Which States Require the ACT Full List and Advice

Over the past five years, the number of

states that administer the ACT statewide

has more than doubled: there are now

13 states that require every junior to take the test

and eight more that either require the test in some districts or offer it as a free option for students who wish to take it.

This post explains why these programs exist, which states have them, and how you can take advantage of them if you live in one of these states.

Why Do Some States Require the ACT?

In 2001, when states were first implementing statewide assessment programs, Illinois and Colorado decided that, rather than creating their own tests for high school juniors,

they would contract with ACT, Inc. to use the ACT as a statewide assessment

. (The ACT is generally considered more content based than the SAT, and therefore a better for assessments.)

This plan had the added advantages of

providing every student with the chance to take a college admissions test

and, ideally,

encouraging students who might not have otherwise considered college to apply


Colorado and Illinois were followed by Kentucky, Wyoming, and Michigan in 2007 and then North Dakota and Tennessee in 2009 (although Colorado, Illinois, and Michigan have since switched to the SAT). Since then, the number of states using the ACT as a statewide assessment has almost doubled, and the SAT has created an equivalent program called

SAT School Day

. The spread of the ACT as a state assessment helped it surpass the SAT as the most popular college admissions test in the US 2011-2017 (although recently it’s been overtaken by the SAT once more).

For the 2021-2022 school year, 20 states have a contract with ACT, Inc. to provide free ACT testing to some or all high school juniors at public schools.

Which States Require the ACT?

Of the 12 states that administer the ACT statewide, more than half include the writing (the rest do not). There are also a few states that don’t require the test of all students but allow districts to opt in to the program or give students the choice of which test to take.

States that require all students to take the ACT with Writing

States that require all students to take the ACT (no Writing)

States with other arrangements

  • Arkansas

    — offered but not required; no Writing

  • Kansas

    — offered but not required; no Writing

  • Minnesota

    — SAT or ACT offered

  • Missouri

    — determined by district; not funded

  • Ohio

    — SAT or ACT required; district determines which test

  • Oklahoma

    — SAT with Essay or ACT with Writing required; district determines which test

  • South Carolina

    — SAT or ACT required

  • Tennessee

    — SAT or ACT required (districts may provide either SAT or ACT or allow students to choose)

What Does Statewide Testing Mean For Your ACT Prep?

The short answer is that it doesn’t make a huge difference:

the ACT is the same whether you take it on a state-administered date or one of the regular test days


However, if you do live in one of the states listed above, you may want to tweak your approach to take advantage of some of the state resources available to you. Here are a few things to keep in mind.

You’ll Be Able to Take the Test for Free


the cost of taking the ACT

is a financial burden for your family,

the opportunity to take the test for free

is a valuable one, and you should take advantage by

scheduling your studying accordingly

. Remember that you’ll also be able to send four free score reports.

You may also be

eligible for a fee waiver

, thus giving you the chance to take the test up to three times for free.

You Might Practice for the ACT in School

Because the statewide ACTs can double as an assessment for schools and teachers, you may do some

in-class preparation for the test


This instruction

can help make you more familiar with the test

, which is a key step in preparing for the ACT. High school teachers aren’t always the most knowledgeable about the ACT, however, so if a teacher tells you something about the test that seems off or contradicts what you’ve learned in your prep, make sure to double check it!

There Could Be Other Free Prep Materials or Classes Available to You

Even if your school doesn’t offer in-class ACT prep there might be other resources you can take advantage of like

free prep books or after school classes

. (For example, students in Utah have access to

free ACT study materials

on Shmoop.) Check with a counselor or teacher at your school to find out if you’re eligible for extra study help.

Again, though, you should be mindful of whether the materials are good quality.

The Curve


Be Affected

One key thing that


be affected by whether your state offers free ACT testing is

the score curve


Many students believe that the curve is easier on state-mandated test dates

because more low-scoring students take the test. Though it’s true that scores on these dates are generally lower,

the curve isn’t actually affected

. It’s based on years worth of data, not a single test date.


What’s Next?

Make sure you know

when to start studying for the ACT

and check out

these 5 tips to get you started


Not sure what ACT score you should be shooting for?

Calculate your target score with

this helpful guide


Studying for the ACT can be intimidating.

Our ACT study schedule can help keep you on track.

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