The 8 Best ACT Prep Books to Buy in 2018

Here's the short list of study guides that will help you get a high score

Signed up to take the ACT? Then it's probably worth investing in a prep book to help you ace it. But there are a lot of choices out there, so it can be difficult to hone in on the one that’s right for you. The prep book you choose should take into account your personal budget, your goals, as well as your strengths and weaknesses (essays, grammar, math reading strategies, etc.). This guide to the best ACT prep books on the market will help give you the highest chance of an ACT score that gets you into the college of your dreams.

The Official ACT Prep Guide, written by the actual writers of the ACT, is the definitive ACT prep book. All of the practice tests were written by the same people who develop the ACT each year, which means the practice questions are the most realistic available (i.e., closest to the ones you’ll see on exam day).

This prep book, which is available on Kindle and in paperback, includes three full-length practice tests, answer explanations and 400 bonus practice questions online. The Official ACT Prep Guide also helps you break down your own practice test scores to understand where you need to improve. If you’re looking for testing strategies, there are plenty of those here, including a detailed explanation of each ACT section, each question type, as well as the most common mistakes students make on the exam. Bonus materials include effective testing strategies, advice on pacing and study timelines and tips for college readiness.

If you study best in front of a laptop or enjoy a multimedia approach to test prep, Kaplan’s ACT Prep Plus might be the best ACT prep book for you. Buying the book (a Kindle and print version are available) gives you access to five full-length practice tests, accompanying answer explanations, as well as a host of helpful online resources, including realistic practice questions, drills, video tutorials and quizzes. The video tutorials are hosted by Kaplan’s expert instructors and include in-depth walkthroughs of specific questions and skills.

Kaplan’s prep book also includes strategies from current and former students who achieved perfect scores on the ACT. Moreover, the Kaplan SmartPoints algorithm helps to steer you towards the most common question types on the exam, so you spend the most study time on the most relevant topics and skills.

If you struggle with ACT math or are looking to bump up your already high math score, a math-specific ACT prep book such as Jacob Brezinski’s The Guide to ACT Math might be the way to go. Including over 400 practice problems and over 90 video tutorials, this ACT math prep book is fully interactive and jam-packed with answers to all your trickiest ACT math questions.

The Guide to ACT Math makes ample use of Kindle Textbook features so that you can take notes and practice as you go read. Six practice tests help you discover and target your own weaknesses with further drills and practices in specific skill areas. If you work best on paper, you can print out geometry problems to practice with and an ACT formula “cheat sheet” to use during study sessions and memorize on the go. The Guide to ACT Math also includes a peek into the minds of the ACT test makers, as the author breaks down how to see ACT math problems through their eyes.

The ACT essay can be tricky for many test-takers, even those who do well in high school English courses. The College Panda’s ACT Essay guide is a great prep book if you aren’t sure where to start when you read an ACT essay prompt.

Written by an ACT perfect scorer, this prep book provides everything you ever wanted to know about the ACT essay, starting with a sample essay that earned the author a perfect 36. If you struggle to find relevant examples for your essay, you’ll find six versatile ones here, and examples of how to use them effectively. Many students struggle with essay structure, so The College Panda essay guide provides sample templates that you can use for any prompt. The author also goes into the most common mistakes students make on the ACT essay to weaken their writing and lower their scores, as well as what to do if you panic during the exam and a list of high-level vocabulary words that can strengthen your essay.

If you don’t have much money to spend on ACT prep but would still like to develop some quality strategies before you take the exam, Mike Barrett’s ACT Prep Black Book is a solid option. It's super cheap on Kindle and even free if you have Kindle Unlimited.

The Black Book is unique for its in-depth breakdown of each ACT question type, so you’ll know how to recognize, pull apart and attack each one. If you’re wondering about the most common ACT myths and traps, this is the book that gives you the skinny on each one. It also includes testing strategies — including tips for non-native English speakers, people who don’t read especially quickly, and other forms of troubleshooting — and step-by-step walkthroughs of practice problems and sample essays. The Black Book also includes detailed answer solutions for the problems in the Official ACT Prep Book, but even if you haven’t purchased the latter, Barrett’s strategies still provide plenty of bang for your buck.

Even if you excel in your English and writing courses, investing in an ACT-specific grammar workbook is a good idea. The ACT tests grammar in particular but predictable ways, and you’ll see the same kinds of tricky grammar errors on every exam. You’ll want to be prepared for each one so you’re not surprised on exam day.

Barron’s SAT and ACT Grammar Workbook provides a comprehensive grammar review, so you’ll get a refresher on the 24 most common grammar skills you’ll need to hone before taking the ACT. The grammar workbook also includes dozens of practice quizzes, so you can add targeted grammar drills into your study sessions. Each practice quiz is accompanied by in-depth answer explanations to see where you went wrong. Barron’s SAT and ACT Grammar Workbook ends with a bonus section with tips for acing the ACT essay and a few practice prompts if you’re looking for additional practice in that area.

Many students struggle with reading comprehension on the Reading portion of the ACT. If you have trouble getting through and absorbing the reading passages quickly enough or understanding what exactly the accompanying questions are asking you to find, you might want to try a targeted prep book like the Integrated Educational Services’ ACT Reading Practice Book.

The book includes an intricate breakdown of each kind of reading passage you’ll see on the ACT (including social sciences, humanities, literary narrative and natural sciences) and how to unpack it into its relevant parts. The ACT Reading Practice Book also helps you streamline your reading and your approach to each kind of question so that you don’t waste time. This is an especially important skill to hone, as the ACT Reading section packs forty questions based on four dense passages into just thirty-five minutes. The paperback version includes ten full-length ACT Reading practice tests and detailed answer explanations.

This whopping 832-page book, Cracking the ACT, from Princeton Review is only available on the Kindle, as well as in paperback. Princeton Review is known for its step-by-step strategies and tips and tricks, and their comprehensive ACT guide is no exception. Whether you struggle with pacing and time management during the exam, want to avoid the most common traps that students fall into when taking the ACT or need to develop a better guessing strategy when you aren’t sure of an answer, Princeton Review has you covered from start to finish.

In addition to a rundown of each section of the ACT, Cracking the ACT also includes six full-length practice tests — four in the book, two online — and practice quizzes for each ACT-relevant skill. There’s also a grammar review, a breakdown of relevant ACT math skills and an option to have your practice tests scored by a live Princeton Review expert grader online.


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Dorwart, Laura. "The 8 Best ACT Prep Books to Buy in 2018." ThoughtCo, Feb. 14, 2018, Dorwart, Laura. (2018, February 14). The 8 Best ACT Prep Books to Buy in 2018. Retrieved from Dorwart, Laura. "The 8 Best ACT Prep Books to Buy in 2018." ThoughtCo. (accessed February 18, 2018).