What to Take (and Not to Take) to the ACT

By Lisa Zimmer Hatch, Scott A. Hatch

From the kind of pencil you should bring to the kind of watch you should wear, everything matters when you’re preparing for the ACT test. Here is a list of what you should take to the test center, and what you should leave at home.

Be sure that you have the following with you before you leave for the ACT test center:

  • Admission ticket. You can print your ticket when you register online. If you register by mail, you’ll receive your ticket in the mail by about two weeks before the exam. If you don’t have the ticket by then or if you got it but lost it, call the ACT Test Administration at 319-337-1270.

  • Pencils. Take a bunch of sharpened No. 2 pencils with you, as well as a big eraser and a small pencil sharpener. Mechanical pencils aren’t allowed.

  • Map or directions. Go to the test center a few days before the actual exam, and scope out your driving route and parking area. Often, the ACT is given at high schools or colleges that have parking lots far, far away from the test rooms.

  • Clothing. Dress in layers and be prepared for anything. Schools that host the ACT often turn off the heat for the weekend (the ACT is usually offered on a Saturday), and the test room can be freezing cold. Alternately, in the summer, schools turn off the air conditioning, making the room boiling hot.

  • Photo ID. You need to upload a photo when you register for the test and bring a photo ID to the exam. If you don’t have a photo ID, you can bring a letter of identification from your school.

  • Eyeglasses. Don’t forget your reading glasses at home! If you wear contacts, be sure to bring cleaning/wetting solution in case you have to take the lenses out and reinsert them.

  • Snack. For the ten-minute break between the Math and Reading Tests, bring an energy bar or some peanuts, something with protein and carbohydrates. Leave the candy bars at home.

  • Watch. Bring a watch, and place it on the desk where you can refer to it easily. Digital watches may not be allowed, so stick with ones that have faces and hands. Also, if your watch makes a sound, you may be asked to leave, and your test may be cancelled!

  • Calculator. The ACT gurus allow you to use a calculator only on the Mathematics Test. For all practical purposes, you can use any calculator (yes, even a graphing calculator) as long as it doesn’t make a noise or have a computer algebra system. Make sure the one you bring has at least a square root function and, ideally, basic trigonometry functions.

Do not take the following items with you to the ACT test room:

  • Cellphones and other electronic devices. Leave your cellphone in the car; you aren’t allowed to bring it into the test room. The same goes for other electronics, such as iPads, PC tablets, or anything else that can access the Internet.

  • Books and notes. Leave all your books at home; you aren’t allowed to take them into the test room with you.

  • Scratch paper. You may not bring your own scratch paper to the test, and you don’t receive any scratch paper during the exam. Fortunately, the exam booklet has plenty of blank space on which you can do your calculations.