I talk to a lot of parents that want to help their kids study for the ACT, but aren’t sure what to use. Here are my favorite resources that EVERYONE should use (whether you are studying on your own, taking a class, or working with a tutor.)
Use the real thing
The ACT folks have just released their free ACT Academy which they say provides free personalized practice. Regardless, you’ll want to keep working on actual paper-and-pencil tests written the the ACT people.
If you need more tests for practice, you’re out of luck. There used to be a whole lot of them floating around the Internet but the ACT cracked down last year and got most of them off the web. So your best bet is to find a tutor. Tutors usually have years of old tests that they share with their students.
Overall Guides to the ACT
Ted Dorsey is a long-time tutor. This book shows you how to prepare for each section of the ACT. It not only describes the content but also shows you how to handle it by providing key strategies for each section and techniques to handle tricky problems. It’s a great book, written with students in mind. He points out common traps that students fall for. And he doesn’t cover too much – just enough to be incredibly useful without going overboard.
He’s also got a book of Tutor Ted’s ACT Practice Tests. I really wish the ACT folks would publish more of their old tests. But since they don’t this is a good source of three more ACT practice tests that are very similar to the real thing.
All of my favorite books are written by tutors! Here’s another good overall strategy book written by a tutor. Jed covers each section of the test and how to approach it. It gives sample questions as well. It’s very chatty, friendly, and approachable. If you’ve got a kid who’s nervous about the test, this book might be a good place to start.
Mike Barrett is another long-time tutor. He throughly reviews test prep strategy and how to tackle all the different question types. He also provides much better answer explantions to the tests in the Official ACT Prep Guide published by the ACT folks. I’ve gotten rave reviews on this book from many parents.
I’ve been a fan of Erica Meltzer for years: I used her very first edition of her SAT grammar book way back in 2011. Her ACT materials are equally as wonderful. This book covers all the grammar that you will encounter on the test. AND she knows exactly how it is tested – for example the ACT tests whom as the direct object of a preposition but not as the direct object of a verb. Which means you’ll only be working on things that will absolutely show up on your next ACT test.
She provides extensive explanations and examples of each grammar rule with practice questions and cumulative reviews.
I can’t praise this book highly enough! None of my American students know grammar and this book gives them the skills that they need to raise their ACT English scores.
My students will often get tripped up by specific topics on the ACT. What are those exponent rules again? Logarithms? Matrices? Richard covers each topic clearly and concisely. He explains the rules, how they work in context, and then he gives you 15 questions (with answer explanations) to practice what you’ve learned.
Another wonderful book by Erica Meltzer. She covers exactly how to handle each question type with extensive examples. She shows you how and why the right answer is all-the-way right and why the other answer choices are almost-but-not-quite-right. Students immediately start seeing why wrong answers are wrong (which makes finding the right answer so much easier!)
My absolute favorite book for this section is For the Love of ACT Science written Michael Cerro. Michael is a tutor and it shows – he breaks down question types, teaches you how to handle each one, and then gradually increases the complexity and variety of the questions, until you are practicing on something that feels a lot like a real ACT Science section. He also has a specific chapter on how to handle the conflicting viewpoints passage.
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