How much the ACT costs comes down to how much you plan ahead. Registering last minute, changing your test center or sending your score reports after getting the results can set you back more than the test itself costs. While low-income students can apply for a fee waiver to cover some of these expenses, it’s less generous than the SAT fee waiver.
How much does the ACT cost?
It costs anywhere from $52 to over $250 to take the ACT. This depends on whether you include the writing section, how you register and how many schools you send your results to, among other factors.
Basic registration fees
There are two basic ACT registration fees:
ACT with writing: $68
The basic registration fee covers the cost of taking the test in addition to a report sent to you, your high school and four universities. You need to provide the college code for four schools you’d like to receive your results when you register to have them sent for free.
Possible fees before the test
Want to make changes to your test? Decide to register at the last minute? You might have to pay one of the following fees:
What it covers
Test option change
Switching from the standard ACT to the ACT with writing.
Registering after the deadline for your test, but before the late registration period is over.
Test date change
Registering for a different test date if you were absent or couldn’t take the test because you didn’t meet the ACT’s security requirements. If you change the date during the late registration period, you also have to pay a late fee.
Test center change
Changing your test center for the same date you were originally registered for.
Registering after the late registration period is over. This fee is refundable is you’re denied admission on test day or if your registration was cancelled because you didn’t provide a photo of yourself.
Additional score reports
Sending score reports to a fifth and sixth school that you selected online before you take the test. This fee is refundable if you decide not to take the test.
When are the ACT registration deadlines?
That depends on when you take the test. General registration closes just over a month before the test, late registration closes three weeks before the test and the standby period closes about a week before the test.
Here are the deadlines for tests in 2020:
Late registration period
Standby request period
January 11 – 17
January 18 – 31
February 29 – March 13
March 14 – 27
May 9 – 22
May 23 – June 5
June 20 – 26
June 27 – July 10
Possible fees after the test
You still might have to pay fees after you take the test — especially if you want to send it to additional schools or get a copy of the test to find out what you got wrong.
What it covers
Additional score report
$13 per report
Sending your ACT scores to another school after you take the exam.
Test information release
A copy of the test and your answers.
Registering over the phone to take the ACT again.
Can the ACT really cost $250?
It can if you aren’t careful. Here’s one scenario where taking the ACT once can set you back over $250:
Sign up for the test with writing: $68
Register late: $30
Change your test date during the standby request period: $55
Send your results to 10 schools after taking the test: $78 ($13 per additional six reports)
Ask for a copy of your test and answers: $22
That gives you a grand total of $253.
Can I get an ACT fee waiver?
Possibly. Students who can’t afford to take the ACT might qualify for a fee waiver to cover the following costs:
20 additional score reports
Am I eligible?
You must be enrolled in 11th or 12th grade at a US high school and meet one of the following criteria:
Enrolled in a program for economically disadvantaged students
Family gets low-income public assistance
Live in a foster home
Live in federally subsidized public housing
Ward of the state or homeless student
How do I apply?
Your high school guidance counselor has to apply for the fee waiver for you. Reach out and let them know you’re interested well before the test so you have time to register without missing the deadline. Once you have the fee waiver, use the serial number on your form when you register for the ACT.
Some states also offer vouchers you can use to cover the basic registration cost. Like the fee waiver, you can receive this through your high school guidance counselor. Vouchers are generally only good for one test date. And if there are any other fees, you’re responsible for payment.
7 tips to keep your ACT cost low
From signing up online to selecting schools before you take the test, here are a few ways to keep costs down:
Register before the deadlines. If you miss the regular deadline, that’ll set you back $30. Miss the late deadline and you’ll have to pay $55 to take the test as a standby.
Stick with your test center. You’ll also have to pay a standby fee if you change your test center at the last minute.
Select schools before taking the test. If you select your schools ahead of time, the ACT only charges $13 to send scores to your fifth and sixth school.
Make your first test count. Each time you register, it’ll cost you at least $52. Study hard and aim to only take it once.
Bring the right kind of ID. If you don’t have a government- or school-issued photo ID, get an ACT student identification form ahead of time, which a school official or notary must complete to verify your identity. Otherwise, you’ll have to pay a test date change fee.
Set multiple alarms the morning of. That test date change fee also applies if you sleep in or otherwise miss your test date.
Sign up online. Avoid the phone re-registration fee — not to mention the wait — by registering for the ACT through its website.
Don’t want to take the ACT? Take the SAT instead
Aside from having a different method of testing and scoring, the SAT is slightly less expensive than the ACT. The basic registration fee for the SAT is $49.40 for the regular test or $64.50 for the test with the essay section. Other costs are also slightly cheaper, and there are fee waivers and reduced prices available for more services.
Stay on top of deadlines and decide where to take the test and send your scores ahead of time. You could get away with only paying $52 to take the ACT — or nothing at all if you qualify for a fee waiver. Learn about other expenses to expect with our guide to college application costs.
Frequently asked questions
You can take the ACT a total of 12 times — which would cost at least $624. And you can only use a fee waiver to cover the cost of two exams.
Yes, but you’ll have to pick a later time to take the test if you miss the standby registration period.
Generally, colleges accept both the ACT and SAT and don’t express preferences for either. Because of this, take the test that’s most affordable and best fits your testing style.
Anna Serio is a trusted lending expert and certified Commercial Loan Officer who's published more than 1,000 articles on Finder to help Americans strengthen their financial literacy. A former editor of a newspaper in Beirut, Anna writes about personal, student, business and car loans. Today, digital publications like Business Insider, CNBC and the Simple Dollar feature her professional commentary, and she earned an Expert Contributor in Finance badge from review site Best Company in 2020.
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