The ACT is a basic entry requirement for many universities and colleges. Preparing for this standardized test can be daunting, but the best ACT prep books boost your chances of getting a great score.
To increase your score, you should use both paid and free ACT prep books. Most ACT prep books contain prep material that can give you a full review of concepts: math concepts, grammar rules, and other fundamental content related to basic concepts on the test. They also include study resources like full-length practice tests and question explanations.
Should I Take the ACT?
Yes, you should take the ACT if it’s required for admission to the colleges and universities that you’re applying for. For instance, prestigious universities like Georgetown University and Duke University require a strong ACT score. Note that for some schools, ACT scores aren’t required, but high scores will improve your application and boost your chances of getting admitted.
Common ACT Sections You Need to Prepare For
- English. The ACT English section is primarily designed to test your English skills, including English grammar concepts, punctuation, and rhetoric. The test provides grammatically incorrect sentences and expects test-takers to edit them correctly. The time allotted for the English section is 45 minutes.
- Math. This topic section tests your critical math skills with questions on algebra, geometry, and trigonometry. Candidates have 60 minutes to answer the math questions.
- Writing. For the optional writing section, test-takers have 40 minutes to respond to an essay prompt. This section tests your writing style and your ability to write clearly. Unfortunately, it can also reward a formulaic writing approach.
- Science. The science section consists of science-based passages presented with graphs, charts, and tables. It includes 40 questions, for which you have 35 minutes.
- Reading. Test-takers are presented with passages, then asked questions to test their reading comprehension skills. This reading section consists of 60 questions and lasts 60 minutes.
The 10 Best ACT Prep Books to Help You Get Ready
1. The Official ACT Prep Book, 2021–2022
- Best for: Practical ACT studies
The current edition of The Official ACT Prep Book contains actual questions that students were given in the past. Also, this prep book contains practical examples and strategies to pass your test. Answers to some of the most common as well as some of the most challenging questions are available in this prep guide.
2. ACT Prep Black Book, 2nd Edition
- Best for: ACT tips and Strategies
The ACT Prep Black Book is a compilation of the best practical strategies (such as process of elimination) and test-taking tips to help students aim for a perfect score on the ACT. Test-takers will get an idea of the questions they need to spend more time on. You can find the ACT Prep Black Book online.
3. Kaplan’s ACT Prep Plus 2022
- Best for: General ACT studies
This review book takes a comprehensive approach, providing test-takers with 5 full-length practice tests as well as additional material. You will find some of the best ACT test-taking strategies, hundreds of extra-challenging practice questions, basic test-taking strategies, and video tutorials.
4. Barron’s ACT Study Guide Premium 2022–2023
- Best for: English section
Barron’s ACT Study Guide Premium couples online content with practice drills, in-depth reviews of basic concepts, and other resources that you would expect to find in traditional prep books. It also highlights expert strategies for correctly answering the hardest questions.
5. 10 ACT Practice Tests, 6th Edition
- Best for: ACT strategies
Like previous editions, the sixth edition of McGraw-Hill Education’s 10 ACT Practice Tests is a high-quality ACT prep book that includes 10 full-length practice tests with detailed explanations of answers. It also gives access to online resources such as additional online practice tests. A scoring sheet helps you calculate your score.
6. Princeton Review ACT Premium Prep, 2022
- Best for: General ACT test preparation
The current edition of Princeton Review ACT Premium Prep features 8 full-length practice tests, content review for the different subject areas, and basic strategies such as overcoming essay anxiety and making the most of your study time. The Princeton Review’s guide also has online prep resources and detailed answer explanations for every practice test question.
7. The Complete Guide to ACT English, 4th Edition
- Best for: Preparation for ACT English sections
Written by Erica L. Meltzer, the 4th edition of The Complete Guide to ACT English is the perfect prep book for your English preparation. Written in Erica Meltzer’s engaging style, this prep book provides careful explanations of English grammar basics and complex grammar concepts. An entire chapter on comma usage complements other chapters and prep resources in this comprehensive book.
8. The Official ACT Science Guide, 2nd Edition
- Best for: Preparation for the ACT science section
The Official ACT Science Guide is the official guide from the makers of the actual exam. It combines content review, extra practice questions, and online bonus content in one convenient package to help test-takers boost their science scores.
9. ACT English, Reading, and Writing Prep, 4th Edition
- Best for: ACT English and writing skills
If you’re trying to get a perfect score in the ACT’s writing and English sections, check out Kaplan’s fantastic prep book. It is among the best subject-specific books available. It provides online practice exams, an overview of grammar rules, and sample writing prompts to improve your weak spots and help you write an excellent essay.
10. Advanced Math ACT: A Must-Have If Going for 30+
- Best for: ACT math section preparation
Joseph Hammerman’s comprehensive review of concepts for the ACT math section is a perfect tutor for test-takers. This math guide includes detailed explanations of answers for more than 700 unique complex problems to help you achieve a deep understanding of the material.
Free ACT Books and Resources to Help You Get Ready
- ACT Up
- Pocket Prep
- Prep Expert
Best ACT Prep Books FAQ
Unless you’re looking for subject-specific books, the five best ACT prep books in 2022 are:
The Official ACT Prep Book, 2021–2022
McGraw-Hill’s 10 ACT Practice Tests, 6th Edition
ACT Prep Black Book, 2nd Edition
Princeton Review’s ACT Premium Prep, 2022
Kaplan’s ACT Prep Plus 2022
Yes, you can take the ACT more than three times. Test-takers can take as many as 12 attempts. On average, most school students take the test at least three times before submitting their college application.
According to US News & World Report, some of the most prestigious colleges that don’t require ACT scores for admission include:
University of Chicago
Other test-taking strategies that you can use for the ACT aside from studying prep books include following multi-week study plans, bringing prep books with you so you can review basic concepts on the go, and joining an online community for support and advice. You should also take additional practice tests and set a target score.
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