Test Day Checklist


You’ve done your ACT prep lessons, looked over your homework, drilled yourself on grammar rules and mathematical formulas and concepts, and now you’re finally ready to take the ACT. Have you checked to make sure you have everything ready for test day? This article offers you some advice on what to bring to the ACT on test day—and what you shouldn’t bring.


What to Bring to the ACT


If you’re reading this article, chances are you’re taking the ACT. I hope you’ve registered to take the test! You have to complete your registration for the ACT online well before the test day. Registration isn’t difficult; you just need to enter your information and choose a testing center. After you’ve completed the ACT registration process, you’ll have the option of printing out your admission ticket. Do so! You can always log in to your ACT account if you lose your admission ticket and need to reprint it. It’s wise to keep it in a safe place so you’ll have easy access to it on test day, however.


Beyond your admission ticket, what do you need to bring with you to the testing center on the day of the ACT?


Here’s what the official ACT web site has to say about what to bring to the ACT. Let’s have a look:


  • Bring a printed copy of your ticket to the test center. If you have lost your ticket, you can print another through your ACT web account. If you do not bring your ticket, your scores will be delayed.
  • Bring acceptable photo identification. You will not be admitted to test if your ID does not meet ACT requirements.
  • Bring sharpened, soft lead No. 2 pencils with good erasers (no mechanical pencils or ink pens). Do not bring any other writing instruments; you will not be allowed to use them. If you are registered for the ACT with writing, your essay must also be completed in pencil.
  • Bring a watch to pace yourself, but do not bring a watch with an alarm. If your alarm sounds during testing, you’ll be dismissed and your answers will not be scored. No watch? No problem. The supervisor in standard time rooms will announce when you have five minutes remaining on each test.
  • Bring a permitted calculator to be used on the mathematics test only. It is your responsibility to know whether your calculator is permitted. Please refer to the ACT Calculator Policy (PDF). To make it even easier to figure out, you are not required to use a calculator at all.

Pretty simple, right?


Let’s review these items one by one.


Your Admission Ticket


Like I’ve mentioned, you need to register to take the ACT in advance, and when you’ve completed the registration process and chosen your testing date and testing center, you’ll be given the option to print out your ACT admission ticket. Now’s the day to bring it! Be sure you haven’t left your house without your admissiont ticket. The last thing you want to have to do is turn around to find it. Chances are, you’ll be late and miss the test! So print it out and keep it somewhere you can readily access it the morning of the ACT.


Acceptable Photo ID


In addition to your ACT admission ticket, you’ll want to bring a piece of acceptable photo ID to the testing center the morning of the ACT. But what exactly constitutes acceptable photo ID?


For most students, a photo ID issued by the government (either a state ID or a driver’s license) will work perfectly. Another form of acceptable photo ID that you can present when taking the ACT is an ID card issued by your school.


Check the ACT web site to ensure that the type of photo ID you possess constitutes an acceptable piece of photo ID.


Since the goal of having students present photo ID when taking the ACT is to verify that the person taking the exam is the person who registered to take the exam (rather than another person, which might raise the suspicion of cheating), you want to ensure your appearance on test day more or less matches your appearance in the photos you present. Don’t undergo any drastic makeoves that might leave you unrecognizable to the test administrators.


No. 2 Pencils


Oh, the classic No. 2 pencil. It’s a staple of student life, and you’re going to want to be absolutely sure that you have a working writing utensil with No. 2 lead when taking the ACT. The ACT answer document is graded by Scantron, which ONLY reads marks made by a No. 2 pencil. Mechanical pencils are fine, so long as they have No. 2 lead.


Bring a couple sharpened pencils (and your own personal pencil sharpener if it strikes your fancy!) to ensure that you’re ready to make legible and accurate marks on your answer document.


A Watch That Doesn’t Have an Annoying Alarm


The ACT is a timed test, and many students struggle pacing themselves appropriately when taking the ACT. Some blaze through the test, nervous of the ticking clock and time limit it enforces, while others go far too slowly, pausing to ponder each question for thirty minutes before moving on to the next. In order to have a good idea of how much time you’ve spent in each section of the test and to alert you when time will soon be up, it’s wise to have a wristwatch.


You don’t, however, want annoying beeping sounds and alarms to constantly disrupt your fellow test-takers. If you have a watch that makes an inordinate amount of noise, you might be asked to leave the testing center, and who would want to deal with that complication?


Be sure you have an accurate, working watch that won’t disturb others. Glance at your watch every now and then to gain an idea of how much time you’ve spent on each section and how much time currently remains on each section. In the final minute or so before time is called, be sure that you’ve answered EVERY question. The ACT, you’ll recall, doesn’t penalize you for missing questions. It only rewards you for correctly answering questions — so it’s to your great advantage not to leave any question blank on the ACT. Just pick a letter combination that you like (C/H, perhaps) and bubble that combination all down the line on the questions you didn’t have time to attempt.


Make sure you don’t try to bring a smart watch (like an Apple Watch) into the testing center. Watches that allow you to access data networks and send text messages are NOT allowed in the testing center, as such devices are far too intelligent for their own good and run the risk of compromising the integrity of the exam.


An Approved Calculator


The only section you can use a calculator on when taking the ACT is the second section, which is the math section. Although you don’t NEED a calculator to arrive at the correct answer to each question, it’s certainly going to make your life vastly easier when you need to perform difficult calculations. Your calculator is a very powerful tool if you know how to use it correctly. It would behoove you, then, to be certain that you’re well acquainted with your calculator and all the amazing things it can help you achieve.


No one wants their calculator to run out of batteries in the middle of a crucial calculation, by the way. Be sure that your calculator is stocked with fresh batteries, and if you’re the “What If” sort of person, you might even want to bring an extra set (or two!) of batteries with you to the testing center. You can stow these underneath your desk, as in all likelihood you won’t be allowed to have them on your desk during the testing process. If you need to access your replacement batteries, raise your hand or quietly get the attention of the proctor for permission to do so.


Before you bring your calculator with you to the ACT, however, you need to check that your calculator is on the ACT’s list of approved calculators. No one wants to bring a calculator thinking they’ll be able to use it on the ACT only to find out moments before the test that their particular make and model of calculator is expressly prohibited. It would be wise, then, to check the ACT web site’s list of approved calculators to verify that the device you’re hoping to use on the ACT math section has been approved by the test administrators.


Snacks and Drinks for the Break

Don’t forget to bring a snack and drink, if you’d like, to give yourself an extra boost of energy during the test. If all you think about while taking the test is how hungry or thirsty you are, then you won’t be giving 110% on test day.


Choose a healthy snack and drink, please! You’ll be glad you did 🙂


What NOT to Bring


Don’t get kicked out of the ACT for bringing any of these items that the ACT web site expressly discourages you from bringing:


  • Textbooks, foreign language or other dictionaries, scratch paper, notes, or other aids
  • Highlight pens, colored pens or pencils, or correction fluid/tape
  • Any electronic device, other than a permitted calculator (this includes your mobile phone, smart watch, fitness band, media player, iPad, headphones, and camera)
  • Reading material
  • Tobacco in any form
  • Food or beverages, including water (you will be offered a break outside of the test room)
  • Prohibited devices

Prohibited devices: ACT reminds you that upon registration, you agreed to the Terms and Conditions: Testing Rules and Policies for the ACT (PDF). In particular, we’d like to bring your attention to the prohibited use of cell phones and electronic devices.

Make sure to pay a visit to the link in the paragraph above; it contains a list of prohibited devices, and you want to be sure NOT to bring a device such as a cell phone or laptop that might get you in trouble on your important day.


Now that you know what to bring to the ACT and what you should not bring, go forth and get that perfect score you’ve been working so hard to achieve! We’re rooting for you.

* * *

That’s it! For more SAT and ACT prep tips, as well as college admissions advice, check out the rest of our blog. Looking for 1-on-1 ACT or SAT prep tutoring? Want to join an SAT or ACT group class? Contact us today!



Share This