When studying and preparing for the ACT exam, or any other standardized test, prep books can be an incredibly valuable resource. Prep books for the ACT, and other such standardized tests, often contain valuable information about the format, structure, and style of the ACT (or another test in question). The prep books also include tips, tricks, and test-taking strategies that you can add to your study guide. Prep books also frequently contain detailed lessons on content tested on the exam, such as mathematics concepts or grammar rules, and practice questions and practice exams. The practice questions and practice exams also often come with detailed explanations of the answer choices for each question, showing why the correct answer is right and the others are wrong. Most prep books can be found on Amazon for an affordable price, so they are a popular resource students take advantage of.

Many students prepare with just prep books, but when used in conjunction with tutoring, they are often even more effective and help lead many motivated students to hit their target score on their ACT – or lead them to the perfect score, if that is their goal. However, if you are preparing for the ACT, you may find yourself asking: “What are the best ACT Prep Books?” In this article, we’ll list several of the most well-known, best books for ACT prep in ranked order, along with reasons why those books are excellent choices to help prepare you, or any student, for success on the ACT on test day.

The Best ACT Prep Books

What follows is a ranked list of some of the best ACT Prep Books, along with some discussion of what makes each book unique and effective.

1) The Official ACT Prep Guide (Informally Known as “The ACT Red Book”)

The ACT Red Book

The Official ACT Prep Guide, also known informally as “The ACT Red Book” or simply “The Red Book,” is widely considered to be the strongest ACT Prep Book on the market, in large part because it is written and sold by the actual creators of the ACT Test. In many ways, you can’t beat getting your information straight from the source. The guide also includes several, typically five, practice tests that are official past ACT’s. It is crucial to practice with actual tests so you are the most prepared when it comes to the real thing. The guide also often provides access to online content to supplement the book itself. Online practice is invaluable, as it gives you a lot more opportunities to practice different question types, drill specific test questions, especially if you want to specifically work on Science questions, for example, or hone in on your math skills. Online tutorials are also super helpful if watching videos works well with your learning style. It is also the only book with information coming directly from the current test makers, which makes it an optimal choice for virtually any student preparing to take the ACT.

2) ACT Prep Black Book: The Most Effective ACT Strategies Ever Published by Mike Barrett

ACT Prep Black Book

ACT Prep Black Book: The Most Effective ACT Strategies Ever Published, a book written by Mike Barrett, is perhaps the most popular ACT Prep Book on the market. At the very least, it’s the most popular and effective besides the “The ACT Red Book,” making the Black Book the strongest guide written by someone other than the ACT test makers.

The author of the ACT Prep Black Book, Mike Barrett, has long been known as an expert in the field of standardized test prep, specifically the SAT and ACT, in large part because of the quality and success of the ACT Prep Black Book. The Black Book is noted for its conciseness and brevity, efficiently covering large amounts of important information in shorter, more digestible chunks of information throughout a book of manageable length. While the Black Book tends to focus more on strategy than on practice sample questions, the strategies and insights into the test, and how to “beat” it, recognize patterns in questions, and how to answer questions efficiently and effectively, are top-notch.

The ACT Prep Black Book also contains several unique sections, such as insights on how to ace the ACT if English isn’t your native language, as well as hundreds of solutions to real ACT problems from the “Red Book.” It is worth noting that you will need the “Red Book” in order to answer those questions, but having two different explanations for the solutions, one from the “Red Book” and one from the Black Book for each question, will give you an edge when preparing to take the ACT, which, along with the aforementioned benefits, makes the Black Book an excellent choice for your ACT preparation.

3) The Complete Guide to ACT English and The Complete Guide to ACT Reading, by Erica L. Meltzer.

The Complete Guide to ACT English and Reading

The Complete Guide to ACT English and The Complete Guide to ACT Reading are also excellent choices to include as part of your ACT preparation plan. The author of both The Complete Guide to ACT English and The Complete Guide to ACT Reading, Erica Meltzer, is also a well-known expert in the world of SAT and ACT test preparation.

Both The Complete Guide to ACT English and The Complete Guide to ACT Reading breaks down and dissects their respective sections, using detailed explanations and lessons to help you understand virtually every major type of question and error within those sections, a large number of ACT-style practice exercises to help you prepare for the exam, and an index of questions in those sections from the corresponding year’s “Red Book.” All of those features make these books excellent choices for virtually any student, whether they are trying to get an extra push to a 36 in the Reading or English section or if they struggle with grammar, or anywhere in between. Of course, it is worth noting, however, that while these books are both excellent for their sections, they do not cover ACT Math section or ACT Science section, so they alone are not sufficient for ACT prep unless you just need to improve on English and Reading. They are fantastic books for their covered sections, however, and very worthy additions to your ACT prep library.

Can I use SAT books to prepare for the ACT?

As you might have noticed, given that we only really focused on three (or technically four) books in this article, there aren’t as many great ACT prep books as there are great SAT prep books.

That is a direct result of the fact that the SAT is generally the more popular test. As a result, many students may be tempted to supplement their ACT preparation with SAT prep books. You should not, under any circumstance, use SAT books to prepare for the ACT, or ACT books to prepare for the SAT. While there are similarities, the tests are fundamentally different. The SAT books do not have a Science section for example, and the Math concepts tested differ (you don’t want to waste your time solving Math questions that you’ll never see on the ACT!). While the SAT writing section may seem comparable to the ACT English section, the types of grammar rules and skills they test differ. While the ACT prep book canon is smaller, there are many great options, such as those discussed in this article, and you should stick to those when preparing to take the ACT.

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SoFlo SAT Tutors are high-scoring graduates and attendees of top universities who have mastered the SAT and ACT. Prep books, when used in conjunction with tutoring, are often even more effective. Check out our virtual tutoring services to find an SAT or ACT tutor who will help you towards your score goals, whether it’s your first take, second take, or beyond. 

About the Author

William Grossman

William Grossman is a student at the University of Florida studying Economics. He scored a 1500 on his SAT and a 32 on his ACT. While it may seem unorthodox, William always reads the last chapter of a new book before going back to read it from the beginning — that way, he can see if the book will be any good before deciding to read the whole thing!

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