Which ACT test prep books do you recommend? Is prepping on my own enough, or should I also take a class?


Susan E. Coryat, Secondary Ed. English, M.Ed., Reading Specialist, and Parent!

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Prepping for a test is like anything else; you have to know yourself! Picking a prep book that will suit you requires that you spend some time looking through them. Do you want several practice tests? Do you want more tips and/or exercises to work with? Do you want a nice combination of both? Picking a prep book with which to work also depends on how you plan to prepare. Will you work through the book on your own? Will you work with a tutor? Taking a full preparation course can be incredibly expensive and a large time commitment. You really should personalize your preparation to your situation. If you haven't taken one yet, start by taking a practice test online. There are many sites which can give you a general idea of your strengths and weaknesses, such as 4Tests. Begin with no preparation and look at your results honestly. When you evaluate your greatest areas of need and compare those to your goals for scores, then you can plan your preparation. A personal one on one tutor can personalize your sessions and help you get the most benefit for the amount of money and time you are spending. If you are working with a tutor, you may want to use whatever materials he or she recommends or prefers using. If not, pick a book you have looked through and feel is accessible. A preparation tool can only be as good as your work with it. If you aren't comfortable with your book, course, tutor, etc., then you won't find the results you want. Tester, know thyself! :-D Good luck.

Karen Berlin Ishii, One-to-One Test Prep for the SAT and ACT - in NYC and via Skype

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Here are the best books for ACT prep:

The Real ACT (CD) 3rd Edition (Real Act Prep Guide) - The ACT prep "bible," with five real tests for practice plus full explanations of the answers in the book. Not as extensive a resource as the comparable guide to the SAT, but the only book published by the test makers with real ACTs in it.

Get your ACT Together: The Fabulous Guide to the ACT A terrifically corny but savvy guide to the ACT that students love. Great tips that help all students apply smart test-taking techniques to this test. Available only directly from the publisher online.

Barron's ACT Math and Science Workbook, 2nd Edition. Barron's excels in getting to the heart of hard math for this exam. Science section is less successful.

Also, note that as of September 2015, the ACT Essay is substantially changed and other areas of the test slightly so. Go to the ACT website for the only up-to-date and brand-new official practice test here.

In addition, find an indispensible set of sample scored and analyzed essays for the new ACT essay – the only guide published so far by the test maker – on the ACT.org website here.

For more resources for the ACT and SAT, check out my complete list here.

As for your second question, is prepping on your own enough? Well, maybe. It depends on how much time you have to devote to it, how much you need to learn, and most importantly, what your score improvement goals are. In principle, any motivated student can prepare on his or her own perfectly adequately. In reality, most everyone benefits from the coaching and guidance of a good teacher. One-to-one lessons with a good teacher are ideal in that they save you time, allowing you to really focus on the areas you need to improve upon, and enable you to benefit most directly and personally from your teacher's expertise. For students on a budget, a class can also be helpful. We often learn from others' questions and from the repetition inherent to classroom experience.

Michael Schoch, Answers questions on Noodle

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How much you prepare will really depend on your confidence, comfort level, learning style, and any test anxiety you experience. Once you get your study guide, take a few practice tests and see how you do. If you feel good about your results, you should take the test, but if you don't feel confident, you might want to consider getting additional help. Try to isolate the parts of the test with which you struggle so that you can make the preparation process a little less overwhelming.

You can get a lot of good, free information about ACT Test Prep on Noodle. You can also find a list of classes and tutors that will help you with test prep.

It looks like the Real ACT Prep Guide is the go-to book. It's the official guide created by the test-makers and is highly recommended by most websites and lists.

These resources should get you going in the right direction. Good luck getting read and feel free to ask more questions any time!

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