The ACT test day is one of the most challenging events in high school graduates’ lives (surprise-surprise). We all know it, and we feel you. It is not surprising as the ACT results will play a huge role in determining your chances of admission to a college or university. It might seem like a perfect moment to start panicking, but it isn’t. Instead, let’s take a positive approach and treat ACT preparation as your new video game (maybe a slightly boring-ish one). But you will have to do it anyway, so the best scenario is to make the studying process as pleasant as possible.
After adding some positivity, you will have to choose your resources to learn from. And it gets tricky from here. Of course, there is so much information out there, but, on the other hand, such a wide variety may be confusing. So, what is the best study guide to choose? Is only one book enough, or should you go deeper and mix resources? You will find all the answers in our complete guide to ACT resources, including the top 5 best textbooks for exam preparation.
Are Books Effective for ACT Preparation?
As you know, the ACT is a comprehensive exam, and therefore, it requires thoughtful test-taking strategies. The exam consists of four mandatory and one optional section. You can score up to 36 points for each of the parts:
- English has 75 questions and lasts 45 minutes;
- Mathematics – 60 questions, 60 minutes;
- Reading – 40 questions, 35 minutes;
- Science – 40 questions, 35 minutes;
- Writing is optional and lasts 40 minutes.
Your ACT score is critical because it directly affects your chances of becoming a college or university student. But how can you prepare effectively? The most obvious (and practical) thing you can do is review specialized ACT literature. Often, these books contain both theory and practical exercises as well as full-length practice tests.
Sample tests from previous years can be beneficial as well because you are not only able to repeat the syllabus but also understand how the test works. Still, books are the first resources to start with when preparing for the exam.
Top 5 Recommended ACT Prep Books
Google offers you hundreds of ACT prep books. So, how do you choose the best ones among them?
Book #1: The Official ACT Prep Guide 2023-2024
This book stands out in the list as it was written by the ACT creators. So, you’ll get the best possible understanding of what to expect on the exam. The book contains seven ACT practice exams and an additional written test. You’ll also find over 400 practice flashcards and helpful tips. Moreover, the book offers expert advice on mental and physical readiness for the test, which is as important as academic knowledge. So, it can be one of your primary ACT prep books.
Book #2: Top 50 ACT English, Reading, & Science Skills, Third Edition
This book, published by McGraw Hill, is a good solution for students who are willing to improve their English and prepare for the ACT Reading section. It contains 50 key concepts in the form of simple examples in addition to practice questions and two additional online tests. Thus, you can identify weaknesses in time and focus on them to succeed in the actual ACT. Overall, the book would be an excellent choice for practicing tasks that require critical thinking.
Book #3: English & Reading Workout for the ACT, 4th Edition
If you need even more time for reading practice, consider the 4th edition of “English & Reading Workout For the ACT,” which is a comprehensive overview of English grammar. The 4-step approach to parsing complex sentence structures is easily explained. And, of course, the book has helpful study material: three practice exams in English and four in reading. Using this book, along with the ACT Reading preparation tips, gives you a good chance of passing the exam successfully.
Book #4: Top 50 Skills: ACT Math Skills, Third Edition
As you know, one of the most challenging sections of the ACT is math, where you have to solve 60 questions in only 60 minutes. Therefore, math preparation requires a careful approach and solid knowledge of basic formulas. The third edition of “Top 50 Skills: ACT Math Skills” covers 50 key math concepts with examples. This book contains illustrations and detailed explanations in each math section. The book includes two practice exams to let you try your hand before the test.
Book #5: ACT Prep Black Book
This book is unique in its way. Let’s be honest: it will not help you prepare for any particular section like reading or math, nor will you find practical tests here. So, how can it be useful? The author’s main idea is to let you understand the process and structure of the ACT itself. The same ACT template is used year after year; only the questions change. However, the exam is quite stressful, and some students may get confused and forget the correct answer even if they know it.
Therefore, “The ACT Prep Black Book” gives you an overview of the process and question types. We recommend you use it together with another book that contains practice questions, such as “The Official ACT Prep Guide.” In any case, understanding the process and the logic behind the questions is already 50% of success, so taking a closer look at this book isn’t a bad idea.
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What Resources Can You Use in Addition to Our Top ACT Prep Books?
While getting ready for the ACT, take each practicing opportunity. Books are suitable for structuring your knowledge and guiding you. Meanwhile, pay attention to other methods, mix them with using textbooks, and don’t forget about mental preparation.
Keep in mind online sources that offer valuable tips and much more practice. If any ACT section is challenging for you, try giving it extra time and attention. Picking up additional courses or studying with a tutor is a good strategy as well. Utilize as many opportunities as possible while learning, and you will approach the ACT with confidence.
Last but not least is your mental readiness. The most effective strategies are sleeping well, taking breaks between study sessions, and believing in yourself. You may even try to simulate the test at home to feel confident when it comes to the actual exam. Remember that stress influences the ability to concentrate and think clearly. So, be kind to yourself and seek help if you need it.
A vast range of sources you can use to prepare for the ACT may be confusing. We recommend starting with specialized literature, which contains not only theory but also practical parts. Use top ACT prep books from our list and find additional sources. But remember that your primary task is a thoughtful and systematic preparation strategy. Create a positive attitude towards the test, and don’t let anxiety influence your result. Give your exam preparation enough time and attention, and you will get your payoff soon.