Every year high school students across the United States sharpen their No. 2 pencils for the standardized ACT test, which measures learning in English, math, reading and science, and includes an optional essay component. Colleges and universities rely on ACT scores when making admissions decisions. Ordinarily students register for a regular test date, but some take what ACT calls a "Residual Test" instead.
Taking the ACT on National Test Days
Most students sit for the exam during one of six national test days, which fall during September, October, December, February, April or June. Many take the test at their own high schools; ACT recruits local schools as test sites.
Taking a Residual ACT Test
The Residual Test does not differ in substance from the regular ACT. Instead, it allows universities to administer it on-campus "for the purpose of obtaining data on their enrolled, admitted, or applicant students who were unable to take the ACT on a regularly scheduled test date in time to meet the college's deadlines." The program helps universities accommodate students who have already decided where to attend college, but who still need ACT scores to complete their files.
ACT strictly polices Residual Testing. Universities cannot administer Residual Tests on national exam dates, and if they test non-students, they can lose their eligibility to administer the ACT on-campus.
Different Rules Apply to Residual Testing
Residual Testing procedures also restrict students. For a fee, those who take the exam on a regular date can send score reports to as many universities as they want. A student who takes a Residual Test will not have this option. Only the university that administered the ACT will receive her scores.
ACT will waive testing fees for some students who take the exam on a regular testing date, but students cannot apply fee waivers to Residual Tests.
Students who want to retake the exam after a Residual Test must sit during a national test date.
Rules on Conflicts of Interest
Because universities administer Residual Tests without direct ACT supervision, university employees cannot oversee testing of students to whom they are related. To prevent fraud or conflicts of interest, ACT rules also forbid university athletic coaches from supervising test-taking by prospective student athletes.
Chris Malcolm is a writer with a background in journalism, law and politics. A former student journalist and editor, he now works as a writer, researcher and consultant. Malcolm holds a Juris Doctor from the University of Texas and an M.A. in indigenous governance from the University of Victoria.