What to Bring to the ACT on Test Day

Student sitting next to a backpack researching what to bring to the ACT on test day
April 26, 2024
5 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Mary Banks

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/26/24

Are you writing the ACT soon? Are you curious about what to bring to the ACT and what to leave at home? This guide has got you covered!

The ACT, like the SAT, is an entrance exam that many colleges use to review candidates during the admissions process. While several colleges are becoming test-optional, the ACT is still written by over 1 million students a year nationwide! 

With the stress of preparing for your test, getting there on time, and acing it, it can be easy to overlook what to bring to the ACT. To ensure you have everything you need to write the ACT, this guide will go over what you should and shouldn’t bring on test day!

What to Bring to the ACT

Let’s start with what you should bring:

  • Your admission ticket: ensure you print a copy of your admission ticket before heading to the test center to avoid any delays
  • Acceptable photo identification: you will not be admitted to the test center unless you bring a photo ID with you
  • Optional masks: masks are no longer required at most test centers, but it’s recommended that you still wear one
  • Number 2 pencils: bring at least two sharpened Number 2 pencils with good erases to write with. You will not be permitted to write with any other materials, including mechanical pencils and pens. You will have the chance to sharpen your pencils during your break if need be
  • A watch: you can bring a timer, water, or stopwatch to ensure you pace yourself during your test, but it should not have an alarm. Your watch must remain on your desk, visible to staff during the test
  • A calculator: students should bring two permitted calculators that can be used on the mathematics test only. Bringing two ensures you have a backup in case any technical problems arise.
  • Snacks: to eat during your breaks
  • Water: to drink during your breaks

To ensure your photo ID will be accepted, check it against these criteria: 

  • A current (valid and unexpired) government official ID issued by a city/state/federal government agency or your school
  • A hard, plastic card format. No paper, pictures, or electronic formats will be accepted
  • Your first and last name on your ID must match the names on your admission ticket

Similarly, if you’re wondering if your calculator is permitted for the ACT, the following calculators are prohibited:

  • Calculators with built-in or downloaded computer algebra system functionality
  • Handheld, tablet, or laptop computers
  • Electronic writing pads or pen-input devices 
  • Calculators built into cell phones or any other communication device
  • Calculators with QWERTY format letter keys

In test centers that offer computer-based testing, you may have an on-screen calculator available, but should also bring your own for safe measures. 

Unacceptable Forms of ID

Here's a heads-up on what won't fly as a valid ID for the test.

  • Just your ACT ticket
  • Birth certificate
  • ChildFind ID card
  • Credit, debit, bank, or check cashing cards, even if they have a photo
  • Diploma
  • Family photo or graduation picture, even if your name is on it
  • Fishing or hunting license
  • ID from your job
  • A letter confirming your ID that isn't an official ACT form
  • LA Wallet
  • Learner's driving permit without a photo
  • Temporary or replacement driver's license without a photo
  • Membership cards for organizations
  • Passport or other photo ID that's too old to identify you
  • Someone recognizing you, including test center staff, classmates, parents, counselors, or teachers
  • Your parents' photo ID
  • A photo with your name printed by a photographer
  • Copies or reproductions
  • Photos from businesses for promotions (like amusement parks)
  • A police report for a stolen wallet or purse
  • Printed, stamped, or photocopied signatures
  • Published photos, like from a yearbook or newspaper
  • Report card
  • Social Security card
  • Calling counselors, teachers, or school officials
  • A traffic ticket, even with a description and signature
  • Transcript, even with a photo
  • A webpage with your photo
A Young Woman Packing her Backpack while Sitting on a Bed

What NOT to Bring to the ACT

Here’s what you shouldn’t bring to the ACT:

  • Any textbooks or reading materials
  • Foreign language or other dictionaries
  • Scratch paper 
  • Notes or other aids
  • Highlighters, pens, colored pencils, correction fluid/tape
  • Any electronic device aside from permitted calculators and accepted timing devices
  • Tobacco in any form

Of course, you will not have access to your cell phones. While you can keep them on you, they must be out of sight, and you must follow these rules:

  • You cannot handle or access your cell phone at any time during your test or your breaks. You are also prohibited from using smartwatches, fitness bands, or other devices with internet, Wifi, recording, or communication capabilities
  • All devices must be turned off during the test, and breaks
  • If you access your device during the test or it activates an alarm, you will be dismissed, your test may not be scored, and your phone may be taken away

Double-check that you’ve turned off any alarms, silenced your phone, and turned it off before you enter the test center. If you can, you should avoid bringing it into the test center completely to prevent any mishaps. 

As part of the agreement you sign during the registration process, you acknowledge the test center’s right to cancel your test or scores if you fail to follow any of these regulations.

FAQs: Things to Bring to the ACT

What should a student bring to the ACT test? How much time does the ACT exam require? These are just some of the questions students have. Keep reading to learn all about what to bring to the ACT, and what to expect. 

1. Can I Bring a Water Bottle to the ACT?

Yes, you can bring a water bottle to the ACT but will have to leave it in your backpack during the test. You will only be allowed to drink from it during your break(s). 

2. Should I Bring Snacks to the ACT?

Considering you’ll need to arrive at your ACT test center by 8:00 am, you’ll likely skip breakfast, either because of nerves or to make sure you get to the center on time. The exam will be three to three-and-a-half hours long, so bringing snacks can prevent your hunger from distracting you during your exam!

3. Can I Bring a Calculator to the ACT?

Yes, you may bring a permitted calculator to the ACT. Computer-based testing centers typically have on-screen calculators that you can use, but you may bring one or two of your own calculators as well.

There are certain calculators you are prohibited from bringing and simple modifications you must make to your calculators if they have certain functions:

  • Calculators that can hold programs: remove all programs that have computer algebra system functionality
  • Calculators that make noise: turn off the sound
  • Calculators with power cords: remove all power/electrical cords
  • Calculators with an infrared data port: completely cover the infrared data port with duct tape or electrician’s tape
  • Calculators with paper tape: remove the tape

If you’d like to bring extra batteries for your calculator to avoid any issues, you are permitted to do so. 

4. Can I Bring My Cell Phone to the ACT?

While you can bring your cell phone to the ACT as long as it is off, out of sight, and silent, you should avoid bringing it into the test center if you can. You won’t be able to use it during your breaks anyway, so there is no point having it!

5. How Many Breaks Will I Get During the ACT?

You will get one ten-minute break once you’ve completed the English and Math sections of the ACT. If you’re also writing the optional essay, you will receive a five-minute break before the writing section. 

6. How Long Does the ACT Test Take?

The ACT takes about 3 hours to complete, including a short break. If you opt for the essay (the ACT Plus Writing), expect it to last around 3 hours and 40 minutes, including breaks. 

7. How Many Breaks Are Given During Test?

During the test, you'll have one ten-minute break after the Reading section and another five-minute break after the multiple-choice sections. If your exam starts around 7:45 AM, expect to finish between 11:30 AM and 1:00 PM, depending on whether you take the optional essay.

Final Thoughts

Create a checklist for yourself of what to bring to the ACT and go over it the night before your test. Pick a comfortable outfit, have all of your snacks packed, your pencils sharpened, and your admission ticket printed so you can start your test on the right foot, without any hassle! 

Good luck on your exam!

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