ACT/SAT Testing

Our vision for student success in Tennessee is that all students are equipped with the knowledge and skills to successfully embark on their chosen path in life. Empowering our students to pursue the education and training that matches their chosen career pathway is essential to this vision. In order to prepare our students with the knowledge and skills valued by both employers and postsecondary educators, the department has set two major strategic goals:

  • By 2020, the average composite score on the ACT (or equivalent on the SAT) will be a 21.
  • By 2020, the majority of high school graduates will be on track to receive a postsecondary degree or credential.

Pursuant to T.C.A. § 49-6-6001, all public school students must participate in a postsecondary readiness assessment such as the ACT or SAT. Districts may choose to administer the ACT or the SAT. Districts can also provide both assessments and allow their students to choose the assessment that is right for them.

  • To receive a regular high school diploma, all students enrolled in a Tennessee public school during their eleventh (11th) grade year must take either the ACT or SAT.
  • At the December meeting, the State Board of Education approved a motion to delay completion of the ACT or SAT as a graduation requirement until the 2017-18 school year (updated High School Policy 2.103). Beginning next school year with the class of 2018 (this year's junior class), students enrolled in Tennessee public schools during their eleventh grade year must complete the ACT or SAT prior to graduation.
  • Please note that this change in policy will not result in changes to the accountability policy regarding the ACT, so the department recommends that all students earning a regular diploma complete the ACT or SAT.

Special Announcement

The CCTE division is excited to announce that we will be hosting an ACT Preparation Mini-Conference during this summer’s CTE Institute. The mini-conference will be Thursday and Friday, July 20–21. Intended for middle and high school administrators and teachers, the event will feature sessions on instructional best practices and strategies for building a school-wide culture of student readiness for ACT success. Sessions will be especially relevant to schools and districts implementing the new course Preparing for the ACT, Postsecondary, and Career. Registration is available here through the CTE Institute.

For more information, contact

Contact Information

  • Administration & Policy
  • Educator Resources
  • FAQ
  • Helpful resources to administer the ACT:

    1. ACT, Inc. Webpage for Tennessee Districts & Schools​
    2. Administration Guidelines for Statewide ACT Testing 2016-17
    3. State Board Policy & Accountability FAQs 
  • The ACT assesses students’ cumulative knowledge and skills based on standards taught from elementary to high school. Therefore, all educators in our state play a role in helping students prepare for the ACT. The free resources below may be helpful for both teachers and students in preparing for the ACT. 

    1. Preparing for the ACT, Postsecondary, and Career course standards (effective 2017-18)
    2. Five Best Practices to Support Student ACT Success
    3. ACT Connections – This document highlights content connections between Tennessee Academic Standards and the ACT tested standards.
    4. The ACT Profile – This free resource offered by the ACT, Inc. can help students explore career and college interests.
    5. The ACT Question of the Day – The question of the day is one form of free test prep offered by ACT, Inc.
    6. Preparing for the ACT (2016-17) – This document contains test information, test tips, and a complete ACT practice test with scoring keys and writing prompt.
    7. ACT Tips for Students (2016-17) – Basic test tips that all students should know before taking the ACT.
    8. ACT Tips for Teachers (2016-17) – Basic test tips that all teachers should know to help students prepare for the ACT.
    9. Free online ACT & SAT preparation is available to all Tennesseans through the Tennessee Electronic Library. For instructions on how to use the TEL, download the User Guide for the “College Preparation Center” for ACT & SAT assessments.
    10. ACT High School Report Webinar: This one-hour webinar helps counselors and other educators who advise students regarding their postsecondary plans learn how to interpret and use data from the ACT High School Report.
    11. ACT Profile Report Webinar: This one-hour webinar helps administrators and other secondary educators understand and analyze the aggregate data from their ACT Profile Report and identify implications for curriculum, instruction, and student support in their schools.​
    12. Free Official ACT & SAT Practice Tests
    13. Test Anxiety Toolkit
  • Why should students take the ACT?

    The ACT is a nationally recognized benchmark assessment for college and career readiness. By taking the ACT, students can gain valuable information on their readiness for college and career. The ACT, or SAT, is required for admission to many technical schools, two year colleges, and four year colleges. Standardized tests are often used to determine eligibility for scholarships; for example, a student’s eligibility for the Tennessee HOPE scholarship is based on their ACT or SAT results. 

    The new ACT student report will provide students with valuable information to help with college and career planning. The report includes student’s proficiency level in English language arts (ELA), Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), understanding complex texts, and progress towards career readiness. It also includes suggested colleges and career areas based on student’s scores and career interests, as indicated on the ACT.

    Why do high school students take TNReady and the ACT?

    The ACT and TNReady assessments provide valuable information regarding student achievement and readiness for postsecondary opportunities. Yet, the assessments are distinct from one another in their structure, format, and purpose. For more information about ACT and TN Ready, we invite you to review these Frequently Asked Questions.

    Why is one of the strategic goals for the Tennessee Department of Education to have an average ACT composite score of 21?

    According to the ACT, the benchmark for college readiness is a composite score of 21. The ACT has further broken down the benchmarks into an 18 for English, 22 for Math, 22 for Reading, and 23 for science. If a student is able to score at, or above, these important benchmarks, they have a high probability of success in credit-bearing college courses.

    Also, according to the ACT, if a student is able to meet the score benchmark, they have a 50 percent chance of obtaining a B or higher or a 75 percent chance of obtaining a C or higher in the corresponding college course.

    You can read more about the ACT’s alignment with college and career readiness standards here.

    How will we achieve this goal?

    This goal, which is outlined in our strategic plan Tennessee Succeeds (here), represents more than a number on a test. Improving the average ACT score of Tennessee students will lead to an increase in the number of students who are able to enroll in postsecondary educational opportunities, and, subsequently, a decreased number of students who need remediation when they reach postsecondary. Together, these factors will also contribute to another strategic goal: that a majority of high school graduates will go on to earn a postsecondary certificate or degree. 

    We believe that rigorous state standards and the TNReady assessment are helping to put our students on a strong trajectory toward meeting this goal. We need to continue to push students to take the most rigorous courses available, explore CTE programs of study, and enroll in early postsecondary courses. For the students who have fallen behind, we must provide the supports necessary through strong teaching and response to instruction and intervention.

    In the best interests of our students’ futures and the future of our state, we must shift the conversation from “should I attend postsecondary?” to “which postsecondary should I attend?”

  • Administration & Policy
  • Educator Resources
  • FAQ
  • Under the state college readiness testing program, districts can choose to administer the SAT to all eleventh-grade students during a school day at no cost to students and calculate its results into their accountability framework. Districts choosing this option can offer the SAT in place of the ACT or offer students the option of choosing either the ACT or the SAT. Students who wish to take both should take one at their own expense. 

    The SAT suite of assessments, including the SAT and PSAT-related assessments, are aligned to state academic standards; they reflect what Tennessee students are learning in classrooms across the state and assess skills that are essential for college and career success. These vertically aligned assessments not only provide more information than ever before about each student’s readiness but also connect to distinct opportunities, including:

    Districts and schools that have a large percentage of students in Advanced Placement courses may benefit from using the SAT to meet their college-readiness requirements. 

    SAT School Day

    Districts can choose to administer the SAT to all 11th-grade students during a school day at no cost to students and calculate the results into their accountability framework. Students may also purchase and take the SAT on a Saturday. You can learn more about the SAT test here.

    SAT Dates

    Schools may hold a school-day administration of the SAT on these dates.

    • March 1, 2017
    • April 5, 2017

    SAT Basics

    Total Testing Time

    3 hours + 50 minute essay (optional)

     Test Sections
    • Evidence-Based Reading and Writing
      • Reading Test
      • Writing and Language Test
    • Math
    • Essay (optional)
  • Why should students take the SAT?

    • The SAT is a nationally-accepted measure of college and career readiness.
    • Scores are accepted by all colleges and universities nationwide.
    • SAT scores can be used to connect students to scholarship opportunities.

    How can I help students prepare for the SAT?

    Exams like the ACT and the SAT assess knowledge and skills that students acquire over many years. As such, the best preparation for either exam is high-quality instruction and access to rigorous coursework throughout a student’s academic career. In order to prepare for the structure and format of the SAT exam, the College Board offers the following resources:

    • Free Practice from Khan Academy  - The College Board’s test developers and Khan Academy worked together to bring students Official SAT Practice. Khan Academy offers personalized recommendations for practice, thousands of interactive questions with instant feedback, video lessons that explain problems step by step, and full-length practice tests.
    • Study Tips - Tips on how to use Official SAT Practice and on how to start an SAT study group.