As we discussed in the How to Study for the ACT post, there are 867,271 results for “ACT” on Amazon. If you know that 867,271 are a lot of results, you’re going to do well on the Math test. All kidding aside, the most important tool for studying for the ACT is the book or course you choose to purchase. To make things easy for you, we’ve done extensive research into all the prep books on the market. After much debate, we’re excited to release our rankings of the best ACT prep books.
Don’t forget to check out TutorMe’s Online ACT Preparation course, the perfect supplement for all ACT prep books. The course features over nine hours of fully animated content and 500+ practice problems.
The Real ACT
This is the industry standard for ACT preparation. There’s a simple reason for this: it’s made by the same people who write the ACT. There’s no other book on the market that features proven and authentic content like this book. Unlike other prep books, the questions in this book are taken directly from past tests, and are thought out by the same brains that come up with the questions on the real ACT. The 5 practice tests featured in the Real ACT are the best offered. The biggest flaw with the book is that it is thin on instruction. Meaning, the actual lessons in the book are basic. It’s great for the practice tests, but if you’re looking to brush up on specific math and English lessons, it’s best to look elsewhere.
5 Ib. Book of ACT Practice Problems
This is the perfect prep book for a student who is looking to complete as many practice problems as possible. It’s a great resource for high repetition practice. Studies show that the best use of a student’s time studying is completing as many practice problems as possible. Now, the downside to this book is that it is not created by the writers of the ACT, so the authenticity of the questions is not the same as the Real ACT. That’s not to say that the book isn’t useful, because it’s a great resource, but know going in that the practice problems are not taken directly from old tests like the Real ACT.
ACT Prep Black Book
This book breaks down the strategy of the ACT better than any other prep book. While the practice problems may not be the quality of the Real ACT, there are still hundreds of them in this book. The strategies articulated in the Black Book will help students understand the ACT on a more conceptual level. Remember, it is a standardized test, meaning there won’t be any surprises. If you study the ACT, you will know exactly what to expect on the test and when to expect it. Although the Black Book is not the best resource for practice problems and practice tests, it is valuable for its in depth breakdown of ACT strategy.
Subject Specific Prep Books
As you know, the ACT is split into five different tests: English, Math, Science, Reading, and Writing. Most students will be very efficient in certain topics, and struggle on others. This is natural, everyone has their own sets of strengths and weaknesses. That being the case, there are a few prep books out there that focus exclusively on one of these tests. Here are the best options for those types of prep books.
The Ultimate Guide to the Math ACT – In our minds this is the only option to look at when studying specifically for the Math test. This is 200 pages of in depth strategy for the ACT Math test. The only downside to this book is that it has not been updated since 2012. This is not a huge issue, as the test itself has not changed much in the last four years, but keep this in mind if you’re choosing this book over other prep books.
The Complete Guide to ACT English – Erica L. Meltzer is the expert when it comes to the ACT English test. This book expertly explains the grammar rules relevant to the English test, and complements these lessons with great practice problems. It is a little pricy for a book that covers only one test, but if you’re struggling on the English test, it’s well worth the price.
The Complete Guide to ACT Reading – We’re going back to Erica here. Just as she does in her English book, she breaks down the Reading test expertly. From strategies on the test, to practice problems, to invaluable lessons, this book has it all. If you’re looking for a catch all resource for the ACT Reading test, this is it.
There isn’t a great option or the Science test, but we’ll recommend 500 ACT Science Questions to Know by Test Day. Keep in mind that the Science test is really just a glorified reading test. There’s very little actual Science knowledge that you need to know to succeed on the test, it’s more about knowing how to read graphs and breakdown experiment descriptions. This book is a good tool, but it’s not essential.
Erica Meltzer’s The Complete Guide to ACT English has a good section on writing, but after that the only option for just the writing test is How To Write A killer ACT Essay by Tom Clements. This is a helpful book, but keep in mind that you will only be writing one essay on the ACT, and you will not have a lot of time to do so. It’s better to allot your studying time to other topics, like math or English, that will be more predictable and prevalent on the ACT. Focus on other prep books.
What If Studying Using a Book Isn’t For Me?
That’s totally OK. Some students struggle solely using prep books. That’s understandable. Most prep books are somewhere between 500 and 800 pages, are in black and white with small text and practice tests crammed on the page. For these students, the best option is finding a tutor or program that will work in an audio/visual manner. Remember, everyone learns differently, and for some students learning visually is much more effective than reading prep books. We recommend taking a look at the TutorMe ACT Prep course, which is the perfect combination of guided lessons and practice problems with explanations. Another option is finding a in person tutor. The downside to this option is that most tutors are costly and establishing a schedule that works for both parties can oftentimes be difficult and inconvenient.
So, what’s the best option?
Good question. That’s what you came here to find. As we’ve mentioned, every student learns in a different way. If there was an easy answer, then everyone would be using the same method. The truth is, there isn’t one surefire method. A combination of both prep books and an online course or in person tutor is most effective for the majority of students. Trial and error is always best. Learn what works best for you, and get after it.