ACT Study Guides

1. The Real ACT Prep Guide by ACT Inc.

As you can tell, this book was written by the ACT company itself. It includes three full-length ACT practice tests with which to test yourself. Unlike some other books, which try to imitate the questions and reasoning behind the test, getting the practice test from the company itself is the best way to be able to take practice tests which will best mirror the test itself.

However, many people feel that books written by the company do not have the nitty gritty strategies and tips that other books may provide. After all, it is in their interest for you to have to take (and pay for!) the test more than once, right?

I feel that this book has real value, but only for the practice test material. It doesn’t go much further than that. The tips and other information are a bit shallow and could be found anywhere for free. If you can, just check this book out of the library, take the practice tests, and return it.

2. Barron’s ACT 36: Aiming for the Perfect Score by Anne Summers

This book is not only about doing well on the ACT. It claims to teach you how to get a perfect score on the ACT. To be sure, the practice sections and tests are quite difficult… some would say too difficult. However, if you can do well on the questions in this book, you will undoubtedly do well on the ACT itself.

This book has some great value and is very educational in terms of teaching about the content of the exam. However, it is not a book for someone who is a struggling learner or test taker. Many students would panic upon reading the content in this book. I would recommend this book for higher level students who would like to get over a 30 on the ACT. However, if you are a newer or struggling test taker who just wants to get an average or above average score without becoming completely overwhelmed, this book is not for you.

3.Crash Course for the ACT by Princeton Review

Are you a procrastinator? Are you taking the ACT within a couple of weeks and totally unprepared? This book is for you. It is specifically designed to help students quickly gain skills needed in order to do well on the ACT. There are no full length practice tests, but there is a great deal of information on the basic strategies and skills that will help you succeed on the ACT.

The tips are practical, logical, and accessible to all levels. Many students find this book is easier for them to understand and apply as opposed to other ACT prep books. Instead of working on actual practice questions, you learn about the types of skills and pointers that will best help you succeed… even with limited prep time.

While I don’t condone putting off your ACT preparation, I do feel that this is a valuable book. It is easy for all levels of students to understand. However, it does lack practice testing, and I feel that it would be best combined with another book that focuses more on the content of the exam.

4. McGraw-Hill’s 10 ACT Practice Tests, Third Edition by McGraw Hill

This book is the opposite of Princeton Review’s Crash Course for the ACT. Whereas the previous book focused on strategies and tips, this book is consisted entirely of practice ACT tests. Having this many practice tests at your disposal is invaluable. While you may not need to take the full ten tests, you can use them to repeatedly practice and test the subject areas that are troublesome to you. This book also provides in-depth explanations for the questions and answers provided.

A major issue that many people have with these practice tests is that some of them are ‘too easy’ compared to the real ACT test. Remember that these test prep books are modeled after the ACT, and are not infallible. That is why it is best to use more than one source in terms of preparing for the ACT.

This book can be ‘heavy’ reading compared to some of the other selections on this list. I would suggest using it in combination with a book or other source that provides more pointers and strategies of how to do well on the specific skills as opposed to just practicing the questions that will be on the test.

5. The ACT For Dummies by Michelle Rose Gilman

While some books are too hard and some books are too easy, The ACT for Dummies seems to be just right. The book is very reader-friendly without being too simplistic. It provides several test-taking tips and strategies and helps show the reader to spot test traps and how to make an educated guess.

This book also includes two full-length practice tests as well as in-depth discussion of sample questions and the skills addressed in each. It also provides excellent information about how to pace yourself during the test and how to deal with text anxiety. They even throw in a few jokes for good measure.

While I feel that every book on this list has value and can help students perform better on the ACT, I feel that the best book for students to work with is The ACT For Dummies . It has just the right combination of skills, tips, techniques and test content to help students learn what they need to learn about the ACT without either becoming bogged down in content or focusing too much on general test-taking skills. The fact that it is reader-friendly and designed to appeal to the low attention span of high school students puts it over the top!

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