Cracking the ACT exam and gaining admission into the college of your choice is a cup of tea!
You might be thinking; Is it really that easy?
It surely is.
You just need the right ACT prep book, hard work and strong determination to crack the exam.
How do you know whether a study guide is right for you?
For that, I’m here to help. Following are my comprehensive reviews of the best ACT exam prep books. Go through the reviews and decide which prep book is best for you.
First, let's look at the comparison table of the best ACT prep books below!
- 1 Best ACT Prep Books for 2020
- 1.1 The Official ACT Prep Pack with6 Full Practice Tests
- 1.2 Barron's ACT, 3rd Edition: With Bonus Online Tests
- 1.3 Kaplan's ACT Prep Plus 2020: 5 Practice Tests +Proven Strategies + Online
- 1.4 Barron's ACT 36, With Bonus Online Tests
- 1.5 Cracking the ACT with 6 Practice Tests
- 1.6 ACT Prep Black Book: The Most Effective ACT Strategies Ever Published
- 1.7 Up Your Score: ACT: The Underground Guide to Outsmarting "The Test”
- 1.8 McGraw-Hill Education: Top 50 ACT Math Skills for a Top Score
- 1.9 Manhattan 5 lb. Book of ACT Practice Problems
- 1.10 McGraw-Hill ACT ELITE 2020
- 1.11 What is the ACT exam?
- 1.12 Tips and test-taking strategies:
- 1.13 Summing it up:
Best ACT Prep Books for 2020
No. of Pages
The Princeton Review
ACT Prep Books
You can also check the complete review of the Best ACT prep Books!
The official Act Prep guide is one of the top-rated ACT prep books.
You wonder what makes it the best. Let me explain:
The official ACT Prep Pack is the best-selling study guide for the students who are preparing for the ACT exam. This guide is the only official prep guide written by the certified exam makers. It contains real test questions taken from previous official exams. You won’t be stumped by any questions on ACT exam day because there won’t be any that you see for the first time. The official study guide leads you step by step from registration to your score report, and explains effective test-taking strategies.
The ACT exam is a bit weird and will test concepts in ways you have never seen before. It simply means you need to train yourself with realistic questions so you can learn the patterns of this exam. This ACT prep guide comes with six full-length practice tests. The tests allow you to learn the ACT tips and tricks, and strategies you need to use in the exam. The book and online content includes actual ACT test forms.
This Act prep book also contains additional questions and material that includes articles on every topic. Topics start with preparing a college application and getting into your top school of choice, and end with succeeding in college. The Official ACT Prep Pack contains data on scoring well in your writing test. New reporting categories and tips on how to prepare for the exam and score high are also mentioned. The official guide offers an additional 400 practice questions that are available online.
The limitation of this ACT prep book is that some questions are from the old guide, which refers to old question patterns. The advantage is that those questions are still appropriate for the newer version of the exam. Regardless of these limitations, it's still the best test preparation book overall in our list.
The Official Act Prep Pack is informally called the ACT Red Book. This is the only book written by the certified exam makers. The questions in this book are similar to what you'll find in the ACT exam. Though the book has some limitations, we still recommend it as the best ACT prep book overall for your test preparation.
Barron’s ACT provides the best value for your money. It's the best budget pick for ACT prep books. This book has a low price, but still maintains high quality if you're preparing to take the ACT exam.
The additional benefit of this ACT Prep Book is that questions are similar to those in the exam. You won't be shocked with harder questions because you already have practiced and prepared for them. Practicing test questions in Barron's ACT will boost your confidence.
If you're looking for a large amount of content, practice questions and strategies in a single ACT prep book, this book is for you. It is one of the best ACT prep books to clearly guide you to a top score.
The Barron's ACT prep book starts with an introduction to ACT, provides a study plan and then tests you with a diagnostic test to measure your level. It contains about 50 pages for each section, which includes test-taking strategies, skills, and concept questions and practice tests.
The ACT study guide clearly explains the main concepts you'll need to learn for the ACT exam. It also illustrates math concepts like algebra and coordinate geometry. The book also reviews data representation, research summary and questions in the science section.
This ACT practice book offers many suggestions that are unique and can't be found in other study guides. All these strategies will increase your score, but for those who want to score high we would suggest Barron’s 36 because of the more-difficult questions presented. This guide has many benefits and only a few limitations. At a low price, it's definitely a must-have ACT prep book.
Barron’s ACT has the best value and is a budget pick for the ACT exam. The book is available at a low price, but is still of high quality. The questions in this study guide are similar to ones in the actual test. For those who want to score high, we recommend Barron's 36 for practicing difficult questions. Barron’s has many strengths and very few limitations.
Kaplan's ACT Prep Plus is one of the best ACT prep books that provide an appropriate section review and guides you in the right direction. It is one of the longest ACT prep books and gives very good explanations of answers so that you won’t be confused or frustrated while practicing questions.
Kaplan's ACT Prep Plus includes expert strategies, online practices and video tutorials that help you crack the exam. You'll be able to face the exam with confidence.
Kaplan is an official partner for live online prep for the ACT test. Kaplan's ACT Prep Plus provides proper guidance and guarantee that after studying with online resources, you'll score high in the ACT . Otherwise, you get your money back. You're able to log in from any place to watch videos, lessons, complete quizzes and practice tests.
Kaplan ACT prep also has a feature called "smart points" that tells you which questions are asked more in the exam. This allows you to focus on those portions of the ACT exam that are important and frequently asked in the exams. “Smart points” helps you save time while studying for the exam because you already know which questions are the most important.
Kaplan prep has a lot of information, but some of strategies take time to understand and will actually take a long time to effectively apply in the actual test. Some questions in the study guide are easier than questions in the exam. English and reading sections are easier than the actual test. Math and science are also easy.
Kaplan's Act Prep Book covers all sections and contains practice questions and tests. It covers the most important concepts but it won’t excel in every topic. It has reasonable content when compared to any other book. I won’t recommend the book if you want to improve your ACT score but if you want a single source then you can go with this ACT Prep Book.
Barron’s 36 is a great Act prep book for those who want to score high. It contains a lot of questions that are harder than questions in the ACT test. This means you will be prepared to answer any question other students may skip.
This ACT prep book offers advice and strategies for cracking the most difficult ACT questions. It also provides extra-challenging practice tests in English, Math, Reading, Science and the optional Writing test. For boosting your science score, it gives special tips. It also provides detailed advice on how to write a winning easy. Finally, the authors provide instructions on reading effectively.
The book can be purchased with an optional CD-ROM that includes a full-length ACT practice test which closely matches the actual ACT exam. The CD-ROM also includes 50 extra-difficult questions with answers.
This ACT prep book offers advanced ACT tips and tricks, and concepts not found in other study guides. These advanced strategies and concepts will help you score high in the exam.
Barron's 36 is best for scoring high in the exam. If you're taking the exam for the first time, we recommend that you also purchase another overall review guide. This ACT Prep Book does not include things like basic test-taking strategies and tips to avoid common errors people generally make on the exam.
This ACT study guide provides only one full-length practice test. Even though it has some limitations, it's on our list for high scorers.
The Barron's ACT 36 prep book is for high scorers. If you're taking the exam for the first time, I suggest that you purchase another overall review book. The Barron's ACT 36 study guide doesn’t include basic test-taking strategies and tips for cracking the most common errors. This guide comes at a low price and is only recommended for those who want to score high.
Cracking the ACT is the all-in-one solution to getting a high score in the ACT exam. The big advantage of this best prep ACT book is it will simplify the basics and make it easy for you to learn of all of the subjects. You won’t be frustrated or get confused about certain review topics.
This comprehensive traditional Act prep book provides a full review of concept, practice questions and techniques. It offers in-depth coverage of math and science sections, but not the English and reading sections.
Cracking the ACT study guide covers math concepts and important grammar rules you need to know for the exam. It also provides ways to use the process of elimination, and offers ACT tips about the order in which to answer questions to save time and help you decide which questions to answer.
Every section in this ACT prep book has sample questions. The book provides six full practice tests: four of them in the book itself and two online. The study guide is good at basics, but some concepts will be difficult to group with the help of this book alone.
The explanation of English grammar concepts in this prep book is fine, but lacks thoroughness. The reading section has good strategies.
The practice tests given in this Act prep book are generally easier than in the actual ACT test. The practice questions aren’t official, which means you will be unprepared for the exam.
Cracking the Act Prep Book is good at simplifying the basics and making it easy to learn all the subjects. You won’t get confused or frustrated ith certain topics. It has a clean layout and is very easy to follow. I would recommend that you purchase another Act prep book if you want to learn things beyond the basics.
The Act Prep Black Book focuses on important strategies to crack the different level of ACT exam questions. It provides you with unique and effective ACT strategies from Mike Barrett. Barrett is an ACT tutor who has clients across the world who pay him hundreds of dollars for an hour of phone tutoring.
This ACT practice book helps to work on the weakness and timing issues a student will face during the exam. It teaches you the general process for answering ACT test questions. It will also teach you techniques and strategies to answer math questions. It advises on how to tackle the English questions. It less concerned about teaching you the skills and more focused on how the test will work.
Ideas offered in this Act prep book will motivate you to work harder. Strategies given in the book are more helpful because you will learn not to only depend on ACT tricks. The book treats every student as different. Therefore, it provides alternative strategies and suggests you try them to know which one will work best for you.
Answer explanations in this study guide are detailed and the author finds the best approach to explain answers to each question. The book helps you use ACT’s design and flaws to gain a better score. It is clear and concise. It explains how every question works and how to crack ACT questions in the least amount of time.
Question explanations are based on the old 3rd edition of the red book. If you have that book, it will be difficult or impossible to use this black Act prep book. Most explanations of the questions cover the hardest questions in the red book. If you are scoring low on these questions, these explanations will seem confusing.
If you are weak in any particular area, this book alone will not help you to master that area. For example, if you are weak in algebra then you will need another Act prep book as a supplement to master that area. The science and English sections of this Act prep book are not as strong as the reading and math sections. The English section is less about understanding and more about mastering grammar rules.
The Act Prep Black Book is the only critical book which I can recommend. You cannot only use this Act prep book. You will need another guide as a supplement. Moreover, the book has not been updated since 2014. This prep book will teach you a lot, but it will take a lot of time and energy. It is for students who are willing to understand the ACT exam and how it works.
Up Your Score is the Act prep book that is an alternative to big, bad, boring Act prep books. Up Your Score is the underground Act Prep Book for those million kids who take the ACT every year. Up Your Score: ACT is written by Chris Arp, who is a Princeton graduate.
This prep book offers a fun approach to preparing for the ACT exam. It explains the ACT format and concepts in a humorous way so you can easily remember them and provides some test-taking strategies.
The book also deals with the issues of stress and pressure students can face during the exam and offers advice to boost your confidence. It is different from traditional prep books. It explains how students can deal with stress and frustration during the ACT test.
The book helps with the ACT reading section by showing you how to develop the five habits of lean-forward reading. It also shows you how to treat reading like a conversation and how to pay attention to direction words. It help you master the math section by using techniques like "plugging in," which is an amazing trick that will simplify all algebra word problems. ACT exam grammar is a bit tough, so the study guide focus on commas, semicolons, pronouns, transitions, etc. The book covers the science section very well.
The Up Your Score Act Prep Book is an alternative to boring books. The study guide uses a fun approach for exam preparation. But it has not been updated for many years and will not be a sufficient resource.
McGraw-Hill’s Top 50 ACT Math Skills for a Top Score is for those who are weak in the ACT math section. This best Act prep book for math is written in an engaging style. This study guide discusses 50 critical math skills you need to know for the ACT exam.
This prep book provides sample questions that illustrate each concept. It is written by an expert who has a lot of experience with SAT and ACT preparation. This study guide offers strategies and concepts you need to know that will help you to raise scores in ACT exam. It is designed to identify your weakness in math and focuses on it. The study guide provides two extra online tests. It also provides an answer book with detailed explanations.
This Act practice book is more focused on teaching the top 50 math skills, but has only a limited number of questions. It will help you to review the concepts, but you will need another book for practice. This prep book is useful to students at all levels, but it only provides ordinary strategies and tips.
McGraw-Hill's Act prep book is only for those who are weak in math.
The Manhattan Prep 5 lb. Book of ACT Practice Problems is the companion to the official ACT guide and official ACT website. This prep book comes with 1,800 practice questions that are written by an expert. It covers all the topics that are essential for the ACT exam. This book is the perfect resource to help students with basic skills through targeted practice.
All questions in the math section of the Manhattan study guide are at the same difficulty level you will see in the ACT exam. They follow the same format and same level of difficulty. The math section will completely prepare you for the exam and will boost your confidence. The problem with Manhattan’s ACT reading and English sections is that they are are delicate, yet still meaningful. This guide's practice questions are easier than in the actual exam.
In order to answer the ACT English questions, you will need to know about grammar, vocabulary and punctuation. But this Act prep book has a 50-50 balance of harder and simpler questions. Similarly, the science section questions are easier than average. The science charts and graphs are simpler than the ACT science visuals. Some of the science questions in this Act prep book involve pre-algebra math, which is appropriate for math but not for science.
Answer explanations in this study guide will act as a lesson and will be applicable to the other ACT questions. Certain additional questions are also provided so you can also practice challenging questions.
The Manhattan 5 lb. Book of ACT Practice Problems is the companion to the official ACT guide and official ACT website. It comes with 1,800 practice questions that are written by expert. It covers all of the topics that are essential for the ACT exam. The math section follows same level of difficulty, but the science and English sections are easier than actual exam.
McGraw-Hill ACT ELITE is written by Steven W. Dulan, who is the founder and president of Advantage Education Inc., which offers live test prep classes at distance as well as in schools and colleges. Dulan has personally prepared thousands of students for success on such exams.
The McGraw-Hill ACT ELITE prep book provide three practice tests and three more are available online. It also provides additional practice questions for every section so you can practice a lot to boost your confidence. The book hasn’t fixed the mistakes with the length of its English section, but it has improved its English questions. It previously focused on grammar at an extreme level; now the questions are balanced.
This study guide has the correct number of questions in math with topics like algebra, geometry and trigonometry. But the most complicated questions for pre-algebra and elementary algebra are not considered. The reading section is too hard. The fiction passages are full of detail instead of dialogue, and action as well as nonfiction passages are overloaded with information.
The book excels in its science section. The essay format is mostly right. The book provides more practice in statistics and probability. It provides 50 test day strategies. The answer explanations are not up to expectations. The book has skills and building practice materials for English, math, reading and science. There is good advice strategy throughout the chapter. The book ignores concepts of logarithms. The advice portions of this Act prep book are written in a confusing way. The psychology section focuses only on practice rather than learning concepts.
The McGraw-Hill ACT ELITE prep book is good for some sections, while there are some limitations. Some of the approaches may or may not be useful. Think about purchasing the book. If you do, use only what is needed and ignore the stuff that doesn’t make any sense or is useless.
What is the ACT exam?
The ACT exam is a standardized test that is used by most colleges and universities in the United States to make admissions decisions. ACT started offering computer-based exams int 2015 rather than the paper-based format. All four-year colleges and universities in U.S. accept the ACT score for admissions, but different institutions will set different criteria for admissions. Institutes include GPA, class rank and extracurricular activities as criteria.
The ACT is divided into four subjects: English, mathematics, reading and science reasoning. Each correct answer is awarded with one mark. There is no consequence for making incorrect answers on the multiple choices in the exam. The ACT exam is offered four to six times in a year depending on your state. The ACT exam is always taken on Saturdays.
Following is the format of the act exam:
No. of questions
English usage, mechanics and rhetorical skills.
Algebra, geometry, trigonometry, reasoning and problem-solving.
Interpretation analysis, evaluation, reasoning and problem solving.
Tips and test-taking strategies:
- Practice, practice and practice: Practice makes perfect and practicing will boost your confidence. By practicing, you will be ready for whatever comes in the exam. Practice those problems that are not too easy or not too hard.
- Work more on weak points: Improving your weakness will help you to score higher in the exam. It will be tough at the beginning, but later on it will be worth it.
- Work on easy problems without a calculator: Many math problems can be solved without a calculator through certain tricks. Sometimes solving such questions without a calculator can save you time.
- If you don’t have any idea regarding the question, then guess: There is no negative marking on the exam for guessing, so always attempt all the questions.
- Answer easy questions first: Attempt the easy questions first so you get extra time for tough questions. It will boost your confidence.
- Don’t spend too much time on any questions: If any question is too difficult, don’t spend too much time on it. Move on to next question. It will waste your time if the question is too hard.
- Don't focus a lot on vocabulary: Most exams focus on vocabulary, but the ACT exam no longer focuses on vocaulary, so don't stress yourself studying more on vocabulary.
- Read every question thoroughly: If you read every question carefully, you won't need to read it again and it can save you time.
- Spend more time on questions than on the passages: Reading the questions carefully will help you to understand which part of the passage is more important and which can be skipped out.
- Don’t ignore the passage introductions: Passage introductions can give important information. Therefore, never skip introductions.
- Do not get stuck on the big science words: The exam-makers will try to confuse you by putting confusing science words in the exam. These words will distract you and simply waste your time, so ignore them.
- Know the science terms that are common in use: Most science terms can be ignored but some of them are most commonly used. Terms like absolute zero, independent variable and acceleration are important to know.
- Keep your writing style simple: Most people try to impress the examiners with words they don't even know well. Don’t try to do such things. It's very easy to catch a mistake, but hard to convince someone who is perfect.
- Try to write a longer essay: Longer essays will help you to gain more marks and you can scope out more viewpoints and more thoughtful arguments.
- Avoid wordiness: Your writing should be concise and to the point. Don’t use words to make longer essays. Every sentence should have some meaning.
- Get proper sleep before exam day: Getting proper rest is essential. Make sure you have proper sleep before the exam day.
- Have a good, healthy breakfast: A good breakfast will give you energy. Breakfast is the important meal of the day.
- Bring a watch: Bring a watch to know how much time remains for each section. It will help you to complete the exam in time.
- Bring a drink: You will feel thirsty during the exam, so carry some water or an energy drink.
- Reach the location early: To avoid traffic and other issues, make sure you start early. That way, nothing will ruin your day on the exam day.
Summing it up:
“Good grades are life’s way of saying that there is a bright future in store for you.”
You can score well on the ACT exam only if you work hard, practice and have a good study guide. I hope the above reviews will help to select a good study guide. In case you are not able to find a good study guide, then I will recommend you some books.
If you are not concerned with price, overall THE OFFICIAL ACT PREP GUIDE is the best Act prep book. If you are concerned with price, you can go with BARRON’S ACT because it is available at a low price and good quality. If you want to score high in the exam, BARRON’S ACT 36 is the top pick.
I hope now you will be able to select a proper guide and crack the exam easily!
Check out more ACT prep books on amazon! 😉
Wish you all the best for your preparations and exams!