10 Best ACT Prep Books 2021

Pop quiz!

How many of you know what ACT stands for without looking it up?

The American College Testing books, also known as ACT prep books, contain everything you need to prepare yourself for the big test day.

So which one should you choose?

That’s what we’re here to help you understand. It’s more than just purchasing the most popular one on a list (although it is usually popular for a reason: because it works).

There are so many other factors that go into preparing for the ACT test, so in our guide below, we will help you find the best ACT prep book for your needs.

Before you study for the actual test, study up on how to prepare yourself!

Tips

We won’t waste your time with a bunch of fluff (you have a test to study for, after all!) so let’s get right to the tips:

  • Get at Least Two Different Books. One official guide from ACT Inc. and one unofficial guide that will offer you explanations and show you some test-taking strategies that will help you on actual test day.
  • Don’t Get Too Many Books. You know the saying, “Two’s a company, and three’s a crowd?” Well, in this case, two and three are a company, but 15 is way too many.

The conflicting ideas and techniques from each book and each authors’ version will just end up confusing you, so do yourself a favor and don’t drown yourself in too many ACT books!

  • Get Serious About Test Preparation. If you occasionally skim through books or study while the latest episodes of Game of Thrones are playing in the background, then you aren’t serious.

It’s time to light a fire under your behind and get in gear! This is a serious test and preparing for it takes serious dedication.
If you’re already serious about it (good for you!), then move to tip number 3.

  • Get Books That Will Help You Strengthen Your Weaknesses. This is why you need to research the prep books and not just pick one randomly from our top ten below.

Investigate each and every one of them and find which ones will be the most useful to you.

  • Decide Whether or Not You Want a Printed Version or an E-Version. It’s up to you, really. The paper version may help you simulate actual test day more accurately while the e-version is definitely more convenient.

If your budget is an issue, then see if you can find some used copies if the printed versions (or ask your relatives for an early graduation gift!)

  • Get the Most Current Version! Get the most recent edition or version of a book. If you already have some ACT books from fall of last year and you’re using them in spring of this year, you should be fine (most likely the changes will be slight), but if there is a difference of a year or more, then always opt for the most recent version.

No Book Is Perfect

Remember, no prep book out there is perfect, not even the best ACT prep book on our list!

Let’s just say it has the fewest flaws (which we will discuss below).

As we mentioned, having a few books to study from is helpful for a variety of reasons, but you may also need a few because parts of one book are written better or worse than another.

Read as many opinions as you can about the books to get a feel of who they have helped!

Top 10 ACT Prep Books Comparison Table

PictureNamePriceRating (1-5)
Picture
Name
Price
Rating (1-5)
1. The Real ACT (CD) 3rd Edition (Official Act Prep Guide) $4.6
2. ACT Prep Black Book: The Most Effective ACT Strategies $$$4.5
3. Cracking the ACT with 6 Practice Tests, 2016 Edition $4.5
4. Barron's ACT 36, 2nd Edition $4.4
5. The Complete Guide to ACT English $$$$4.4
6. SAT Prep Book: SAT Secrets Study Guide $$$4.4
7. 5 lb. Book of ACT Practice Problems $$4.3
8. Ultimate Guide to the Math ACT $$4.3
9. Tutor Ted's ACT Practice Tests $$$4.2
10. McGraw-Hill Education 10 ACT Practice Tests $$3.9

Top 5 Best ACT Prep Book Reviews

1. Steven Dulan McGraw-Hill Education

Remember our suggestion above to get an official guide from ACT, Inc.? Here it is.

You need this book, so just plan to buy it now.

The fact that this includes insider tips and strategies makes it studying gold. It includes five full-length tests that have previously been administered to students so you get a real feel for what you’ll be facing on actual test day. This is useful because it helps you understand what you’ll be up against, how the test is scored and how to approach the questions.

You will, however, need another book or two (or three?) which is why we’ll be explaining more about some of the best ones for you below.

This book helps you understand ACT, but it isn’t quite the tool you need when it comes to improving. That is what the unofficial guides do.

Check them out!

2. Mike Barrett ACT Prep Black Book

This book helps you understand the weaknesses of the ACT test and how to use them to your advantage.

It also gives you tips on each section of the test: math, science, English and writing and even how to approach the test if American English isn’t your first language. Now that is what we call helpful!

Both educators and students have greatly benefited from it and you probably will, too!

Still need more prep books? We thought so. Continue reading.

3. Princeton Review Cracking the ACT

You can crack an egg, crack a joke and crack the ACT test thanks to the help of this guide.

This helps you avoid the ACT test’s common traps, it gives you timing tips and helps you understand how to approach the test calmly and confidently, you will learn about the new reading and writing sections and it contains six full-length practice tests (two of which are online, so you’ll need a computer or internet access to them).

The only thing with this version is that the tests seem to be the same (or very similar to) the 2015 version. If you already have the 2015 version, then you might skip this one and check out the next book.

4. Alexander Spare M.A Barron’s ACT 36

For those who want extra practice, Barron’s ACT 36 book is the perfect choice. It takes you to the next level of preparedness by providing you with nine (yes nine) full-length practice tests. Is 80 hours enough to make you feel prepared?

These offer a good challenge to those who seek it, so as a word of caution, don’t use this as your first study book unless you’re up for the challenge.

It provides you with advice and strategies to overcome the ACT’s most difficult questions, how to read the questions efficiently, how to boost your science score and how to write an awesome essay.

If you’re serious about the ACT and feel the need for additional practice, get this book.

5. Erica L. Meltzer The Complete Guide

This guide focuses solely on the English section of the test, and just like we did at the beginning of this article, it cuts out all of the fluff and tells you only what you need to know for this specific test.

You’ll cover the grammar and rhetoric topics, follow step-by-step explanations of errors and it will provide you with exercises that help you apply all of the rules you’ve learned once test day finally comes.

If you don’t need help on the English section, then you’ll find a great math resource on our list above, as well.