Best ACT Prep Book

If you're are planning on taking the ACT this coming year—join the club! Nearly 2 million students sit for the ACT every year. Most students like you will want to prep for the test to make sure that you can crush it and get into the college of your dreams. So, what is the best way to study? One of the most popular (and affordable) is by getting the very best study guide you can buy. Sounds easy—right? Wrong! Choosing the best book for your test prep isn't easy. There are so many choices and claims by publishers touting their prep book as the Holy Grail—it can be daunting!
best act prep book

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Best ACT Prep Books





Manhattan Prep

The Princeton Review

ACT Prep Black Book


The Official ACT Prep Guide 2021

ACT Prep Plus 2021

5 lb. Book of ACT Practice Problems

ACT Premium Prep 2021

ACT Premium Study Guide with 6 Practice Tests
ACT Prep Black Book

Practice Content

Practice Questions – 2,400

Full ACT Tests – 7
(5 in book and 2 online)

Practice Questions – Hundreds

Full ACT Tests – 5
(1 in book and 4 online)

Practice Questions – 1,800 

Full ACT Tests – 0

Practice Questions – 0 

Full ACT Tests – 6
(4 in book and 2 online)

Practice Questions – 0 

Full ACT Tests – 6
(3 in book, 2 online, 1 diagnostic)

Practice Questions – 0 

Full ACT Tests – 0

Online Prep Course

Free access with book purchase


Other ACT Prep Books

Kaplan Math & Science Prep

Stand-Out Feature

6-months of access to their online prep course

One-year access to all of the online resources

Detailed answer explanations to 1,800 problems

Instant score reports for online tests

Number of practice tests  

Comprehensive analysis of 600 ACT questions

So, how do you choose the best path to ACT success? To help you make the most of your study time, we’ve reviewed and ranked the best study guides on the market, so you can be armed with all the tools you’ll need to ace the ACT.

Things to Look for in a Good ACT Prep Book?

How do you know which ACT prep book is right for you? The best study guides show you a clear path to success, assess your current skills, give you plenty of practice, and provide you with test-taking and subject-specific strategies and tips.

Here are some things you should look for when shopping for an ACT prep book.

  • Does it have a skills diagnostic section to let you know your weak areas?
  • Does it have a robust subject review section that covers everything that will be on the test?
  • Does it come with multiple full-length practice exams?
  • Does it have problems that are like the ones on the actual exam?
  • Does it have clear, solid, and understandable advice on how to navigate the test?
  • Do I get access to supplemental online resources to help me study?

What’s the Top ACT Prep Book?

We have ranked the top six prep books based on the features that make them priceless companions to your study routine. In the end, we ranked The Official ACT® Prep Guide 2021, our pick for best ACT prep guide on the market. This study guide comes from the makers of the ACT themselves, and the test questions are from past versions of the exam. You also get access to their online course and many extra resources that come with your book purchase. Even though you don’t get the content review that a book like Kaplan offers, this prep book is well worth the price and is something that everyone prepping for the ACT should invest in.

The Top ACT Prep Books at a Glance

The Official ACT® Prep Guide 2021

The Official ACT prep guide 2021

If you want a product that gets its material straight from the source of the exam, then you might want to explore The Official ACT® Prep Guide 2021. This is the only book on the market that works directly with the makers of the ACT. The quality of official questions is far better than those written by other companies like Kaplan or The Princeton Review. This study guide combines the bestselling Official ACT® Prep Guide with ACT® Online Prep. For $42.99 you’ll get The Official ACT® Prep Guide 2021 book, that contains 2,400 online questions, seven full-length practice tests (five in the book and two online), a free mobile app, online flashcards, and tracking daily goals to assist with study targets, and much more. Although the guide is an inexpensive way to access thousands of past practice test questions, it doesn’t offer in-depth instruction, personalized approach, or adaptive video lessons that other courses do.


  • Best set of practice tests on the market
  • 2,400 additional practice question online
  • Five full-length tests in the book
  • Access to their online course


  • Answer explanations are weak
  • No instructional material for subjects

Kaplan – ACT Prep Plus 2021

kaplan act prep plus 2021

Kaplan has been a trusted name in education for over 80 years. It all began in 1938 when founder Stanley Kaplan started tutoring students in the basement of his parent’s Brooklyn home. Today, Kaplan is one of the world’s largest educational service providers in prep courses and top-notch study guides. You’ll get plenty of content and practice tests with Kaplan’s ACT Prep Plus 2021, as well as study tips from their expert test-takers. It includes strategies, online practices, and video tutorials from Kaplan’s best tutors that will help you ace the ACT. It has a feature called SmartPoints that will help you focus on the most essential topics and question types on the test. With Kaplan’s Prep Plus book, you’ll get exclusive access to live online resources that guarantee that after studying with their online resources, you’ll get a higher score or your money back. You can also check out our Best ACT Prep Course here.


  • Access to video tutorials from expert tutors
  • Great study tips and personalized study plans
  • SmartPoints system lets you focus on critical topics and questions
  • Higher score guarantee


  • Some questions not challenging enough
  • Only one test in the book

Manhattan Prep – 5lb. Book of ACT Practice Problems

Manhattan Prep was founded in 2000 by a former New York public school teacher and offers a wide variety of educational support services, including online courses and high-quality study guides. Manhattan Prep’s best-selling 5lb. Book of ACT Practice Problems is a treasure trove of problems and will help you crush the ACT, especially if you need math help. The book offers 1,800 high-quality practice problems that are grouped per topic, so you can focus on a specific subject without hunting for it. You can work smarter, not harder. To help you with every question, the book has a mini-lesson after each problem, so you don’t have to go and find that type of problem in another section of the book. Practice makes perfect, and this ACT prep book will help you to hone in on your ability to answer questions both swiftly and confidently.


  • Diagnostic test will gauge your strengths and weaknesses
  • Lots of practice questions
  • Thorough explanations to 1,800 problems
  • Organized into practice sets based on section (English, Math, Reading, Science)


  • Verbal section lacks content
  • Intimidating size

Princeton Review – ACT Premium Prep 2021

princeton review act premium prep 2021


The Princeton Review is a leading educational services company that offers a variety of online course options and fantastic prep books. If you want a study guide that provides a comprehensive approach to cracking the ACT, then get a copy of Princeton Review’s ACT Premium Prep 2021. In addition to an extensive subject review for every section of the test, you’ll find six full practice tests (in the book and online) with answers and detailed explanations. The Princeton Review is also famous for provided students with tips and tricks to save time on test day. Cracking the ACT provides instant score reports for their online tests and optional live graders for essay scoring. To help you pace yourself, they have multi-week study guides, so you’ll be ready to crush the ACT. This Premium Edition also gets you access to test-taking strategy video lessons and online info about grad school admissions and financial aid.


  • Access to useful online content like video lessons and study schedules
  • Great tip and tricks to help you quickly navigate the test
  • Six practice exams
  • Great chapter summaries


  • Size can be overwhelming
  • Can be a bit dry and hard to get excited about

Barron’s – ACT Premium Study Guide

Barron's ACT Premium Study Guide

Barron’s has been around for more than 80 years and has been helping students succeed in dozens of standardized tests. From the ACT to the GMAT to the SAT, Barron’s is one of the best test prep companies in the business. They offer a good selection of ACT prep, but the best may be their ACT Premium Study Guide. It’s is a great way to build your base for a high test score. It’s got content, strategies, and practice questions all in one big prep book. Barron’s doesn’t mess around with gimmicks or tricks. They provide a traditional study guide with an in-depth review of all of the concepts that will be on each section of the ACT. The diagnostic test will measure your starting skill level and then will discuss each test section in depth, with test-taking tactics, skills and concepts, and question types.


  • Large amount of practice tests
  • Great verbal and quantitative sections
  • Three tests in the book and two more online
  • Great for students of all skill levels


  • Questions more complicated than the actual test
  • You may not know where you stand when come test day

ACT Prep Black Book: The Most Effective ACT Strategies Ever Published

ACT Prep Black Book

If you want a great ACT prep book that isn’t put out by a major education company, Mike Barrett’s ACT Prep Black Book is a solid option. He has been helping students excel on standardized tests for years. He worked briefly for Kaplan but left because he knew that his approach to test prep was the best. After tutoring students to success, he set up his own company. The Black Book is a different type of study guide. Barrett’s approach is unique because he gives you an in-depth breakdown of each question type, so you’ll know how to identify, dissect, and crush each one. He also debunks some of the most common ACT myths and traps. The Black Book includes testing strategies and step-by-step walkthroughs of problems and sample essays. The Black Book also includes detailed answer solutions for the problems found in the Official ACT® Prep Book (it’s best to have this book as a companion). The book doesn’t include practice questions but does include a detailed discussion of actual questions from previous ACTs.


  • Clear guide on how to answer all question types
  • Gives practical practice for answering the questions and saving time.
  • Gives thorough explanations to past ACT questions
  • Great math and reading review


  • No practice questions
  • No lessons on subject concepts

What is the Best ACT Prep Book?

Let’s review the features of the top six ACT test prep books on the market, compare them to each other, and rank each of them overall.

Best ACT Prep Book

What Should I Look for in an ACT Prep Book?

Full-Length Practice Tests

When it comes to acing the ACT, there is one proven strategy to crush it—practice! Taking as many practice tests as you can is the number-one way to be totally prepared come test day. The best books offer at least three complete practice tests, with answers that are detailed and easy to understand. The more tests that come with your book, the better, but online tests are great as well because they get you used to the computer adaptive tests that you’ll see when you sit for the ACT.

There were three prep books that had the most tests. The Official ACT® Prep Pack has seven, and The Princeton Review and Barron’s both offered six full-length tests. Kaplan came in a close second with five. The Official ACT Guide 2021 was the winner because their tests are closest to the actual test since they basically work with the test makers.

Top Pick: Official ACT® Prep Guide 2021

Practice Questions

practice questions

The number and quality of questions have a big impact on how well you are prepared for the ACT—the more questions, the better! The questions also need to mirror the style and difficulty of the real ACT. Questions that are too hard or too easy are really not helpful.  The Official ACT® Prep Guide 2021 and Manhattan Prep’s 5lb. Book of ACT Practice Problems offered the most practice of all the prep books—by a mile! You can practice using these study guides and probably not get through them all. But we give the nod to the Official ACT® Prep Pack 2021. They offered the most realistic practice questions because they work directly with the makers of the ACT.

Top Pick:  Official ACT® Prep Pack 2021

Comprehensive Answer Explanations

For the best test preparation, you also need detailed explanations as to why the correct answer is right, so you can understand the concepts behind the questions. It’s not enough to complete problems and see the correct answers. The book is worthless if it doesn’t explain the answer in terms that you understand. The best ACT study guides will have detailed, easy to understand answer explanations to each question. That way, you’ll be able to answer comparable questions if they turn up on test day.

Manhattan Prep’s 5lb. Book of ACT Practice Problems is great for those who want systematic, easy-to-follow walkthroughs. They provide comprehensive and answers all 1,800 questions.

Top Pick: 5lb. Book of ACT Practice Problems

Standout Features

standout features

All of the best ACT study guides we reviewed have a lot of great features. So, any time a prep book can come up with something that makes them stand out in a crowd, the more customers will choose their study guides. So, what can a study guide offer that gives them the edge?

  • The Official ACT® Prep Guide 2021 offers the most and most realistic practice questions of all the books we reviewed.
  • Kaplan’s ACT Prep Plus 2021 offers a higher score guarantee.
  • Manhattan Prep’s 5lb. Book of ACT Practice Problems offers detailed answer explanations to 1,800 practice problems.
  • The Princeton Review’s Premium Prep 2021 gives you access to their video lessons and offers great tip and tricks to help you quickly navigate the test
  • Barron’s ACT Premium Study Guide offers lots of practice exams.
  • The ACT Prep Black Book gives thorough explanations to 600 ACT problems from past tests.

Top Overall Pick: The Official ACT® Prep Pack 2021


Buy the Official ACT® Prep Guide 2021 if:

  • you want a guide that has questions closest to what is on the actual exam.
  • you want access to 2,400 online practice questions.
  • you want access to many practice tests and their online course.
  • See more here

Buy Kaplan’s ACT Prep Plus 2021 if:

  • you want access to tons of online practice questions and video tutorials.
  • you want a guarantee of a higher score.
  • you want to focus on questions that will get you the highest score.
  • See more here

Buy Manhattan Prep’s 5lb. Book of ACT Practice Problems if:

  • you want tons of practice questions.
  • you want complete and detailed explanation answers to the questions.
  • you want to study by subject to improve weak areas.
  • See more here

Buy Princeton Review’s ACT Premium Prep 2021 if:

  • you want a book with the best tips and tricks to help you save time on the test.
  • you want access to lots of Kaplan’s online content.
  • you want access to lots of full-length practice exams.
  • See more here

Buy Barron’s ACT Premium Study Guide if:

  • you want a book with strong verbal and quantitative help.
  • you want to take lots of practice tests that look and feel like actual questions.
  • you need to build a strong base for your weak areas.
  • See more here

Buy Barrett’s ACT Prep Black Book if:

  • you want a guide that gives you practical practice for answering the questions.
  • you want clear, complete explanations to all ACT questions from past exams.
  • you want great ACT math and reading review.
  • See more here

More ACT Article Reviews


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