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Best ACT Prep Courses
Our comprehensive guide to the best online ACT prep courses and classes
With most every college applicant having a solid GPA and impressive extracurriculars, it is tougher than ever to get into the college of your dreams. Given this, your ACT score will likely be the difference maker on your application, and to get a great score, you’re going to need a prep course. But with so many prep options to choose from, how do you decide? Our team of experts has reviewed every major prep course on the market and ranked the best ones here, so you can make an informed decision.
To quickly navigate through this list of the best ACT prep courses, we’ve provided helpful jump-to links above.
Our Video Guide To The Top-Rated ACT Prep Courses
In this video review, John from the Test Prep Insight team breaks down the best ACT prep courses on the market based on price, effectiveness and a number of other factors. For more detail, be sure to continue reading our full guide below.
In our team’s opinion, after rating out a dozen or so courses, Princeton Review offers the best all-around curriculum and study material in ACT prep. Their prep course covers every instructional method, including video lessons, live classes, practice work, textbooks, and even tutoring with their top tier package.
This varied approach to teaching offers superior material comprehension and retention, and accommodates all learning types. Princeton’s video lessons lead the way on the instructional side, and they are very good. The quality of their video content and delivery is unparalleled in the ACT prep space and we believe this is the highlight of the course.
The video lectures are complemented by live class sessions with instructors who know the ACT inside and out. The Princeton live classes are jam-packed with content review and testing strategies, as well as helpful side tips form the individual teachers.
These teaching elements are backed up by two excellent course books and a set of first-rate practice work. Though Princeton doesn’t provide quite as many practice questions as other ACT prep providers, the quality is very strong.
These problems, which have been carefully crafted by Princeton’s team of in-house ACT experts, closely mirror the real questions you will see on game day. Although they take a more traditional approach to test prep, when all of these elements are rolled up together in one bundle, it is a powerful prep experience that our team of experts agreed was at the top of our best list.
Superb Video Lessons
The highlight of the Princeton Review ACT prep course is clearly the video lessons. Understanding that it is very difficult to hold a teenager’s attention for more than a few minutes, Princeton smartly designs their video lectures into short, engaging clips.
Each mini-lesson only runs for 4 to 10 minutes. This creates a real sweet spot to deliver some seriously informative content, while being short enough to hold your attention the entire time. And beyond the quick hit nature of the videos, the format of delivery is also fantastic.
Your instructor appears on screen before a plain white background. But rather than using a whiteboard and having the instructor turn around frequently to jot down notes with their back to the camera, Princeton uses some nifty digital effects to superimpose the text and graphics onscreen in front of the instructor.
This allows the instructor to always be facing the camera and to use a marker to take notes right in from of them (between the teacher and the audience). This delivery is really cool and keeps all the material right at the forefront of the lesson.
Not only does this improve engagement, but material comprehension as well. I personally loved these video lessons, and think they are about the best across the ACT prep industry.
Proctored Practice Exams
A nice benefit available to students who take one of Princeton Review’s live prep courses (though not the self-paced version) is the series of proctored practice exams that Princeton Review administers.
Throughout your live class schedule, and before exam day, Princeton Review will have you sit through a fully proctored practice exam. Though it sounds miserable, this is a huge advantage. There is often no better means of preparing than taking practice tests under exam-like conditions. And this feature allows you to do just that.
That way, when exam day rolls around, there will be no surprise and the test will feel just like any other practice test you’ve taken. No nerves, test day jitters or other reason to foul up your score. You will get either 3 or 4 proctored exams depending on which course type you enroll in.
PrepScholar makes our best list in large part because of their insanely robust library of fantastic practice material. Offering one of the most voluminous and high-quality sets of practice questions and tests in the ACT prep industry, other prep providers struggle to keep up with PrepScholar on this front (more on this below).
But PrepScholar offers students much more than just a boatload of solid practice work – they also provide one of the most extensive and well-planned curriculums around.
Across 40+ individual lessons, PrepScholar guides students step-by-step through what, when and how to study. There is never a question with PrepScholar about what you should be doing at a given point in the course, and I love this. They walk you through every bit of material on a strictly scheduled basis, ordered in a manner to maximize gains.
In addition, PrepScholar offers some incredibly informative instructional lessons with a varied approach to teaching. These lessons consist of a mix of both text-based trainings and video lectures. Though I do just want note that you don’t get a video with every lesson, just some. And that bums me out, as the videos are pretty darn good. 😞
While I found the text-based lessons to be a bit dry at times, they are about as detailed as they come. They cover every testable point on the ACT in extreme detail and thoroughly explain both the content side and strategy side of a given lesson.
Beyond the text passages, most (again, not all) lessons have a corresponding video lecture as well, which I really liked. The delivery format isn’t perfect, but the content is dead on and the lesson itself is engaging.
When these video lectures are used in conjunction with the text-based lesson, it doesn’t get much more thorough. For students that learn well through text, PrepScholar could be a great fit, especially when you consider the value of their practice work.
Quality & Quantity of Practice Material
If you’re the type of student that loves to work practice questions and learn by doing, rather than just studying content and strategies, you’ll love PrepScholar. Offering 2,400+ practice questions and 5 full-length practice tests, PrepScholar boasts some of the best practice work numbers in the industry.
While their 2,400 questions aren’t quite as numerous as Testive’s, it’s important to bear in mind that Testive’s 3,000 questions are used for both their SAT and ACT review. When PrepScholar’s ACT questions are lumped in with their SAT material (through their Dual SAT + ACT course), you actually get 9,500 total practice problems and 15 practice tests.
These are some absolutely wild numbers and it is unlikely you’d ever get to them all. And to be clear, PrepScholar does not just create practice problems for the sake of practice problems (and getting this volume recognition) – these are questions of first-rate quality.
PrepScholar’s ACT experts have clearly spent considerable time on these questions, as I found them to be very close in terms of content and style to real ACT questions. When you think of PrepScholar practice material, you have to think quantity and quality.
Magoosh makes our best ACT prep courses list in large part for one reason – value. With their flagship ACT prep course offerings coming in at just $130, the value of this course cannot be overlooked. I’ll cover the “bang for your buck” aspect of this package more fully below, but just know that despite being a budget course option, Magoosh still delivers a hefty quantity of practice material.
With 250+ video lessons, 1,300+ practice questions and up to 4 full-length practice tests, it kind of makes you wonder how they can offer all of this at such a low price. But it is not just the quantity that impressed our team – the quality is also quite good as well.
The 250+ video lessons are each short in length (generally 5 to 15 minutes) and are in PowerPoint form. This is great for visual learners, as the instructor draws up notes right on screen and all of the material is presented visually right in front of you. That said, these videos are a touch dull. The format of these videos creates a boring delivery, but they are nonetheless very informative and the length saves them.
In addition to a rather deep library of video instruction, students also get access to some very solid practice questions, as well as four practice tests. But more important than the practice questions themselves, Magoosh delivers a text and video explanation for each and every problem.
I still do not know how they can afford to do this at their low price points, but these explanations are a highlight of the course. All things considered, Magoosh may be the value pick based on pricing, but they also provide a very reliable prep course.
The Most Bang for Your Buck
As mentioned above, the Magoosh prep package is all about bang for your buck. You won’t get this kind of value for your dollar anywhere else. At only $130, you will not have to break the bank for this prep course.
In addition, their new live class format (with 16 hours of live class work) can be purchased for just around $400. That is a very, very good value for inclusion of live class time with an instructor and assigned homework.
And when our team assesses the value component of a course, we always weigh the price against the materials you get. And as mentioned, Magoosh doesn’t disappoint. They provide some rather astounding levels of video lessons, practice questions and problem explanations for this low cost.
The video lecture quality isn’t the best, but for many students the video lessons in Magoosh’s library and the practice work may be all they need.
Text & Video Explanations
The highlight of the Magoosh course content is very likely the text and video explanations that accompany each and every practice problem. The text explanations are extremely thorough and written in a very easy to understand manner.
In addition, many of them contain graphics and diagrams to help visualize the solution. To be honest, the text explanations standing alone are better than you get with many prep companies’ practice questions. But Magoosh doesn’t stop with text.
The also provide a video explanation of each solution. These videos take the same general PowerPoint approach as the video-based instruction, and explain step-by-step how the problem at hand should be solved. So whether you are a visual or textual learner, Magoosh has you covered.
This is a fantastic benefit that you wouldn’t expect to get with such an affordably-priced course.
If you (or your son or daughter) is strapped for time between school, sports, extracurriculars, and a part-time job, there is a strong chance Achievable is going to be a great fit for you. Though they don’t have the name recognition of Kaplan or Princeton Review, Achievable offers an affordable, modern approach to prep that we really like.
In short, Achievable positions itself as the intelligent and efficient course to getting your target ACT score. With adaptive algorithms to allocate study material based on your personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as learning science principles baked in to maximize gains, Achievable feels like the smartest prep course in the space from a tech perspective.
More on this below, but we love Achievable’s dedication to efficiency, and this is a big reason why Achievable has jumped up our list of best ACT courses.
In terms of what you get, Achievable offers a comprehensive digital textbook, hundreds of ACT Math, English, Reading, and Science practice problems, and narrowly focused review sessions.
One of the coolest features of the course is the endless supply of math practice problems. Each numbers-based problem uses random variables each time, creating an infinite question bank that you can use over and over again to get original questions to drill on.
While Achievable’s content isn’t as varied as what you get with Kaplan or Princeton Review from a content medium point of view (it lacks on demand video lessons and live classes), for the price of just $129, you can’t really complain. Bottom line, if pricing and getting bang for your buck is one of your biggest priorities, we find Achievable to be an awesome prep option.
One of the highlights of the Achievable course is how it breaks down its lessons into bite-sized chunks. As noted above, Achievable doesn’t provide video lessons. Instead, it makes its digital textbook the centerpiece of its course curriculum. Though that might sound unappealing (and boring 😴), we actually found it to be a positive from an efficiency perspective.
Their prep book has 78 chapters, which essentially each act as short learning modules. Each chapter takes just a few minutes to read (maybe 10 minutes on average), and is written in incredibly plain English.
The language is conversational, making it easier to understand more complicated concepts. This makes Achievable a great fit for people who struggle with denser, wordier textbooks. It’s simply not like those old school textbooks at all.
We also love how they leverage simple, easy to understand sample problems. The text walks you through a concept in plain English, then demonstrates the point with an example problem that helps tie theory to practice.
Then following each chapter, you are assigned a review session, which basically quizzes you on the material you just learned (while also circling back to earlier content for review).
It is a highly effective and efficient means of learning material, and you can finish an entire lesson on a topic (including text and review problems) in less than 30 minutes. Again, perfect for busy students.
Smart Science & Tech
Lastly, as already discussed, one of the biggest selling points of the Achievable course is the science baked into their curriculum, as well as the smart, adaptive tech. The efficiency gains noted above are primarily accomplished through their adaptive algorithm, which constantly monitors your progress on practice work to optimize your study plan.
Our team loves how they focus your studies on weak spots, which is where you generally get the biggest point increases in ACT prep. The other way in which Achievable makes gains is with spaced reviews, which is a learning concept backed by memory science.
Essentially, rather than covering a topic one time and continuing on with other material until you hit the end of your course content, Achievable periodically pulls old material back into your review quizzes, to keep the material fresh in your mind.
When this smart tech and coursework structure is combined with some quality practice work and a digital text, we couldn’t help but give this course high marks.
Kaplan makes our list of best ACT prep courses for some of the reasons that Princeton Review does. That is, Kaplan offers a robust course plan and top-notch study materials. Yet, on the whole, when grading out all the factors that matter, we do much prefer Princeton Review.
However, with that being said, the biggest saving grace for Kaplan is that they have partnered directly with the makers of the ACT exam. In fact, it is actually an official ACT prep package “powered by Kaplan.” As such, students get direct access to official, previously used ACT questions and tests. The value of this realistic practice cannot be overstated.
Princeton does an excellent job designing problems, but the real deal questions will always get the edge, even if slight. Beyond the first-rate practice material, Kaplan also offers some strong instructional materials.
While Kaplan doesn’t provide as many live class hours as Princeton Review and has fewer video lessons, the quality of their lessons is still good. The Kaplan ACT prep package is a rock-solid, all-around course and the partnership with ACT lands it on our best list.
Partnership with the Makers of the ACT
As discussed above, Kaplan offers its students the unique opportunity to practice with real, previously used ACT questions. This is an exclusive benefit to Kaplan that others simply cannot provide.
The partnership between Kaplan and ACT is actually so close that it is labeled as ACT’s official course on their website and powered by the Kaplan platform and expertise. Anytime in test prep that the makers of an exam, like the ACT, partner with a test prep company, that company has to get immediate attention.
Practicing under exam-like conditions is one of the keys to effective prep work, and practicing with real questions is about as good as it gets. The questions don’t just resemble real ACT, they are real ACT questions. This provides a best of both world scenario – you get the expertise and capabilities of Kaplan prep, with the official test material.
Excellent Video-Based Instruction
It also needs to be known that Kaplan provides some very good video lectures. Though we prefer Princeton Review’s video lessons overall, Kaplan’s hold their own. The two prep companies take a different approach to format, however. Kaplan’s video lessons feature your instructor sitting behind a desk on camera.
As he or she speaks, notes and key points appear on screen next to them. They also frequently break to a practice problem to help exemplify the points they are trying make. At this point, they pause the lesson for a moment to allow you to work the practice problem on your own.
Then they return to explain the problem and walk you through how to solve it. The video cuts to a digital whiteboard and the instructor takes notes right onscreen with their tablet and stylus, showing you how you should have attacked the question.
This use of practice problems to demonstrate points, when combined with the content review portion of the video, makes for a powerful delivery.
In addition, similar to how Princeton Review does things, Kaplan keeps their videos short and sweet. These videos last just 7 to 12 minutes, which is just enough time to get the material across without losing the attention of a 17-year-old.
The final point worth mentioning about the Kaplan videos is their audiovisual quality – it is stellar. The picture is sharp, the digital effects are perfectly executed and the all-around delivery is very sleek. In short, I was a big fan of these Kaplan video lectures.
Prep Expert broke onto the ACT prep scene back in 2016 after founder Shaan Patel’s appearance on the hit show Shark Tank. While our team was a little skeptical about the effectiveness of a course that made its name through a reality TV show, after reviewing this course, I can say that the Prep Expert ACT prep package is the real deal.
The course largely revolves around Shaan’s 100 self-created ACT testing strategies, which helped him achieve a perfect score on the SAT (the strategies have been tweaked to apply to both the SAT and ACT).
More on these testing strategies below, but in short, I loved how Prep Expert doesn’t waste time feeding you tens of hours of standard content review. They cut straight to the chase and teach you the tricks and techniques that are most effective in achieving major score gains.
Prep Expert accomplishes this primarily through 36 hours of live online instruction and prerecorded video lectures. Personally, I found their live online classes to be engaging, informative and downright helpful.
The Prep Expert instructors have all scored in the top 1% of all scorers on the ACT and have been trained on Shaan’s testing strategies, so you get a consistent lesson across teachers and lesson format, which is always nice.
Alternatively, for those students taking Prep Expert’s self-paced course (and as backup for those students in one of the live classes), you get access to prerecorded video lectures from founder Shaan Patel himself.
While I really liked Shaan’s teaching style and obvious mastery of the material, the video format and delivery wasn’t my favorite, finding it a little outdated and jumpy.
Beyond the instructional channels, Prep Expert also offers students an excellent opportunity to practice under exam-like conditions with some high-quality practice questions and simulated exams. All in all, Prep Expert offers a very well-rounded course curriculum that is one of the best in the ACT prep space.
Prep Expert’s 100 ACT Strategies
The clear of highlight of the Prep Expert ACT prep program is their bundle of 100 testing strategies, which were developed by founder Shaan Patel. Shaan created these strategies while studying for the SAT over a decade ago.
Yet, while they are now 10+ years old and were originally designed with the old SAT in mind, these techniques still apply today and work very well for the ACT. For example, some of these strategies include “remove nonessential appositives,” “tackle line-cited questions first” and “ace exponents.”
These test taking strategies are the basis of most lesson plans and your instructor will spend significant time hammering these techniques. I loved this concept of making strategies the foundation of the course as opposed to old school content review.
Your instructor generally presents the technique by identifying a way in which the ACT attempts to trick you or where students frequently get off-track. He or she then presents the technique as a means of resolving the common issue and demonstrates how it plays out with a few practice problems.
Across 100 strategies, this provides a lot of shortcuts and easy fixes that are sure to get extra points that otherwise would have been missed because of difficulty or timing.
Administered by ACT, Inc. and commonly used by colleges and universities as a determining factor for admissions, the ACT Exam is a standardized, multiple-choice test that is typically taken by high school students in their sophomore, junior or senior year. The ACT measures skills in English, Reading, Math and Science, with an optional Writing section.
How the ACT is Structured
The ACT comprises four sections in the following subject areas: (1) English, (2) Math, (3) Reading, and (4) Science. Examinees can choose whether or not to complete an optional Writing section. The testing time for the four main sections is 2 hours, 55 minutes, plus an additional 40 minutes if the writing option is exercised. With breaks, expect to spend 4+ hours testing in toal.
The first section covers English usage and mechanics, including punctuation and grammar. It also covers rhetorical skills, together with sentence structure and organization. The English section has 75 questions, with a testing time of 45 minutes.
Math is the second section of the exam and tests the subjects of pre-algebra, algebra, plane geometry, coordinate geometry, and trigonometry. For the math section you are allowed to use your 4-function scientific or graphing calculator, provided it is not on the ACT’s prohibited list. Be sure to check the ACT website for a current list of prohibited calculators. The math section has 60 questions, with a testing time of 60 minutes.
The reading section of the ACT consists of four different passages in the subject areas of Social Studies, Natural Sciences, Prose Fiction, and Humanities. Measuring your overall reading comprehension, you will be assessed on your ability to identify and understand main ideas and details, use reasoning skills, interpret important details, make comparisons and grasp cause and effect relationships. The reading section has 40 questions, with a testing time of 35 minutes.
The science section is formatted similarly to the aforementioned reading section, wherein students read passages of varying formats, which may include graphs, charts, and conflicting viewpoints. After reading each passage, students answer a series of questions assessing their interpretation, analysis, evaluation, reasoning and problem-solving skills. The science section has 40 questions, with a testing time of 35 minutes.
Optional Writing Section
Administered at the end of the exam and measuring overall writing skills, the optional writing test consists of one essay question where students are asked to respond to a given prompt. Students are provided with three different perspectives relating to the prompt, and encouraged to develop and explain their own point of view. The writing section has one essay question, with a testing time of 40 minutes.
How Often is the ACT Offered?
The ACT is administered seven times a year on a Saturday during the months of February, April, June, July, September, October and December (though note that New York does not offer a test during the month of July). It is recommended that you register with ACT at least six weeks prior to your desired test date.
Preparing for the ACT
Start by taking a practice test. Starting with a diagnostic exam will provide you with baseline information about your strengths and weaknesses, and allow you to become familiar with the testing format. You will see how test questions are formatted, and what material is tested, as well as understanding the instructions given on the test. Plus, you’ll get an idea of your raw, baseline score.
Utilize prep courses, books and sample questions available from ACT, Inc. Join or form an ACT study group and take a prep course. Take at least one practice test with the use of a timer to simulate the real test. This will give you a sense of timing so you can learn to pace yourself accordingly. Practice, practice, practice!
Increase the time you spend reading and brush up on your reading skills. Expand your reading to new types of books, articles, and magazines. There is a lot of reading on the ACT, so get yourself prepared to quickly read, understand and answer questions effectively.
Practice self-care. Studying for the ACT exam can be stressful, but it will be far more daunting if you don’t take care of yourself. Make sure to stay hydrated, eat healthy meals and take time for physical exercise daily. Don’t skimp on sleep. Practice mindfulness daily, and stay connected with friends and family.
Do I need an ACT prep course?
If you are targeting a better-than-average ACT score, yes. In today’s competitive college admissions landscape, your ACT score will likely be the difference maker on your application and you’ll want to make sure you get a prep course to ensure you’re fully prepared.
How much does a typical ACT prep course cost?
ACT prep courses can cost anywhere from as low as $80 up to $2,000+, all depending on the features, resources and level of personal touch that you need.
Will an ACT prep course raise my score?
Very likely yes. Most ACT prep courses provide a thorough curriculum of instructional material and practice work, that when completed will almost surely raise your score.