Exam Shazam

The Best ACT Prep Books for 2020

Article by Jane Newsom. Last Updated: Thursday, Jan 23, 2020.

Overview

Looking to boost your score on the ACT? We cover the exam in detail, and give you our picks for the best ACT Prep Books and Review Guides for test year 2020!

The ACT test reflects a students learning throughout High School, and helps to provide colleges with information used to recruit, place, and retain prospective students. Almost 2 million students from multiple countries took the ACT last year, and scores are accepted by a wide variety of 4 year colleges.

If you just can’t wait, here’s our short list:

Best ACT Prep Books

There are dozens of great ACT books and other materials available for students looking to improve scores. Some are great… and some are not so great… We’re here to help you understand the options, and make an informed choice. The difference between a good and bad book can literally affect whether you get into the school of your dreams, so you shouldn’t take the choice for granted!

Continue on for detailed information on each book on our list of top ACT prep books below!

The Official ACT Prep Guide

The Official ACT Prep Guide
1st Edition
by ACT
Price:$31.45
(as of 25 Sep 20 10:05 GMT)

Pros: Full length practice tests (5) including actual test forms from prior years.
Cons: Formatting and presentation can be overwhelming for some.
Best For: Review ahead of test, and knowing what to expect.
Our Rating: 5 / 5

The Official ACT Prep Guide takes the top spot on our list, and should be the best fit for most students. It’s feature rich, and packed with content that’s sure to help boost scores. With tons of practice tests (including actual forms from previous years), it’s one of the best ways to understand what you can expect to find when you sit for the ACT.

Key features of the book include:

  • 400 online questions that can be filtered and organized into custom practice sets
  • Real ACT test forms used in previous years
  • A never-before-seen, full-length exam with optional writing test (215 questions)
  • Updated writing prompts and directions

Because this is the official book, you can be sure the material inside is an accurate reflection of the real ACT. Whether you’re in the final days of preparation, or you have plenty of time, there’s no better book out there. While this book is perfect on it’s own, it’s also complimented well by others on this list (particularly our second place choice). Consider picking them both up if you’re looking for an extra boost!

ACT Prep Black Book

ACT Prep Black Book
2nd Edition
by Barrett & Barrett
Price:$28.49
(as of 25 Sep 20 10:05 GMT)

Pros: Unique and effective tips and tricks for the test.
Cons: Works best when paired with the Official Study Guide.
Our Rating: 5 / 5

ACT Prep Black Book is written by real ACT tutors with clients all around the world who pay hundreds of dollars an hour for hands on instruction. It compliments the offical study guide by providing tips and tricks you won’t find anywhere else! It also contains complete walkthroughs of real ACT questions you’re likely to encounter.

A short summary of what you’ll find inside:

  • Learn to exploit design flaws in the ACT to boost scores
  • A clear, concise roadmap to the ACT
  • Explains exactly how every ACT question works, and how to beat it in the least time possible

We recommend picking this book up in addition to our #1 choice, because they go together very well. This book adds to the dry text and practice tests you’ll find in the official guide. It’s strategies are truly unique, and can definitely help you pick up a question or 2 here and there that you otherwise might have missed.

Princeton Review: ACT Prep

Cracking the ACT
2020 Edition
by The Princeton Review
Price:$13.99
(as of 25 Sep 20 10:05 GMT)

Pros: 6 Practice tests (4 in book and 2 online)
Cons: Some answer explanations are not as clear as they could be
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

Princeton Review: ACT Prep comes in third on our list, and is another viable option if the first 2 don’t suit your fancy (or you’re looking for a wide variety). It comes from the text prep pro’s at Princeton Review, whose books feature often in our ‘Best Of’ lists in a variety of subjects.

Among the key benefits are:

  • Tips for pacing yourself and guessing logically
  • 6 full-length practice tests, with detailed answer explanations
  • Thorough review of the skills necessary to ace all five ACT sections
  • Complete coverage of all test topics, including the reading and written portions

If you’ve used and enjoyed Princeton Review materials before, then you can’t go wrong here. Basically the only reason this didn’t take the number 1 spot was because the Official guide is so great (and direct from the test creators).

Barron’s: ACT Premium Study Guide

ACT Premium Study Guide
4th Edition
by Brian Stewart
Price:$21.09
(as of 25 Sep 20 10:05 GMT)

Pros: Includes a diagnostic test to help you focus your study time.
Cons: Content layout can be confusing in some spots.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

Barron’s: ACT Premium Study Guide is our final recommendation. Even though it’s last on our list, it’s still an amazing resource that’s worth your consideration. It has a good number of practice tests, as well as a handy diagnostic that will help you quickly figure out where your biggest knowledge gaps are.

The full list of features includes:

  • Easy, medium, and hard practice passages that help you make the most of your time
  • 6 Full length practice tests (3 in book + 2 online + 1 diagnostic)
  • Detailed overview of the ACT with comprehensive answers to frequently asked questions
  • Advice on optimizing the test-taking mindset and managing test anxiety

Barron’s is another trusted name in test-prep, and their ACT book is a clear reason why. It has great practice questions and tests that accurately reflect the difficulty of the exam itself. The review material is comprehensive and usually easy to digest. It’s not our top choice, but this book really will work as your one and only resource!

ACT Details

The ACT test is designed for students in the 10th, 11th, or 12th grade to provide schools and districts with data necessary to ensure success after high school.

The test is broken up into 5 sections as follows:

  • English
  • Mathematics
  • Reading
  • Science
  • Writing (Optional, but required by some schools)

A good prep book can help you or your students bump their scores up, and make sure there’s the best possible chance for success. Don’t sit for the exam until you’ve gone through at least 1 practice round to know what types of questions you’re going to face!

ACT Topics

English

In this section, the student will have to revise and edit a text. Short passages and essays will be used to form questions about a variety of rhetorical situations and concepts.

Mathematics

Here, mathematics skills and concepts that test-takers should acquire through the 11th grade are assessed. The ACT math section tests skills similar to prerequisites you’d face for an entry level college math class. Basic formulas and computational skills will be used in some problems, but complicated ones don’t need to be memorized.

Reading

Being able to read and absorb information is a critical part of every student’s ability to succeed in college, and this section will attempt to identify how they’re progressing. Students will be asked to read passages closely, reason about and integrate information from multiple sources. They’ll be asked to identify main ideas, locate and interpret details, and understand sequences of events.

Science

This section measures the interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning, and problem-solving skills required in the natural sciences. Scenarios will be presented, along with a number of multiple choice questions. Topics will be drawn from Physics, Biology, Chemistry, and Earth Sciences.

Writing

This section is optional, but will test students for their ability to write at a High School or entry level College composition course. There will be 1 writing prompt that outlines a complicated issue and prompts for the test-taker to form their own perspective and write about it.

Exam Scoring

Each of the first 4 sections is graded with a score between 1 and 36. The overall score is given as the average of each of the 4 (rounded to the nearest whole number). The writing section isn’t scored, but schools will be able to request access to the essays online.

ACT Frequently Asked Questions

How much is an ACT prep book?

Prices for a good ACT prep book usually ranges between $15 and $40.

WWhich ACT prep book is best?

Our recommendation for most students is the The Official ACT Prep Guide.

How can I raise my ACT score?

The best way to raise an ACT score is to understand the test format, and the types of questions you should expect to encounter. A good prep book with high-quality practice tests is the best way to know what’s coming your way on test day.

Wrapping Up

Doing well on the ACT can open up a pathway to prestigious schools, scholarships, and other opportunities critical to your future. With a strong understanding of the topics and questions you should expect to face, you’re best positioned to do well.

We’ve rounded up some of the best materials out there, which can help you succeed.

Our pick for best ACT prep book is The Official ACT Study Guide. It’s got high production value, and comes straight from the folks who create the test.

Whatever your circumstances, supplemental review materials are a key part of ensuring success on the exam. We’ve listed some of the best resources available. Good luck!

Related Posts

We are a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites.
Product prices and availability are accurate as of the date/time indicated and are subject to change. Any price and availability information displayed on [relevant Amazon Site(s), as applicable] at the time of purchase will apply to the purchase of this product.