Three best ACT prep books
Standardized testing is a big part of preparing for college. The ACT exam allows colleges to evaluate a student's knowledge on a range of subjects, including English, math, reading comprehension, and science reasoning. A school can use a student's ACT score to determine admission status and award scholarships.
Fortunately, you don't have to go into the ACT without help. Spending time preparing for the test almost always leads to a better score. ACT prep books provide practice questions, test-taking advice, and reviews of the subject areas tested. For the most comprehensive ACT prep book, we recommend Manhattan Prep's book of practice problems, which includes more than 1,800 practice questions that are always up-to-date as well as extensive online resources.
Considerations when choosing ACT prep books
The most important aspect of an ACT prep book is the quality of its review material. All ACT prep books should contain both practice questions and practice tests.
A helpful ACT prep book will have hundreds, if not thousands, of practice questions. This gives a student plenty of material for studying. But it's not enough to just include a lot of questions. The best practice questions use the same phrasing found on the actual test and are of the same degree of difficulty.
A good prep book for the ACT will include multiple practice tests. These practice exams need to closely resemble the actual test to be effective. They also should be timed. A practice test helps students determine the areas where they need more help. They can then spend additional time on those areas for the most effective studying.
ACT prep books should review each subject area on the test, including English, math, reading, and science. (The writing section is optional.) Some books focus on one subject more than the others, which is helpful for students who know they need extra help in one area.
A good ACT prep book should explain why an answer is correct and why the other choices are wrong. By keeping these explanations in mind, students are more likely to arrive at the correct answer on a similar question the next time.
Taking the ACT is not like other tests students take in high school. A prep book should provide some specific strategies for approaching the ACT exam.
Pricier ACT prep books give students additional resources online, including videos and additional practice tests. For some students, the information online may resonate with them more than the printed materials.
ACT prep books are relatively inexpensive, which is great for high school students. You'll find the majority of ACT prep books range between $10 and $35. As a general rule, books that have more practice tests and questions are more expensive. These books will also have more extensive online resources.
Q. My ACT test is in two weeks. Is it too late to study?
A. No. You may not be able to prepare as much as you'd like, but any preparation is better than none. That said, ACT prep book manufacturers typically suggest two to three months of study for the best results.
Q. Do I really need to worry about a high ACT score?
A. Colleges and universities use a student's ACT score as one criterion for admission and scholarship awards. Even though it isn't the only factor considered, many schools weigh the ACT score heavily, so a high score is important.
ACT prep books we recommend
Best of the best: Manhattan Prep 5 lb. Book of ACT Practice Problems
Our take: An ACT prep book with up-to-date information and a comprehensive collection of over 1,800 practice problems.
What we like: Touches on every topic that you'll encounter on the ACT. Includes extensive online resources along with the printed materials.
What we dislike: The layout of the book's topics isn't as organized as it could be.
Best bang for your buck: Barron's Test Prep ACT with Online Tests
Our take: This ACT prep book helps students create a study plan for success on the test.
What we like: Includes more than 1,600 practice questions, more than the majority of study guides, but at a lower price.
What we dislike: Some of the practice questions may not be totally up-to-date.
Choice 3: The Princeton Review Cracking the ACT
Our take: A versatile ACT prep book that students can use for quick study reviews or more extensive practice tests.
What we like: Includes strategies to help students learn how to take tests successfully. Solid book for those just starting their ACT prep. Six practice tests.
What we dislike: Not as helpful for those seeking to improve their score from a previous test.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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