Looking to start studying for the ACT, but not sure what books are the best for your ACT prep? In this post, I’ll share with you the books I use in my tutoring sessions with ACT students. These books help my students significantly improve their scores — even helping many of them land perfect scores!

But before launching into my list of the best books for ACT prep, I also want to share some ideas about why students should really consider the ACT this year, even if they also plan on taking the SAT.

Why take the ACT?

With the SAT switching over to the brand new Digital SAT this year, many students (like perhaps you!) are now wondering whether it makes more sense to focus on the ACT instead. And since all US colleges accept both tests and just convert one test’s score into the other, it’s in your best interest to take whichever exam is best for you personally.

This year, it can be helpful to give the ACT additional consideration because of the changes to the SAT. Whenever the SAT changes, it takes colleges a few years to figure out exactly how to deal with the new test. And it takes time for great prep material to be created. Right now, there just aren’t many official Digital SAT practice tests available, as opposed to tons and tons of practice ACTs.

Not sure yet? Or planning to take both tests? Here are my recommendations for SAT prep material.

In contrast, the ACT hasn’t changed in a while, which means there are plenty of resources available. Not all of those resources are good, though! In this post, I’ll recommend to you the best books for ACT prep. I’ll also share which books to stay away from and why.

ACT English Section

The Complete Guide to ACT English

The best book out there for ACT grammar has got to be Erica Meltzer’s The Complete Guide to ACT EnglishThis book goes through all of the important grammar, punctuation, organization, and style topics tested on the ACT.

College Panda’s ACT English

College Panda’s ACT English: Advanced Guide and Workbook has 30 chapters of easily digestible grammar, punctuation, and organization topics, in addition to 3 practice test sections and a handy “cheat sheet” for quick reference. I find it to be especially helpful for students who have already worked through Erica Meltzer’s grammar book for SAT, since sometimes all you need is a different explanation of the same concept.

ACT Math Section

Some prep books focus on general preparation for ACT math at a range of difficulties, while other prep books focus on the most challenging questions. Use your previous test scores or practice test scores to decide what is most appropriate.

College Panda’s ACT Math

College Panda’s ACT Math Workbook is a great resource that gives clear explanations of all the essential math topics tested on the ACT. Each chapter leads students through example questions that cover all aspects of a topic, following them up with a question bank of ACT style questions.

There’s even and advanced version of the math workbook. This one follows the same table of contents organization as the regular workbook, but JUST contains question banks for all of the topics. The questions are more challenging, which is great preparing for students shooting for top scores.

Stay away from…

Avoid ACT math prep books without a lot of reviews or books that were self-published. Sometimes these are great, but unfortunately these books sometimes have a significant number of errors.

ACT Reading Section

The Complete Guide to ACT Reading

I’ll be honest. For a long time, there really weren’t many great resources for ACT Reading. Thank goodness for Erica Meltzer’s The Complete Guide to ACT ReadingThis book contains chapters addressing each reading question type, along with extra chapters on common passage themes and wrong answer types. Two practice test sections are included.

ACT Science Section

For the Love of ACT Science

ACT Science isn’t really about the science — it’s about reading charts and graphs on scientific content. The book that does the best job teaching you how to answer ACT science questions is definitely For the Love of ACT Science, by Michael Cerro.

Stay away from…

Any books that try to review a lot of actual science content. That’s not what this section is about.

For Practice Tests

The Official ACT Prep Guide: 2023–2024

Nothing beats official practice tests released by ACT themselves in the Official ACT Prep Guide. Make sure you find the most recent edition. Even if the ACT hasn’t undergone major changes, the test definitely has shifted a bit over the years, becoming harder in some sections and faster-paced in others. The tests in this book are therefore a little on the easier side, but they are official and so they are solid prep material.

This book does give some information about what is tested in each of the sections, but honestly not very much. Most students, especially students who are shooting for top scores, are going to want to use some of the test specific prep books above.

More Official Exams

If you can get your hands on enough of them, official ACT tests like this 2024 test available on the ACT website are ideal practice tests. The ACT is required by law to release copies of a certain number of exams each year, and you’ll sometimes find pdfs of past ACT exams scattered around the internet, but use your best judgment about what is safe to download.

Additional Practice Tests

If you need more practice tests, I’d recommend this book by Kaplan or this book by the Princeton Review. Use more recent editions if available, although honestly they usually don’t change much from year to year.

Stay away from…

Books by McGraw-Hill and Barrons — neither of these are as reflective of the actual exam, and they also sometimes have errors. Also avoid any books in the “for Dummies” series.

You can also skip the subject-specific guidebooks put out by ACT themselves. Most of the material repeats what’s available in the main guidebook, and the additional questions in the subject-specific guidebooks unfortunately just recycle questions from practice tests. It’s better to keep those questions available as official practice tests.

ACT Study Planner

Studying for the ACT can be a lot to juggle, especially when you need to balance it against studying for classes, sports, and other extracurriculars. That’s why I created the ACT Study Planner. It’s a 4-month paperback planner that allows you to organize your study priorities, set goals for the month and week, track your progress, and stay motivated. The planner has space to set initial goals, revisit your areas of focus and priorities as you go, and plan your months and weeks. You’ll be prompted to check in with yourself regularly on your progress so you can do more of what’s working and make adjustments when necessary.


Even though the ACT hasn’t undergone major changes recently, the test does still evolve slowly over time. Because certain sections have gotten harder or faster-paced over the years, it’s important to use the most recent editions of whatever book you use.

New materials are also published regularly. I’ll revise this post as I come across other effective books and resources, so check back on this post for updates. But for the time being, this list comprises the best books available for ACT prep.

Need help with your ACT or SAT prep?

There are a couple of ways I can help:

This post may contain an affiliate link or a referral link. For more information, please see my disclosure here.

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