Are you looking for the best ACT prep book and study guides to boost your test score? Have a look at our expert team’s Top 10 List of the best ACT books for 2018 and read reviews on why we think these prep materials are the most effective. If you are interested, we also maintain a separate overview of the very best ACT prep courses for you and your budget.
Before we present you with our top picks, let’s think about the importance of the ACT. Whether you are a recent high school grad or you want to make a career change, earning a college degree can lead to higher salaries and more job security. And with states like New York offering reduced rates or even free tuition for residents under certain income thresholds (with some restrictions), now is the perfect time to start earning your degree.
We know there are almost countless ACT test prep options available to you, which can be overwhelming. There are many factors that make a test prep book great, including a well-organized, thorough review of the test subject matter (there are five sections on the ACT: English, Math, Reading Science, and an unscored Essay), test-taking tips and strategies, realistic practice questions, and full-length practice tests that help you prepare for the experience of taking the exam.
Check out our list and review below. This reflects what our experts have found to be the 10 Best ACT Prep Books on the market to help you prepare for this rigorous exam. However, if you are the type of learner who needs full support from instructors and the organized structure of a classroom, then an ACT prep course is your best option.
ACT Books – Our Top 3 Picks
► #1 The Real ACT Prep Guide 2018 Edition
The Official ACT Prep Guide is simply a must-have for every ACT test-taker looking for the very best ACT prep book to help them achieve a top score. This 720-page book is published by American College Testing (ACT), who are the official makers of the ACT exam. There is simply no better way to prepare for the ACT than taking practice tests from the company that actually created the test. This book includes three authentic, full-length practice tests, which have finally been updated to reflect recent changes to the ACT exam.
Each test question comes with detailed explanations that outline why the correct answer is, in fact, correct and why the wrong answers are incorrect. These practice tests will help you prepare for the experience of taking the ACT. They will also highlight any areas of weakness you may have so you can focus your studies to help improve your score on test day.
We also like that the people over at ACT are really trying to prepare you for test day. They provide detailed information about the ACT test, how it is scored, how admissions offices use the score, and how to register for the test. They also offer good test taking strategies, devoting one entire section to walk you through ways to improve your score.
Additionally, you also get access to bonus online content. While the content is useful, we were disappointed that we didn’t find any additional practice questions or tests online, which is what you typically get with online content.
The book also includes substantive review and analysis of the types of questions that appear on the ACT, together with useful strategies on how to answer them. However, this part of the book is not overly convincing and other guides on our Best ACT Prep Books list are more effective when it comes to coverage of test material. Therefore, you are well advised to use this book in conjunction with other prep books.
Conclusion: Simply based on its real, official ACT practice tests, there is no way around this book – it’s a clear must-buy.
► #2 Kaplan ACT Prep Plus 2018
ACT Prep Plus 2018 (full title: ACT Prep Plus: 5 Practice Test, Proven Strategies & Online) has now become Kaplan’s flagship ACT study guide (replacing what previously was called the ‘Kaplan Premier’ series). Already fully updated for 2017-2018, this very comprehensive test preparation package provides you with all the tools you need to achieve high scores.
Kaplan’s ACT study guide is not only thorough in covering all the relevant material, it also manages to do so in a highly accessible and easy-to-follow style. Add to this subject specific strategies, advice and tips from a top scoring test-taker, realistic full-length ACT practice tests, access to videos and other resources, and the option of using a digital version of the book on-the-go on your iPad or laptop, and the result is one of the top rated and best ACT books currently on the market.
Particularly noteworthy among the various features is Kaplan’s SmartPoints approach. SmartPoints is designed to help you concentrate on those points that are most likely to be tested on the day of the exam. While it is preferable to have full mastery of less frequently tested areas and background concepts as well, this selective strategy is an interesting option and a boon for efficiency-oriented test-takers.
Kaplan is a test-prep industry leader for good reason. Their guides and curriculum simply work. Kaplan’s ACT Prep Plus is perfect for those looking for a reliable all-around study solution with lots of extras. If your budget allows it, you should also look into Kaplan’s course offerings as they offer the best ACT prep course.
► #3 Tutor Ted’s Guide to the ACT
Looking for a fun (no, really!) way to prep for the ACT? Then look no farther than Tutor Ted’s Guide to the ACT. This book covers each section of the newly revised ACT – English, Math, Reading, Science, and (optional) Writing – in an in-depth yet easily digestible manner.
Tutor Ted, a long-time tutor, former Jeopardy contestant, and a person who scored a perfect 36 on his ACT, offers both substantive and strategic advice on how best to tackle specific aspects of the ACT. Offering guidance on how to address the different types of questions you will encounter as well as addressing potential errors, this book provides an excellent resource to help you maneuver through the ACT. Yet, what makes this particular book stand out from the rest of the pack is the humorous approach it takes to helping students learn. Advocating ways for a student to become a “science ninja” or how to use a “brain tsunami,” Tutor Ted keeps you laughing all the way to a better ACT score. Hands down, Tutor Ted’s Guide to the ACT is one of the best ACT prep books on the market.
Tutor Ted’s Guide to the ACT also has a companion book: Tutor Ted’s ACT Practice Tests. This book gives students a chance to hone and practice their ACT test taking skills. It offers three full length ACT practice tests as well as clear, easy to understand solutions to each of the 645 questions in the tests. It further provides practice prompts for the Enhanced Writing section as well as double reading passages. However, what makes this book more than just a practice test book are the memorable strategies and helpful hints it provides for solving the questions. In addition, this is also a book with personality. Clearly, the author has made a concerted (and successful) effort to bring a little bit of fun into the otherwise boring test taking world. We highly recommend this book. It will definitely keep you interested in motivated as you prepare for test day!
We also liked these ACT Study Guides
Cracking the ACT Premium with 8 Practice Tests & DVD
McGraw-Hill, another well-known test preparation publisher, excels with its ACT 2017 (full title: McGraw Hill-Education ACT 2017, Cross-Platform Edition).
As the title suggests, this is one of the most feature-rich ACT study guides currently on the market. The book offers everything you would expect and more: An introduction to the ACT; a diagnostic test; substantive coverage of all subjects tested on the ACT; strategic advice and tips; eight practice tests (two of which are online); grammar and punctuation rules; an ACT vocabulary list; access to video tutorials; progress reports, digital flash cards; and a smart app for designing customized study schedules. There’s even a game center and the option to connect with other test-takers via social media. We love the diagnostic test, which helps you understand your strengths and weaknesses before you begin your study, helping you to know where to devote more time. We also love their customized study schedule. This tool will help keep you motivated and on-track as you prepare for your test day.
In terms of substance, one of the highlights of this book is its combination of review and strategy. Although there is a general introduction on how to tackle the test, the following chapters combine coverage of each of the test’s sections (i.e. English, Math, Reading, Science Reasoning, and Writing) with specific advice on how to ace these particular aspects of the test. In sum, this book delivers on content and strategy, and is an excellent resource to help you get a top score on your exam.
McGraw Hill’s ACT 2017, Cross Platform Ed.
Industry leader Princeton Review delivers another high-quality book in their “Cracking the…” series with this completely updated Cracking the ACT test prep book that includes a companion DVD.
Princeton Review’s focus is clearly on strategies and techniques to master the ACT and much less on fundamental content review. As such, all the subjects you will be tested on are reviewed and analyzed throughout the book in terms of problem-solving techniques to help you answer the questions in each section. Using the fictitious character Joe Bloggs, Cracking the ACT demonstrates how to use various strategies that will allow you to make the most out of the time provided during the test, make intelligent guesses (if necessary), and avoid common testing traps and pitfalls.
We like that this book also features eight full-length practice exams (five of which are available online), hundreds of practice questions and drills, DVD video tutorials, and additional online resources. If you like to listen to teachers explaining various concepts but can’t take a full ACT prep course, this is a great option.
If you are looking for a more educational book covering the subject matter, there are better books on our Best ACT Test Prep books list. That being said, this is an excellent resource to help you develop test taking strategies and to prepare you for the experience of taking your ACT. Although the techniques used – such as process of elimination, “spot-the-answer”, or efficient note-taking – are not ground-breaking, they work and are proven to boost test scores. As such, they should be in every test-takers arsenal and this book is excellent at teaching students how to use them. Overall, we recommend Cracking the ACT as one of the most motivational and best ACT prep books.
Barron’s ACT 36 – Aiming for the Perfect Score
Barron’s ACT 36 – aptly named after the ACT’s highest possible score of 36 – is an ideal companion for the most ambitious of students. This is the book for those high achievers looking to get a top score and admission to top colleges. If you are determined to go the extra mile, this book may well be the best ACT prep book on our Top 10 list. Although the book’s strengths show most clearly in the English section and parts of Math and Reading, overall it treats all aspects of the test very well.
This guide prepares you to face the most difficult types of questions on the ACT. It offers tougher-than-usual practice tests and drills. You will also find a full-length, very realistic practice test on the companion CD-ROM. While more advanced students will find this guide sufficient, other test-takers should begin with other ACT test prep books we feature on this list first.
Conclusion: This is a superb book for the most dedicated test-takers. It is thorough, well-written, and manageable in size.
Math and Science Workout for the ACT
One of the best ways of raising your ACT score is to focus on the test sections that you can do well on. For many, one of those sections is math. The reason for this is that a review of the rules and rigorous practice enables many students to quickly increase their scores in this section because the Math ACT closely resembles math tests students are accustomed to taking in school.
This book by Princeton Review is designed to take advantage of these facts by offering thorough reviews of math rules, which you probably already know but need some help remembering, with a hefty dose of drills and practice. It also pairs math with a natural complement, science, where it offers the same tools as in the math section (although the book cautions that science scores do not increase as rapidly as math scores). The reviews and practices at the beginning of the book are combined with three full-length ACT practice sections (2 for Math, 1 for Science) at the end, allowing students to practice their newly honed skills in a more extensive setting. This will also help you learn any weak areas where you need to go back for further review.
Overall, we think that this book is aptly titled “workout”. By providing fantastic training advice for math and science, it is one of the best ACT prep books on the market.
The ACT For Bad Test Takers
The ACT for Bad Test Takers is designed to level the playing field. Its “study smart” approach – which teaches, for example, to emphasize the quality of answers over the quantity of questions answered – aims to help students who tend to find it more difficult to realize their full potential on standardized tests.
Unlike traditional ACT prep books, this compact guide’s approach is closer to what students would experience in personal tutoring sessions. The book unbundles each section of the ACT and offers effective strategies that promise to increase your overall score.
The strategy-based approach employed by The ACT for Bad Test Takers is similar to the Princeton Review’s Cracking the ACT, although test-takers have typically found the “Bad Test Takers” strategies to be more effective. However, as the focus on strategy is also more pronounced here, there is an even greater need for readers to supplement this guide with titles that provide opportunities to practice with model tests and questions.
This is likely the best ACT prep book for boosting confidence in your test-taking skills and a highly useful tool to improve your performance.
1,460 ACT Practice Questions
If there is one undeniable fact about best test preparation practices, it is that practice is key.
Recognizing this, The Princeton Review (also the provider of a top ACT prep course) used this revised version of its ACT practice book to compile 1,460 ACT Practice Questions and answers (up from the previous edition’s 1,296 questions!) and put them into a book along with three full-length practice tests, hundreds of additional practice questions (amounting to another three full tests in total, according the authors) modeled after previously administered ACT questions, and drills for each subject.
Going through the practice questions and the in-depth explanations that this book provides is certain to improve scores. We highly recommend this book if you are looking for realistic practice questions – and a lot of them!
McGraw Hill’s 10 ACT Practice Tests
This book from McGraw-Hill is another study guide that offers extensive practice. 10 ACT Practice Tests offers just what the title implies – ten full-length sample tests – and more.
In addition to the tests, there are detailed explanations for every question, complete with a diagnostic score sheet for self-evaluation. The practice test answers are not always easy to understand and convincing, but overall they do a good job at explaining the result and underlying concepts.
Moreover, the book includes strategies for mastering the ACT, an ACT study plan, and other tips and resources. Finally, for those looking for even more practice, the book offers access to bonus online model tests.
While the practice tests are (for obvious reasons) not as realistic as the official ones contained in The Real Act, this title is one of the best ACT books due to its sheer volume of practice tests.
ACT for Dummies with Online Practice Tests
Don’t let this ACT prep book from the popular “Dummies” series fool you. Recently published in this updated and reworked version, ACT for Dummies with Online Practice Tests is a thoughtful and effective study guide. ACT for Dummies – an impressive 528-page book – gives the major prep companies’ publications a run for their money and easily makes our Top 10 list of reviews of the best ACT prep books.
What we like best is how the authors succeed at effortlessly combining review, tips, and practice in a conversational tone – something that becomes particularly clear in the book’s Math coverage, which remains one of the strengths of this series. If you are looking to learn ACT concepts in a light-hearted way, this may well be the ideal test prep manual.
Overall, this is a great book and particularly helpful if used together with the accompanying online study tools and practice tests (three full-length tests are already in the book).
There are some great free resources available to supplement any of the ACT test prep books we reviewed. ACT, the developers of the test, offers a free study guide that includes information about the test, a brief review, and practice questions including a writing prompt.
Magoosh, one of our favorite test prep companies (and not just because we love their name!), offers the Magoosh ACT eBook, a 284 page downloadable eBook, for FREE! This book, which you can instantly access from your favorite device, offers information about the exam format, question types, and includes test taking tips and strategies. You can also answer practice questions. While we don’t recommend using this as your only ACT prep book, it is a great companion resource you can study on the go at a very reasonable price!
We also recommend StudyCrossing, which let’s you find ACT study groups.
If you are ready to register to take the ACT, you can find test dates/locations and complete your online registration from the ACT website.
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Best ACT Prep Book
|Ranking||Publisher||Book Title||Pages||Year||Practice Tests||Price Range|
|1||John Wiley||Real ACT Prep Guide||936||2017||5||$$|
|2||Kaplan||ACT Prep Plus||936||2017||8||$|
|3||Tutor Ted||Tutor Ted's Guide to the ACT||328||2016||N/A||$|
|4||Princeton Review||Cracking the ACT Premium||816||2015||8||$$|
|5||McGraw-Hill||ACT Cross-Platform Course||560||2016||8||$$|
|6||Barron's||ACT 36 - Aiming for the Perfect Score||312||2015||1||$|
|7||Princeton Review||Math and Science Workout for the ACT||240||2015||3||$|
|8||Bad Test Takers||The ACT for Bad Test Takers||154||2012||N/A||$|
|9||Princeton Review||1,460 ACT Practice Questions||688||2015||3||$|
|10||John Wiley||ACT For Dummies||588||2015||6||$|