Facebook Pixel Code
 

Best ACT Prep Books

Updated November 2018
Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
Bottom Line
Pros
Cons
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

  • 16 Models Considered
  • 68 Hours Researched
  • 1 Experts Interviewed
  • 94 Consumers Consulted
  • Zero products received from manufacturers.

    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best ACT prep books

    Last Updated November 2018

    Applying to college is a demanding process, and for many students, taking the ACT is usually one of the more challenging steps. Fortunately, a good ACT prep book can help alleviate a lot of your concern and worry surrounding the test and help you achieve your best possible score.

    There are many ACT prep books on the market, and not all of them offer the same features or level of preparation. That’s why it’s important to know what to look for, such as test-taking strategies, subject reviews, sample questions and explanations, and practice tests, so you can feel completely prepared to take the exam.

    At BestReviews, our goal is to help make shopping as simple as possible. We purchase all our own products, so our recommendations are objective. We consult with experts to help determine the most crucial features in the items we’re evaluating, and then we field test some of the top products to see how well they perform. All of that research allows us to pass along the key information you need to make the right shopping decisions.

    Ready to buy an ACT prep book? Check out our top recommendations in the product list above. For general tips on choosing an ACT prep book, keep reading our shopping guide.

    Pace yourself carefully when you take the practice tests in your prep book. That will help you establish effective time-management skills when you sit for the actual exam.

    What is the ACT?

    The ACT is a standardized test that’s used for college admissions throughout the United States. It contains four subject sections: English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning. There’s also an optional Writing section.

    All four-year colleges and universities in the United States accept the ACT as part of their admissions application, but it is only one of the criteria that they use. The test is offered in February, April, June, July, September, October, and December each year, though the February and July tests aren’t available in some states.

    What does the ACT measure?

    The various sections of the ACT are designed to evaluate the skills necessary to succeed in college, as well as skills that are developed in college.

    • The ACT English Test helps assess a student’s knowledge of word usage, sentence structure, and rhetoric. It consists of 75 questions that are based on five reading passages. It must be completed within 45 minutes.

    • The ACT Math Test measures a student’s knowledge of pre-algebra, algebra, intermediate algebra, plane geometry, coordinate geometry, and trigonometry concepts. It consists of 60 questions and permits the use of an approved calculator. It must be completed within 60 minutes.  

    • The ACT Reading Test helps assess a student’s ability to recognize key ideas, writing styles, and structure. It consists of 40 questions based on five prose passages. It must be completed within 35 minutes.

    • The ACT Science Reasoning Test measures a student’s ability to interpret, analyze, evaluate, reason, and solve problems on natural science topics. It consists of 40 questions that must be completed within 35 minutes.

    • The optional ACT Writing Test evaluates a student’s writing skills. The prompt provides a specific issue and three different perspectives on it. The student must evaluate the three perspectives, adopt one perspective, and explain how his or her perspective lines up with those provided. There is no particular essay structure required. The test must be completed within 40 minutes.

    EXPERT TIP

    Create a daily study schedule with your ACT prep book. You’ll get better results if you study for 30 minutes each day instead of four hours one day a week.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    How is the ACT scored?

    Each of the four main sections of the ACT is scored on a scale of 1 to 36. The rounded average of the four scores provides a student’s composite score.

    The optional writing section is scored on a scale of 2 to 12 for two scorers, and the two scores are averaged together for a total score out of 12. Your writing score isn’t factored into your ACT composite score.

    ACT prep book features to consider

    Test overview

    To take the anxiety and surprise out of test day, an ACT prep book should have a complete overview of the exam. It should cover each section, the number of questions each contains, and how long you have to work on each section. You don’t want any surprises when you sit down to take the actual test.

    Diagnostic test

    When you start studying for the ACT, it helps to know what subjects or areas you need particular help in so you can budget your time accordingly. Many prep books feature some sort of diagnostic test or diagnostic drills for each section, which allow you to gauge your skills and knowledge.

    For example, you might learn that you do well on concepts relating to algebra but not as well on topics related to plane geometry. When you review the sections, you’ll know you should work especially carefully on the geometry questions to help improve your skills.

    The ACT has fairly strict rules regarding which calculators can be used for the Math Test. Visit the ACT website to find out if your particular calculator is approved for the exam.

    Test-taking strategies

    An ACT prep book should also provide general test-taking strategies that can help you throughout the entire exam. Some tips the book might offer include the following.

    • How to pace yourself (effective time management)

    • How to review the directions for each test

    • How to assess which questions to answer first

    • How to determine when it’s appropriate to guess

    Test section reviews

    When you study for the ACT, you should review all of the concepts that the exam might cover. Choose a prep book that provides comprehensive reviews for each test section to make sure you know all of the concepts that might turn up on the exam.

    • English Test: A section review for this test should cover punctuation, word usage, sentence structure, word choice, writing style and tone, topic development, and cohesion.

    • Math Test: A section review for this test should cover real and complex number systems, algebra, functions, geometry, statistics and probability, rates and percentages, proportional relationships, area and volume, and modeling.

    • Reading Test: A section review for this test should cover how to identify main ideas, interpret significant details, compare facts, understand cause-and-effect relationships, determine word meaning in context, and analyze the author’s voice.

    • Science Test: A section review for this test should cover biology, chemistry, geology, meteorology, astronomy, and physics.

    Use the full amount of time allowed for each section of the ACT. If you finish early, review your work and reconsider your answers to the hardest questions.

    Sample questions and explanations

    To help you understand how to approach the content on the ACT, a prep book should offer a wide range of sample questions so you can understand how they’re typically phrased and set up for each test section. However, it’s not enough to simply see sample questions with the correct answers. The book should also offer detailed explanations of each answer to help you understand the concepts behind them in case you see similar questions on exam day.

    Some ACT prep books offer nearly 2,000 sample questions and explanations. It’s best to choose a book with at least 1,500 practice questions and answers for the most thorough studying.

    Practice tests and answers

    One of the most effective ways to study for the ACT is by taking practice exams. They’ll help you evaluate your progress and see how close you are to your score goal.

    A good ACT prep book should offer several practice exams with an answer key. Most books offer at least three, but some include as many as six. Choose a book with at least three so you can take one at the start of your test prep, one midway through, and one close to test day.

    If you want to change an answer on the ACT, make sure to completely erase first mark. Smudges on the test sheet may affect your score.

    Supplemental study aids

    Many ACT prep books offer additional study tools to help you prepare for the exam, such as the following.

    • Online practice exams

    • Online video tutorials by expert teachers of the test subjects

    • CD-ROM with practice questions and explanations

    ACT prep book prices

    ACT prep book prices vary depending on how many practice tests and questions they offer, as well as what supplemental materials they provide. In general, you can expect to spend between $10 and $35.

    • Inexpensive: An ACT prep book that features one to two practice exams, approximately 1,500 practice questions, and no supplemental materials typically costs between $10 and $15.

    • Mid-range: An ACT prep book that features two to four practice exams, approximately 1,800 practice questions, and some supplemental materials typically costs between $15 and $25.

    • Expensive: An ACT prep book that features four to six practice tests, approximately 2,000 practice questions, and a variety of supplemental materials typically costs between $25 and $35.

    EXPERT TIP

    The ACT doesn’t penalize you for wrong answers. You’re better off guessing and answering every question than you are leaving tough ones blank.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Tips

    • Have a goal. When you start studying with your ACT prep book, it helps to have a specific goal in mind. Consider the colleges that you want to attend, and determine your score goal based on the average ACT score of their accepted students.

    • Buy more than one book. If you’re really concerned about the ACT, you may want to purchase more than one prep book. You’ll have more practice questions and tests to use for your studying, which can help you feel more prepared.

    • Take the first practice test before you begin studying. Taking a practice ACT test will give you a baseline score that can help you determine what to focus on and how far you need to go to reach your goal.

    • Don’t cram right before the ACT. It’s best not to try to cram the night before taking the ACT. If you’ve studied with a good prep book in the weeks leading up to the test, there’s no need to stress yourself out. Take the evening off to relax so you can go into the exam feeling fresh and rested.
    When you take the practice tests in your ACT prep book, simulate actual exam day conditions. Devote the full two hours and 55 minutes to the test, without interruptions.

    FAQ

    Q. When should I start studying with an ACT prep book?
    A.
    The amount of time needed to prepare for the ACT depends on how much work you need to do and the pace at which you prefer to study. In general, you should give yourself at least three months to study for the exam with your prep book so you have enough time to cover all of the material.

    Q. Can an ACT prep book replace an in-person prep class?
    A.
    It depends on the type of student you are. If you work well independently, a book, plus some supplemental video tutorials, may be all you need to prepare for the test. However, if you don’t study as well on your own, a prep class can help keep you focused. You can then use the prep book to work on the lessons that you covered in the class.

    Q. How important is my ACT score to my college application?
    A.
    Colleges usually pay close attention to standardized test scores like the ACT because it’s an easy to way to compare applicants from different high schools across the country. However, your score isn’t the only criterion they use when they evaluate your application. You can also distinguish yourself with a solid GPA, a strong record of extracurricular activities, interesting essays, and/or impressive interviews.

    The team that worked on this review
    • Alice
      Alice
      Web Producer
    • Bronwyn
      Bronwyn
      Editor
    • Devangana
      Devangana
      Web Producer
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer
      Writer
    • Kyle
      Kyle
      Writer
    • Melissa
      Melissa
      Senior Editor

    BestReviews wants to be better. Please take our 3-minute survey,
    and give us feedback about your visit today.

    Take Survey