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. View the FAQ on the policy here.

As part of the Tennessee Student Assessment Transparency Act of 2016,the General Assembly voted to allow each student who takes a postsecondary readiness assessment as a high school junior to be provided the opportunity to retake it as a senior free of cost. Information about the ACT Senior Retake Opportunity is available here. To assist your students in preparing for the ACT, please review these Five Best Practices to Support Student ACT Success and practice test information on the Tennessee Electronic Library

Special Update - Webinars on Utilizing ACT Reports

The department is partnering with ACT, Inc. to provide two webinars to help Tennessee educators and administrators make the most of the data schools and districts receive from ACT, Inc., including the ACT High School Report and the ACT Profile Report. The content for these webinars has been developed exclusively for Tennessee.

The webinars will be hosted on Tuesday, Jan. 10, and Wednesday, Jan. 11, with a morning and afternoon option each day. Event details and registration links are available below.

Registration is now open, and we encourage you to sign up early. Archived recordings will be available on this webpage following the events. Questions about the ACT or the upcoming webinars may be directed to

  • ACT High School Report Webinar: This one-hour webinar will help counselors and other educators who advise students regarding their postsecondary plans learn how to interpret and use data from the ACT High School Report.
  • ACT Profile Report Webinar: This one-hour webinar will help 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.
  • ACT Senior Retake Opportunity
  • Educator Resources
  • FAQ
  • Tennessee is the first state in the nation to offer all public school seniors a free ACT retake opportunity. Most students who retake the ACT improve their composite score by an average of one point. Combined data from Tennessee public and private school students show that students who retake the exam increase their scores by at least one point on average when retaking the exam and score at least three points higher than juniors who only take the test once. More information about the ACT Senior Retake Opportunity is below.

    1. ACT Senior Retake Opportunity Announcement Press Release
    2. ACT Senior Retake Opportunity Implementation Guide
    3. ACT Online Registration Guide
    4. ACT Senior Retake Opportunity – Parent & Community Letter Template
  • 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. ACT Connections – This document highlights content connections between Tennessee Academic Standards and the ACT tested standards.
    3. The ACT Profile – This free resource offered by the ACT, Inc. can help students explore career and college interests.
    4. The ACT Question of the Day – The question of the day is one form of free test prep offered by ACT, Inc.
    5. 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.    
    6. ACT Tips for Students (2016-17) – Basic test tips that all students should know before taking the ACT.
    7. ACT Tips for Teachers (2016-17) – Basic test tips that all teachers should know to help students prepare for the ACT.
    8. 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.
    9. All Things ACT/SAT Webinar (Sept. 7, 2016)
    10. Administration Guidelines for the 2016-17 State ACT Program 
  • 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?”

    ACT Testing Logistics

    The statewide testing date for Tennessee students is Tuesday, March 21, 2017. The ACT will be administered to all high school juniors on this day, free of charge. The makeup test date will be April 19, 2017. More information about test administration and accommodations can be found here.

    National Test Dates: In addition to testing on the statewide testing date, students can take the ACT on any of the national test dates. If a student wishes to take the ACT on a national test date, the cost is $39.50 (or $56.50 with writing). Students with demonstrated economic need are eligible for two additional fee waivers to cover the cost of the ACT. Information on the comparisons between the statewide testing and national testing programs can be found here.

    Fee Waivers: The ACT offers fee waivers to all students who are currently enrolled in the 11th or 12th grade, either a U.S. citizen or testing in the U.S., U.S. territories, or Puerto Rico, and meet one or more indicators of economic need listed on the ACT waiver form. Forms can only be obtained through high school counselors.

    How will ACT be factored into accountability during the 2015-16 school year?

    A new system will be used to evaluate district performance beginning with the 2015-16 school year. As part of the new system, the department will evaluate district ACT participation rates and performance. This memo explains the method that will be used for incorporating ACT data into the district accountability framework in 2015-16 and in subsequent years. Memo highlights include:

    • ACT data used in district accountability in 2015-16 will be from the 2015 graduating class and represent each student’s most recent ACT composite score.
    • The ACT participation rate requirement for 2015-16 accountability is 80 percent (the participation rate will be increased to 95 percent in future years).
    • ACT performance in 2015-16 will be based on district relative ranking and TVAAS data.

    The shift to include ACT in accountability aligns with the department’s five-year strategic plan, Tennessee Succeeds, which states our ambitious goal of having the statewide average ACT composite score of 21 by 2020. We want to prepare students for the reality that by 2025 the majority of jobs in Tennessee will require some form of postsecondary training.

    If you have questions regarding the use of ACT in accountability, please email

    How can I help students prepare for the ACT?

    One of the best ways to help students prepare for the ACT is to provide rigorous instruction that promotes critical thinking, problem solving, and content knowledge, especially in math and English. To support teachers and students in understanding the connections between Tennessee academic standards (assessed through TNReady) and the ACT subject test standards, we have created an ACT Connections document.

    Listed below are several free resources you can use to supplement student preparation for the ACT.

    Additional information is available under the 'Educator Resources' tab heading.

  • If you have questions about the ACT, please contact Jerre Maynor at

    For information about ACT Testing, please visit the ACT Website.

    For information about SAT College Board Testing, please visit the SAT Website.


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

The SAT is offered to students at test centers on national test dates or on a school day in the both the fall and spring of the academic year. Districts across the country are increasingly partnering with the College Board to administer the SAT to all juniors or seniors in their home school during the school day. SAT School Day supports students by fostering a college-going culture and removing the barriers that prevent many students from taking this important step to college.

SAT Cost

The cost of the SAT (without essay) to districts is $38.50.

The College Board offers a lower cost to districts that meet certain low-income thresholds.

For more information on this option contact Raphael Curtis (

SAT Dates

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

  • October 19, 2016
  • March 1, 2017
  • April 5, 2017

There will be no SAT senior retake option for this year. Depending on district participation, that may be an option in the future.

For more information, please contact Raphael Curtis, director of state and district partnerships, at or (770) 225-4097. You may also contact Philip Jacobs of the Tennessee Department of Education’s office of assessment logistics at