The first ACT of the calendar year is always in February. In 2021, the test date is February 6 with a registration deadline of January 15 for no late fees.
Juniors Who Haven't Tested Yet
At LEAP we encourage students to wait until they have at least 50% of algebra 2 under their belt before taking an official test. By February of the junior year virtually all students have met out math benchmark and are ready for official testing.
While it then seems obvious those who haven't yet tested should tackle an official test this round, it's not that simple. Over half the states offer an official ACT or SAT to all the students in the junior class. In Ohio, where I live, these school day tests are given during the week. The first of the test dates from which schools choose is in late February each year. If you are unsure whether you'll have school day testing, checking with your school counselor to verify before registering on your own.
If you are a junior who lives in a state that does NOT test every student AND you've not taken the ACT yet (and plan to focus on ACT, not SAT), we recommend you register to take the ACT in February.
However, for students taking an ACT in February or March through school day testing, you may want to hold off on the official February ACT given on a Saturday. On the other hand, some students perform best with multiple attempts close together - they sort of get in a testing groove. These student would likely benefit from taking the early February national test date then quickly make a second attempt during school day testing where they would likely see another boost especially if they are purposeful in tackling test prep with a plan.
While LEAP offers customized testing timeline suggestions, request yours here now, we also rely on students to know themselves and parents will likely know them even better. You should know, based on past academic performance, whether you would benefit from what we'll call "stacked testing" or need some breathing room between tests.
Juniors Who Have Tested
If you've taken one attempt, in most cases, we highly encourage a second attempt. ACT's own data shows across all students (those who prep and those who don't) students have a 57% chance of increasing their scores. LEAP data shows for those who do our prep, you have a 96% chance of improving your score.
Taking the test twice = better scores!
If you don't have a school day test in your future, jump on the February ACT with the hopes of knowing by the end of February you've prepped, tested, and can put testing behind you knowing you've put your best foot forward. Then you can dedicate more time to doing what is one of the more fun parts of the college-bound journey.....college visits and selection.
If you've tested two or more times but haven't hit the mark of your goal score, first figure out why: unrealistic goal score? you've not taken testing seriously? you didn't prep because you think you didn't need to?
If it's the second or third reason, make a plan to improve your score with a strategy and tackle the February ACT.
Who Should Wait
Whether through school day testing or national testing, LEAP generally is a fan of February/March ACT and SAT testing. However, students in a time consuming winter extracurricular may want to forego testing to a less busy time when they can focus on meaningful prep.
While for most the window has closed for testing, there is one particular unique situation where it might just make sense. Take Lindsay's story.
It was winter of her senior year. Applications had long been submitted and she even had an acceptance or two. She thought testing was in her rearview mirror. However, when her mom was on the financial aid website for her target college, she noticed Lindsay was just 1 ACT point away from a substantial increase in merit scholarships at the out of state public with a high price tag.
Her mom contacted us for what to do because Lindsay was showing signs of a case of "senioritis". When we put into context the time (4 hours on test day and 5 hours of additional prep) and cost (several hundred dollars) with the benefit three-fourths off out of state tuition, Lindsay began to recover and gave it a shot.
In the end, she hit her newly revised goal score and saved tens of thousands on college tuitions. So for some seniors, testing truly pays off.