Requesting English Learner Supports

ACT provides supports on the ACT® test to US students who are not proficient in English. These supports are designed to improve access and equity for those students whose proficiency in English might prevent them from fully demonstrating the skills and knowledge they have learned in school.

Timely submission of proper documentation is required to ensure decisions related to providing EL supports.

Available English Learner Supports

English learners may utilize one or all of following supports if approved by ACT:

  • Extended time, not to exceed time and a half
  • Approved word-to-word bilingual dictionary (no definitions)
  • Test directions in the native language
  • Testing in a familiar environment/small group

Determining English Learner Supports on the ACT

ACT has adopted the following guiding principles for responding to requests from examinees identified as English learners for test supports:

  1. Requirements and procedures for test supports must ensure fairness for all examinees, both those seeking supports and those testing under standard conditions.
  2. Supports must be appropriate and reasonable for those with English learner needs.
  3. Documentation of English learner status must meet guidelines established herein. Examinees must provide information about prior supports received in a similar setting, such as in academic classes and other testing situations.

This document was developed by ACT to provide individual examinees and educational programs/ schools with specific information about ACT's policies regarding criteria for establishing an examinee’s English learner status and the process for requesting supports on the ACT test. The timely submission of proper documentation will help avoid delays in decisions related to providing supports and other services for examinees identified as English learners.

Criteria for Establishing English Learner Status

ACT follows criteria outlined in US federal law for establishing English learner status, mainly criteria identified in the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA).

To be eligible for supports on the basis of English learning needs, an examinee must provide proof of enrollment at a school located within the United States, US territories, or Puerto Rico and documentation of one or more of the following:

  • Limited English Proficiency
  • Participation in an English language Acquisition program
  • Current supports received in school for English learner needs.

Supporting Documentation

Supporting documentation may include but is not limited to:

  • English language proficiency assessment results (such as WIDA, ELPA21 and TOEFL)
  • Confirmation of eligibility or participation in an English language program
  • an EL Plan, official support or accommodations plan

Supporting documentation does not include:

  • English language proficiency screeners
  • Passports
  • Applications to US schools
  • Exchange student status
  • Student visas
  • Work samples


Resources for EL Supports
ACT Test Translated Directions for English Learners (PDF) Translation of the test directions for the ACT test booklet in 18 languages
ACT-Approved Bilingual Word-to-Word Dictionaries (PDF)Guidelines and a detailed list of approved word-to-word dictionaries for use by examinees approved for English learner supports
English Learner Infographic (PDF)Quick visual reference about available EL supports 
Infografía del Estudiante de Inglés (PDF)Quick visual reference about available EL supports (Spanish version of above)

Supporting English Learners on the ACT

ACT sought the counsel and advice of numerous education, research, and policy professionals who have expertise in identifying and serving English learners. Namely, ACT convened a Blue Ribbon panel, conducted market research, and developed a robust internal research agenda to determine the impact on providing supports to English learners. The panel carefully examined the potential impacts of each proposed support on construct validity, evaluated compliance with applicable federal and state laws regulating ACT, and considered impacts to our stakeholders in determining a fair test experience and delivery for all examinees, both those seeking supports and those testing under standard conditions. ACT acknowledges and appreciates their valuable contributions.