International Students
Taking the ACT From A Student’s Personal Perspective

Our student guest writer details her personal experience taking the ACT and provides her own tips and tricks for what to expect on test day.

So much of our education is built on expectations. Our own expectations, our teachers’ expectations, the expectations of our parents, and even our friends. We strive to meet expectations of things like getting on the soccer team, getting good grades, being a good friend. All of the expectations can make adding another expectation, doing well on a test, feel overwhelming. I’m here to share a bit of my personal experience of taking the ACT: what you can expect, what to do, and what it’s like after it’s all done! It’s really not as bad as you might think!!!

I am currently a junior in high school, and I have taken the ACT three times –– once as a sophomore, once this past June, and again this past October. Neither of these times did I get a tutor or take a crash course. I learned through my own research that the ACT tests on curriculum, so doing well in school meant that I was prepared for the ACT exam. Even without studying specifically FOR the test, I received better scores than I had planned!

My first score was definitely not perfect, but was still good enough to get me in some kind of college. And I met my goal of raising my score by at least two points the second time.

I go to a small private school that doesn’t administer the ACT test. So I had to journey at 7am to a local public school. Being in a different school with new people and not knowing my way around was the hardest part by far; so just know you’re lucky if you get to take the test in your own school! That said, even though I didn’t know my way around, there were lots of testing administrators who were available to point me in the right direction. After getting to the correctly assigned room I began to calm down.

There were about 20 students in my room and one administrator. Each time I took the test, the way I found my assigned seat was different. One time they had my headshot taped to my assigned seat that matched the headshot on my ACT ticket. The other time the teacher just gave me a number that matched a number on a desk.

Just make sure you have everything on the ACT list that you need. See this official ACT link for what to bring, and what to leave behind. (

As for cellphones, I would say just leave it in the car! You can have it on you if it is turned off completely, and I did that the first time. But the whole test I was worrying about it going off. So my second time I just left it in the car.

Once the test starts there are a lot of read directions on how to fill out the form. It was pretty standard so if you’ve taken any similar multiple choice tests, even in elementary school, you’ll be fine. I never brought a watch with me to track the time. Luckily, every time I’ve taken the ACT test, the classrooms had wall clocks. BUT, one of my friend’s classrooms didn’t–– so don’t expect it and plan accordingly.

During the test you’ll get a break. The breaks are just enough time to go to the bathroom, have a few bites of a snack, or maybe chat for a few minutes. I was happy to chat and forget about the test for a few minutes.

Once your room is finished with the last test, and you don’t have to stay for writing, you are free to go. (While not all universities require the writing, I’d recommend taking it. You may end up applying somewhere that needs it, and you don’t want to have to sit for the whole exam again just to take the writing!!)

After the test, I recommend going out to lunch with friends after or making some fun plans if possible so that you have something to look forward to after the long hours of test taking.

And that was my ACT experience!