ACT Tips and Advice Post

My Top 13 ACT Prep Resources, Ranked.

About me: I'm a Harvard grad, ACT perfect scorer and professional test-prep tutor since 2002.  Below are my top 13 recommendations for ACT prep practice tests, strategy and learning books, online learning programs, videos, and the like

1) Official ACT Practice Tests.  You can access 4 official Practice Tests in the newest edition of the Official ACT Prep Guide, but you can  also find others for free online!

Make sure not only to take the tests, but to create an error log and review your mistakes in detail afterward.  Keep in mind that all other sources of ACT practice questions are subpar (but sometimes necessary) imitations of the real thing.  

Yes, the older tests are still helpful despite being (slightly) different and (slightly) easier than more recent ACTs.  These older ACTs are still great for practice--just don't trust the scoring conversions.  

2) College Panda ACT Math series:

a) ACT Math: Advanced Guide and Workbook
b) ACT Math Workbook:  More Advanced Practice by Topic

3) Erica Meltzer ACT Reading and English series:

a) The Complete Guide to ACT English, 3rd Edition
b) The Complete Guide to ACT Reading, 2nd Edition

and her free SAT/ACT English punctuation rules

4) College Panda ACT English and Writing (Essay) books:**

a) ACT English: Advanced Guide and Workbook
b) ACT Essay: The Battle-tested Guide for ACT Writing

5) Mighty Oak Guide to Mastering the 2016 Essay: For the new (2016-) 36-point ACT Essay.  Some of the advice is a tad outdated (the essay is back to being out of 12 points, for example, and the essay prompts have changed very slightly), but it’s still quite helpful.  Check out some of the sample essay prompts and an essay “cheat sheet” PDF.  

6) Ultimate Guide to the Math ACT by Richard F Corn.  Good for covering the basics of ACT Math (highly recommended for low or average scorers). 

7) Quantum ACT Prep free videos (Math only) and SuperTutor TV free videos**

8) The Master Key to ACT Science by Hugh Hung Vo

9) For the Love of ACT Science by Michael Cerro and (honorable mention!) Understanding the ACT Scientific Reasoning by Jerusha Richardson.  Not as acclaimed (or as overrated) as FTLOAS but almost as good.  

10) UWorld adaptive online learning program.

11) adaptive online learning program.  This website is brand-new, but I’ve heard great things about the content with regard to the AP exams.  If UWorld isn't enough, then it’s probably worth a shot for $39 for 10 months access, as opposed to Magoosh ($79 for just one month access).

12) The ACT Prep Black Book by Mike Barrett and Patrick Barrett. This one is definitely not perfect.  The authors dispense some advice that I don’t agree with, but it’s still helpful if you prefer to have detailed, written explanations of your ACT questions.  Lots and lots of pages of strategy advice…not for the faint of heart.  

13) ACT Academy (free) adaptive online learning program.**  This site is official and free, but full of silly videos and corporate-sponsored filler, and needs a lot of improvement.  It’s a far cry from the quality of Khan Academy, after which it’s likely modeled, but at least it does include plenty of real ACT questions.  

**Honorable Mention:

1) Ivy Global All-in-One ACT Guide Use the discount code "MCELROYTUTORING" to save 10% on all Ivy Global books!  

2) ACT Math: The Guide: Skip the Prep Courses by Jacob Brezenski.  I haven't used this guide much (and the links to the videos don't work on the Kindle version), but the book itself is pretty solid, and should be especially helpful for students with lower scores who need a solid foundation in the basics (but not recommended for high scorers).  

Unless otherwise noted above, the materials are paid materials. In some cases (Quantum ACT Prep, for example), there are free videos as well as paid videos.

I have ranked the videos lower than the books because I prefer learning from books and adaptive online learning programs to static videos. In general, I would caution against a video-heavy learning approach, which is tempting due to its ease/convenience, but often leads to low retention as a result of passive learning.

Any questions or suggestions? Let me know.

Good luck!


UPDATE: Here is my simplified list of recommended ACT books on Amazon.


Brian R. McElroy
Founder and President, McElroy Tutoring Inc.
Toll-Free: 1-866-584-TUTOR (8886), x 4
Direct (Call or Text): 619-889-2935


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