What to Bring (And Not Bring) to the ACT
The day you take your ACT is no doubt an important day in your high school career. For many students, it is the culmination of weeks, if not months, of hard work and preparation. For some students it is even a statewide high school graduation requirement.
Whatever the case may be for you, the importance of the day is likely to bring a bit of anxiety, even if you aren’t typically prone to it. Being nervous about the test isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it usually just indicates that you recognize the importance of the day.
But sometimes that anxiety can impact your ability to think clearly on the morning of the test. If this is the case for you, you will want to be sure that you think well ahead about what you need to bring to the test in order to be ready to go at testing time.
In the best case scenario, you have your bag packed and sitting by the door before you go to sleep the night before your test. If that’s the case, you ensure that getting out the door in the morning is as easy as grabbing your backpack and turning the doorknob. But in the worst case scenario, you stress yourself out even more by running around at the last minute trying to remember everything you need or, even worse, you arrive for the test without required materials and are not allowed to take it.
To make sure that your ACT test day goes as smoothly as possible, be sure to review everything you’ll need to bring with you to your ACT. For our complete list of what to bring, and a few things that you definitely shouldn’t bring, read on.
What are the absolute necessities for the ACT?
- A printed copy of your admissions ticket. You will not be admitted to the test if you do not have a printed copy of your ticket. An electric copy on your phone or laptop will not be enough. You can access your admissions ticket through your online ACT account. Make sure to allow for any unlucky technological difficulties by printing your ticket a few days in advance. You don’t want to wait until the night before the test to find out that your printer is out of ink.
- An acceptable photo identification. If you arrive without a photo ID that meets ACT standards, you will not be allowed into the testing facility. The only forms of identification that are recognized by ACT include:
- Current, official photo ID. This must be an original and current (unexpired) ID issued by a city, state, or federal government agency, or by your school. This could include a drivers license, a passport, or a school ID card. If using a school ID, keep in mind that it must be a hard plastic card format. Paper or electronic formats will not be accepted. Also keep in mind that the names on your ID must exactly match the names on your admissions ticket, and the photo must be clearly recognizable as you. The night before your ACT is not a good time for a facial tattoo or radical hair coloring.
- ACT Student Identification Form with photo. This is usually the alternative for students who not have one of the photo IDs listed above, but if you need to use one of these forms, you will need to get it lined up and filled out in the week before the test. It’s unlikely that you will be able to gather everything you need for it the night before your test. It must be filled out by a school official or a notary public, and neither may be related to you. Be sure that all items are completed on the form.
- ACT Talent Search Student Identification Form. If you are participating in an academic talent search program and were not required to submit a photo with your registration, you must present your ACT Talent Search Identification form. Keep in mind, though, that If you are participating in an academic talent search program and were required to submit a photo when you registered, you must present either a current official photo ID or an ACT Student Identification Form with photo.
What else do I really need to bring to the ACT?
Just bringing your photo identification and your printed admissions ticket will be enough to get you in the door at the test center, so if you’re on a sinking ship and can only grab two things, those should be your go-to’s. That said, you’re really not off to a stellar start if you show up for your ACT without anything else. Here are a few more things you should definitely bring:
- At least two #2 pencils with erasers. While you obviously need these to take the test, they are often available at the test center for any student who forgets them, or you’re likely to be able to borrow one if push comes to shove (which we hope it doesn’t). #2 pencils are the only type of writing utensils allowed on the test, so you don’t need to bother bringing any alternatives, even for the Essay section. Also, keep in mind that mechanical pencils are not allowed.
- An approved calculator. While the entire math section can technically be solved without a calculator, the average student would be at a distinct disadvantage without one. It’s your responsibility to read the ACT Calculator Policy closely to ensure that your calculator is acceptable. Keep in mind that the following are prohibited:
- Handheld, tablet, or laptop computers, including PDAs
- Electronic writing pads or pen-input devices
- Calculators built into cell phones or any other electronic communication devices
- Calculators with a typewriter keypad (letter keys in QWERTY format)
- Calculators with built-in or downloaded computer algebra system functionality.
In particular, note that the popular TI-89 series is not allowed due to its built-in algebra system functionality. This calculator is the prohibited model most frequently confiscated at ACT tests.
What can I choose to bring to my ACT?
You’re off to a solid start if you have each of the items discussed above, but there are a few more things that you might choose to bring if you want to really ensure you’re prepared.
- Food and Drinks. While you aren’t actually allowed to bring these into the test room, you can leave them in your bag outside the room to consume during breaks. You will need to stay hydrated and energized throughout the test, so make sure that you bring some water and some healthy snacks. Trail mix or protein bars are good choices during your first break, while a piece of dark chocolate or other small candy can be helpful to give you a quick burst of energy during the last break, if you’re taking the optional Essay.
- Sweatshirt. You probably won’t know how the climate control is set in your testing room until you arrive, so it’s a good idea to bring an easy layer that can be quickly added or taken off as needed. Being uncomfortably cold or uncomfortably hot during the test can be distracting, but you won’t have to worry about it if you plan ahead.
- A watch that doesn’t make noise. Your testing room may or may not have a visible clock in it, and your test proctor is only required to warn you about the time when there are five minutes remaining on each section. When a test is as quickly paced as the ACT, you’ll want to be able to keep closer track of time. The only way to ensure that is by bringing your own watch. Be certain to make sure that it doesn’t have any beeping sounds or alarms set on it; if it does make any noise, you may be asked to leave. It should also have no purpose aside from time-keeping. Watches with built-in cameras, Internet connectivity, or fitness trackers are strictly prohibited.
What should I leave at home on ACT test day?
So, you have packed everything that’s required, plus a few more things to keep you on the path for success. Should you add some extras just to be safe? How about some highlighters or some books to read if you finish early? Think again. If you bring unapproved materials into the testing room, you could be dismissed and your scores canceled. Here are a few things that you definitely should NOT bring:
- Reference materials. The ACT is not an open-book test. You may not bring reference books, textbooks, or foreign language or other dictionaries. You can’t even bring blank scrap paper. In order to standardize the test as completely as possible, the same materials need to be supplied for everyone, so anything that you bring in addition that what’s provided would give you an unfair advantage.
- Active reading supplies. Unless you have been approved to test with accommodations and those specific accommodations allow you the use of colored pens or markers, you may not bring any active reading supplies to the test. This includes highlighters, post-it notes, and correction fluid/tape.
- Any electronic device. Other than your calculator, you may not have any electronic device in the testing room. This includes cell phones, smart watches, fitness trackers, media players, iPads, headphones, cameras, or anything else that is not specifically allowed by the ACT.
- Reading material. It’s not likely that you’ll find yourself with a ton of time to sit around at the end of any section, but if you do, you are still not allowed to stretch out and do some leisure reading. No reading materials are allowed in the test room, as the chances of including some type of relevant material are too great and would therefore give you an unfair advantage.
Are there any specific rules I should know about?
There is a very strict electronic device policy enforced by the ACT during testing. The use of cell phones and electronic devices is prohibited from the time you are admitted to your testing room until you are dismissed at the end of the test. This includes break times.
Specifically, you may not handle or access a cell phone or electronic device at any time in the testing room or during break times. This also includes smart watches, fitness bands, and any other devices with recording, Internet, or communication capabilities. All devices, including cell phones and wearable devices, must be turned off and placed out of sight. If you do access your device or if your device activates while in the testing room or during break times, you will be dismissed, your test will not be scored, and your phone or device may be taken away.
This is no joke, so it’s best to leave your phone in the car.
The day of your ACT can be a stressful enough without the last minute rush to locate your admissions ticket or find a pencil. Do yourself a favor and have your bag packed and ready to go well in advance to ensure that you don’t fall victim to the anxiety that comes with being unprepared.
To learn more about the ACT test, check out these CollegeVine posts:
- What Is a Good ACT Score?
- ACT vs SAT/SAT Subject Tests
- When Should I Take the SAT or ACT?
- 13 Tips for ACT Test Day
- How the ACT’s Graded: A Breakdown
- Which Section of the SAT and ACT Is Most Important?
- 3 Grammar Rules Every Student Messes Up On the ACT
- ACT Statistics: Participation and Rankings By State