Prep Books for the ACT

Official and Unofficial ACT Prep Books Defined

The Official ACT Prep Guide: From the Makers of the ACT is written by the ACT organization and published by John Wiley & Sons; this volume and its earlier editions are the only titles that can be considered official. All other published books on the test have been written by authors and/or organizations that are not sanctioned by ACT and should therefore be regarded as unofficial.

How to Evaluate the Quality of Unofficial ACT Prep Books

The term "unofficial" does not necessarily denote a lack of quality, but there certainly are titles available that vary widely in author credibility and instructional legitimacy. Some unofficial ACT prep books were written by experienced test prep educators, but others were authored by freelance or staff writers with little to no test prep expertise. Careful scrutiny will usually help test-takers tell the difference. Books that include named authors who list their credentials and/or volumes produced by notable academic publishers are typically fine, while those that do not should probably be avoided. High-quality unofficial books are most effectively utilized in conjunction with the Official Guide.

Unofficial ACT Prep Books Intended for Total Test Preparation

There are many unofficial titles available at online or brick-and-mortar bookstores that take a comprehensive view of ACT preparation. Typically covering all five sections of the ACT, these books commonly distinguish themselves from the Official Guide by offering some novel approach to ACT study. Several test prep companies have published these sorts of titles, and they usually include unofficial practice tests.

Unofficial ACT Prep Books Devoted to Individual ACT Sections or Skills

Also available are materials dedicated to specific ACT sections or to discreet testing skills. Unlike the whole-test volumes mentioned above, these books focus on a targeted area of ACT preparation and can therefore offer a higher level of detail in that area and explore issues that more comprehensive volumes neglect. Examples include a book that reviews all of the mathematical abilities covered on the ACT Math test, a volume on ACT Writing, and a title that consists exclusively of unofficial ACT practice tests.

Manhattan Review's Turbocharge Your ACT Series

Manhattan Review has published a series of prep books known as Turbocharge Your ACT. Authored by Manhattan Review founder Joern Meissner, a business school professor, published scholar, and test prep expert with more than 25 years of experience as an educator, the Turbocharge Your ACT series includes guides for each ACT multiple-choice section, an essay writing guide, and volumes of question banks for practice. This innovative series of prep books is available from the Manhattan Review website or from bookstores everywhere.

Books on Related Topics

Test-takers may be interested in books that have been published on a variety of topics related to test preparation and college admissions. For example, some titles offer non-ACT-specific guidelines on how to approach taking standardized tests or how to maximize the odds of gaining acceptance to one's preferred university. There are also scholarly works written by educational researchers, which explore issues in standardized testing such as socio-economic bias, the development of assessment criteria, or the connections between test scores and academic performance. Though not directly relevant to ACT preparation, such books can help test-takers achieve their goals for higher education and acquire a deeper understanding of standardized testing and its role in their future.

Using Unofficial ACT Prep Books

Unofficial ACT preparation resources can make substantive contributions to ACT study if they are current, written by credible authors, and used as part of a learning program overseen by a qualified teacher. Making these books the sole basis of ACT preparation is not advisable, and there is no compelling evidence that such methods produce even average results (let alone the high scores expected in the current university admissions environment). Students who wish to receive their highest possible ACT scores should engage the services of teachers with solid credentials and proven records of success, and individuals with these qualifications will be more than willing to discuss them with potential test preparation clients.

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