ACT & SAT Testing

Contact Information

  • General Inquiries:  ACT.Questions@tn.gov
  • Testing Logistics:  Philip.Jacobs@tn.gov,  (615) 253-6312
  • Student Readiness and Preparation:  Jerre.Maynor@tn.gov,  (615) 253-3780
  • Data & Accountability:  Evan.Kramer@tn.gov,  (615) 761-6623

In order to prepare our students with the knowledge and skills valued by both employers and postsecondary educators, the Tennessee Department of Education has set two major strategic goals:

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

Legal Requirement

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 (11) grade year must take either the ACT or SAT.
  • Beginning with the graduating class of 2018, students enrolled in Tennessee public schools during their eleventh grade year must complete the ACT or SAT prior to graduation (see High School Policy 2.103).


ACT
  • 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 2017-18
    3. ACT Senior Retake Opportunity Implementation Guide 2017
    4. 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. ACT Toolkit
    2. Preparing for the ACT, Postsecondary, and Career course standards (effective 2017-18)
    3. Five Best Practices to Support Student ACT Success
    4. ACT Connections – This document highlights content connections between Tennessee Academic Standards and the ACT tested standards.
    5. 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.
    6. Free Official ACT & SAT Practice Tests
    7. Test Anxiety Toolkit
    8. Drive to 55: Pathways to Postsecondary Report
  • 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. However, the assessments are different from one another in their structure, format, and purpose. For more information about ACT and TNReady, we encourage 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 the goal of an average ACT composite score of 21?

    This goal, which is outlined in our strategic plan Tennessee Succeeds, 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 our academic 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?”

SAT
  • Administration & Policy
  • Educator Resources
  • FAQ
  • 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 eleventh 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 7, 2018
    • March 21, 2018
    • April 10, 2018
    • April 24, 2018
    • Make-up date: Schools must use one date from above for their makeup date, and it must be after the primary testing date they choose.

    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)
  • SAT Resources

  • 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.

Special Announcements

ACT Senior Retake Opportunity

For the second year, the state is providing an opportunity for all seniors to retake the ACT or take it for the first time if they missed it as a junior. Any public high school senior, regardless of socioeconomic status, is eligible to take the ACT free of charge in October. Tennessee is the first state to offer the retake opportunity on a statewide scale.  Click here for the 2017-18 ACT Senior Retake Opportunity Implementation Guide.

ACT Preparation Pilot Report

During the 2016-17 school year, nearly 100 high schools across 49 districts participated in the department’s ACT Preparation Pilot. Participating districts adopted standards for a new elective course—Preparing for the ACT, Postsecondary, and Career—and agreed to participate in online webinars and end-of-course surveys. In addition to demonstrating growth on the ACT, analysis of the pilot revealed that student perceptions of their school’s culture had a significant impact on their plans to attend postsecondary. We invite you to download the department’s report detailing results and analysis of the ACT Preparation Pilot, as well as key considerations for implementing ACT preparation in your district. For more information, please contact Jerre.Maynor@tn.gov