Are you getting ready for your next ACT but do not know where to start?  We are here to help.  Many people decide to start off their ACT prep with books.  We’ve spent over a decade working with students who need to improve their ACT scores.  We’ve ordered thousands of dollars worth of books.  We know a great ACT book can make a real impact.

Below are some of our favorites.

A couple quick notes before we start.  At the beginning of each description for the books there is a section entitled math, reading, science, and English.  This section is geared to help you understand what type of student will benefit the most from each book.

If there is anything you need to know about a book that we did not feel should be included in the description, then we put it in the “please note” section.

Official ACT Practice Tests 

If you want to improve your ACT score, the first step is to do an official practice test.  This will serve as a baseline score to help you identify your strengths and weaknesses. Throughout prep, the best way to improve your ACT score and monitor your progress is to take the official ACT practice tests under timed conditions.

There are a lot of great practice tests available. However, when you start out you should stick to the official ACT practice test.  This will give you a good sense of where you are scoring and what you need to work on.

The Official ACT Prep Guide 2020-21

  • Math: All levels
  • Reading: All levels
  • Science: All levels
  • Writing: All levels

Having the guide book made by the test maker of any standardized test is non-negotiable. This is the only study guide that has real ACTs. It is the most reliable for monitoring your progress. This book has 5 official practice tests and bonus content online

Before you start practicing for the ACT, you should take a timed practice test under test taking conditions.  Go to a quiet place around 8 am, the same time you will be taking the test, and time yourself for each section.

After your first practice test, review the explanations and use the remaining tests to continue doing timed practice sections.

The Official ACT Study Guide also has lessons throughout that will help you as you prepare for the ACT.

Please Note:  The ACT’s explanations are very helpful for the reading and writing section but they are confusing for students who are struggling with math or science.  If you still do not understand one of the official explanations, YouTube is a great resource.  Just type in the name of the test, the section, and the question (ACT official practice test 1, section 4, question 1).

Unofficial Practice Tests

After you have exhausted all the official practice tests available, then you may have to turn to unofficial practice tests. We suggest you save at least 1-2 official ACT tests to use close to your test date so you have a real ACT to use right before your test date.  Although these tests are not exactly the same as a real test, these will allow you to continue your momentum for the ACT and are a good substitute.


Peterson’s ACT Guide 2020

  • Math:  All levels
  • Reading:  All levels
  • Science: Intermediate to Advanced (current score range of 24+)
  • Writing:  All levels

One of our favorite books is the Peterson’s ACT Guide.

The tests are true to form and the book is accessible for students at almost all levels.  The science can present a challenge for some students but is still accessible to almost all students.

The reading and writing is very true to form.  The ACT passages look and feel like the ones students will experience on the ACT.

The math sections provide variety for students at all levels. In addition, the Peterson’s ACT Guide offers some great stand alone math lessons.  The trigonometry lesson is great for students looking for a challenge.

Ivy Global’s ACT Guide

  • Math:  Intermediate to Difficult (current score range: 22-30)
  • Reading:  Intermediate to Difficult (current score range: 22-30)
  • Science: Intermediate (current score range: 23-25)
  • Writing:  All levels

Ivy Global has 3 practice tests contained within its book.  In addition, the book comes with lessons in English, math, reading, and science.

The practice tests are realistic for the most part.  However, even the most advanced students will find the reading lessons to be a challenge at times.  If you are trying to improve your reading score, this is the book for you.

The writing lessons are true to form and the punctuation lesson is a great exercise for any student starting out.

The math lessons tend to be geared towards students in the intermediate to high scoring range (over 22-30).  However the pre-algebra, elementary algebra, and coordinate geometry lessons are accessible to all students.

The science lessons are helpful but are not as challenging as other books we recommend.  However, some of the science lessons within the book are helpful, especially the question type lesson.

Ivy is great at updating their tests, which means new editions come out frequently.  If you plan to use with a study group or with a tutor, order multiple copies at the same time to make sure you are working with the same editions.

Please Note:  The explanations for Ivy Global are online.  They are not contained in the book.

Barron’s ACT Math and Science Workbook

  • Math:  Intermediate to Difficult (current score range: 22-30)
  • Reading:  N/A
  • Science: Intermediate (current score range: 23-25)
  • Writing:  N/A

Looking for extra review for math and science.  Barron’s ACT Math and Science Workbook is the perfect resource.

The Barron’s workbook contains lessons on all major math and science topics.  Each section contains strategies and the math section includes a discussion of how to use a calculator.   The math caters to students at all levels.

There are multiple opportunities for students to practice with practice problems and there is also an entire practice test devoted to math as well.  There are solutions for each problem and, for the most part, these solutions are accessible to students.

The science questions provide students with variety.  They are great for students starting out and those who are trying to achieve a perfect score in the section. Each question type that is found on ACT science is covered.  There are multiple opportunities for a deeper dive and practice problems throughout.

Overall, Barron’s practice tests can feel a little more challenging than the real thing. Barron’s is a great resource for content review of each question type more than for practice tests.

For the Love of ACT Science

  • Math:  N/A
  • Reading:  N/A
  • Science: All levels
  • Writing:  N/A

One of our favorite books for students trying to improve their ACT Science scores is For the Love of ACT Science. The best part about this book is it is accessible to students at all levels and the strategies are easy for students to implement.

The book is also a quick read (only 142 pages).  Students who need to cram but want to see improvement in science, this is the book for you. Students who work with this book tend to say it made the science section feel like a break and will report that “it all just clicked” after reading the book.

The College Panda’s  ACT Math: Advanced Guide and Workbook

  • Math:  Intermediate to Difficult (current score range: 22-30)
  • Reading:  N/A
  • Science: All levels
  • Writing:  N/A

Looking for extensive practice on the concepts tested for ACT math.  College Panda is the book for you.

Each section is designed to review then test your knowledge of ACT math concepts.  The College Panda book allows you to solidify your strengths and work on your weaknesses. The problems tend to be challenging.  Beginners can use the book to explore the concepts overall and then work on some of the easier lessons.  Intermediate to advanced students can use the book to drill down on the harder questions.

The solutions for this book are helpful for intermediate to advanced students but, at times, students at the beginner level need to look to resources outside of the book to understand some of the foundational concepts College Panda skips over. Beginners will benefit from the book but we would recommend doing a little review and practice in the Official ACT Prep Guide before jumping in.


These are our favorite guide books for timed ACT practice tests and some of our favorite books for review of particular concept areas. Having trouble keeping up with prep on your own? For additional help in these areas and accountability to stay on track with your prep, contact us to find out more about our test prep options.

*Note: This post contains affiliate links. However, these are the books that we recommend and use with students in our tutoring sessions.