
Essay (optional) 50 minutes; 1 essay 40 minutes; 1 essay
Total Duration 3 hours (without essay); 3 hours 50 minutes (with essay) 2 hours 55 minutes (without essay); 3 hours 40 minutes (with essay)
Calculator Policy Some math questions don't allow the use of a calculator. A calculator may be used for all math questions.
Score Range 1200-1600 1-36

Since the two look quite similar structurally - minus the science section - you might still be struggling with the question of which test can bring out your best side. It could help to know that the ACT is generally known for being easier in terms of difficulty, but you have to finish answering everything at a much faster pace than the SAT - as you can see from the duration of the various sections compared to the number of questions. If you’re still unable to make up your mind, the best way to determine which test is the right one for your strengths is to take a full practice exam for both. You might end up discovering that you’re much more comfortable with the material asked by the ACT math section than the SAT. 

Another point of distinction when it comes to the ACT test dates 2020 is that you can take the ACT in certain months when the SAT isn’t held, such as February, April, July, and September. If these times work better for you, you might opt for the ACT. 

Many students often wonder whether they still need to submit SAT subject tests if they take the ACT. The answer is yes. The ACT doesn’t have a similar exam that demonstrates your prowess in a certain subject area like physics or biology. Although it’s not as widely required as the SAT or ACT, many top schools do expect you to submit subject test scores, especially if you’re aiming to apply for highly specific programs such as engineering or business. In such cases, your plan of which of the ACT test dates 2020 you want to sign up for depends on when SAT subject tests are offered so that you don’t end up having to take all your exams too close to each other. Leave plenty of time to study for both tests so that you can achieve high scores all around. 

You might also be wondering whether admissions officers want to see students take both the SAT and the ACT. The answer is no, and it’s not necessary at all. If you end up taking both to see where you excel, that’s understandable, but it won’t add much to your application if you submit both scores.

Other Factors to Keep In Mind

As you plan around the ACT test dates 2020, it’s key for you to think about the timeline. Start preparing early, during the summer before junior year ideally, so that you can take it junior fall (the September or October test dates) when there isn’t as much pressure on you. Once you’ve started senior year, you’ll have to juggle schoolwork, college applications, and essays, so it’s best to take the ACT once - or a couple of times - before you’ve started 12th grade. Of course, you can’t predict what happens, and you might not score as highly on your ACT the first or second time. Three is the maximum number of sittings to aim for, as admissions officers can see how many times you’ve taken the test. At that point, if your results are still not as great as you’d hoped for, you should focus on other components of your application.

While your ACT score definitely matters, college admissions officers do understand that it’s the product of your performance on a single day. If your number isn’t the greatest after multiple sittings, there are other pieces at play. Your GPA is definitely the more important factor, as it showcases your academic ability over a prolonged period of time. Plus, even if you do have a good ACT score, you’ll still need to excel in areas such as your extracurriculars and personal statement in order to distinguish yourself from other strong applicants.

Finally, make sure that you know which ACT test dates 2020 are the last possible options for the early decision/early action and regular decision application rounds. For almost all schools, the last session for ED and EA is the October date and the latest you can take the ACT for RD is the December date. While you make your plans, check to ensure you’re not registered for a date when you won’t be able to send your result to the colleges on your list.

As you prepare for one of the upcoming ACT test dates 2020, remember that the best way to optimize your chances of a high score is to practice. Regardless of whether it’s your first time or you’re retaking it, it’s essential for you to stay organized throughout the process so that you don’t miss the registration deadline, allow yourself plenty of study time, and are also able to build other parts of your profile. Happy studying!

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