Like the SAT, the ACT (American College Test) tests the most basic skills in reading, math, science and writing that are required for college level education. It is typically taken by students in their junior year of high school.
While there are more test-optional schools than before, the ACT is hardly going away anytime soon. In fact, more than 85 percent of college applications are still sent to schools requiring either SAT or ACT scores, according to Zach Goldberg, spokesperson for the College Board, which owns and makes the SAT.
So, if you have to take the test, you should do it with a strategy. No matter how you like to study or your financial situation, you’ll find an ACT prep course just right for you.
Check out our handpicked list of ACT prep courses and find your best fit!
Our measurements of ACT prep courses
Before diving into the actual list, take a look at how we measured these ACT prep courses.
- Practice tests: With everything in life, the simple truth is that practice makes perfect. Same goes for the ACT. The more you practice, the higher your score will be. So, the number of practice tests the prep course provides is important. However, knowing how to take the test is as important as knowing what’s going to be on the test. The depth of contents that follow and support each practice test, such as in-depth answer explanations or company blog articles on strategies and tips, matter as well.
- Customization: Yes, practice makes perfect. But, blind repetition is plain laziness. For each of the three sections in the ACT — reading, writing, science and math — every student starts out at different levels. Rather than offering the same study plan for all students, a good prep course should be customizable to focus on strengthening each student’s weak areas. Also, a diverse set of prep options allows students to find one that fits their own study type.
- Variety of content: Besides practice tests, there are many ways to prepare for the test. A good prep course offers a variety of study tools, such as flashcards, games, live classrooms, quizzes, or 24/7 online study tutor.
- Time flexibility: High school students are busy. A good prep course should take this into account and make its content constantly available for students to create their own study schedules. Programs with mobile apps would also be very useful for busy students.
- Price: However great the course may be, if it doesn’t fit your budget, it’s probably out. Although many prep courses can be more pricey, there are a lot of affordable, and even free, courses that are still awesome in quality.
Our choices of ACT prep courses
Now, here’s our handpicked list of the best ACT prep courses, varying in their strong and weak points. They are NOT listed by price range.
ACT.org not only makes the test, but also offers a comprehensive ACT prep course for free. Although the ACT prep course doesn’t have in-person tutors, its online services are good enough for most students.
- Practice tests: Every option varies in the number of full-length practice tests. Besides the tests, the ACT prep course includes thousands of practice questions followed by explanations and tips to help you solve each question.
- Customization: The ACT Academy is a free online tool that includes a personalized study plan based on your previous scores, practice tests and a wide variety of online resources, such as practice questions, video lessons and educational games. If you’re willing to pay a little, there are 3 types of ACT Rapid Review and 2 other prep options that are affordable, yet awesome in quality.
- Lasting 3 month, the ACT Rapid Review Live includes a virtual classroom with instruction from experts and real time Q & A.
- Lasting 6 months, the ACT Rapid Review On Demand includes a comprehensive directory of video lessons from experts and real time Q & A.
- Also lasting 6 months, the ACT Rapid Review All Access includes everything from the other two options above. Note that this option is free for students eligible for fee waivers.
- Lasting for 6 months, the ACT Online Prep includes practice tests, a personalized study plan, online tools to track your progress and set daily goals, customized flashcards, and online resources, such as games and a mobile app.
- Lasting for 6 months, the official ACT Prep Pack includes everything in the ACT OnlinePrep plus a physical ACT prep book.
- Variety of content: There are a lot of variety even with the free content, such as games where you and your friends can compete, and daily reminders and goals to keep you on the right track and video lessons.
- Time flexibility: All of ACT’s contents are highly flexible with time because they are all online. So, you can use them whenever and wherever you want. You can also download the ACT app for free to access all of its PC contents on your phone. However, if you are more of an in-person study type or can’t keep up with a study plan by yourself, you may have to find a different course to motivate yourself more directly.
- Price: FREE. For the 5 types of paid prep options, the price ranges from as low as $39.95 to as high as $99.
With highly customized study plans and affordable prices, Magoosh is a good option for busy students who are low on budget, but want more than just practice tests and video lessons.
- Practice tests: You will get up to 4 practice tests, over 250 video lessons and 1,500 practice questions. Each practice question comes with a thorough explanation video that covers concepts and shortcuts.
- Customization: There are 3 plans with the same content and features, but with different duration of 1, 3 or 12 months. Every option includes unlimited access to all online study materials and assistance, such as customized study schedules and weekly progress reports from expert tutors.
You will also get access to a dashboard that estimates your score, suggests video lessons to watch, tracks your progress, and compares your results with those of other students. Also, Magoosh offers a smart review system that allows you to review your performance based on time, difficulty, subject or according to your own bookmarks.
You’ll receive targeted study schedules and weekly study planners that are customized based on your performance. You can also create customized practice sessions on specific subjects and set difficulty levels.
- Variety of content: Besides practice tests and online instructional materials, you can have access to personal assistance from expert tutors, detailed performance analysis, and weekly progress reports for parents.
- Time flexibility: Since Magoosh provides all of its contents online, its courses are highly flexible with time. They also provide two different mobile apps, one for video lessons and practice questions and another for 216 flashcards with English, Science and Math concepts. However, if you are more of an in-person study type or can’t keep up with a study plan by yourself, you may have to find a different course to motivate yourself more directly.
- Price: Starting as low as $39.50 and going up to $49.50, Magoosh offers very affordable prep courses with a wide variety of content. You can also sign up for a 7-day trial for free and choose to pay later. You’ll also get a 7-day-money-back guarantee if you’re not satisfied with the service for any reason.
With teachers who scored in the 99th percentile or higher on the ACT, PrepScholar offers a wide variety of course options with high customization and expert-taught lessons.
- Practice tests: You will get up to 4 full-length practice tests and over 1,800 practice questions with detailed answer explanations for every question.
- Customization: You can choose out of 5 different prep options. All options last at least a year.
- The most basic and popular option — the Complete ACT Online Prep — includes one year access to all online study materials and assistance, such as a personalized study plan, customized feedback, and weekly reports that tracks your progress.
- The PrepScholar Classes option includes everything in the previous option plus online, expert-led class experience.
- The Complete + Tutoring includes everything in the Complete ACT Online Prep option plus hours of one-on-one tutoring session.
- The Complete Premium gives you access to everything in the Complete ACT Online Prep, but for three years.
- Lastly, the Dual SAT + ACT includes prep tools for both the SAT and ACT.
Also, your program is continuously updated to adapt to your current difficulty level. Then, your updated program will pick and send out weekly assignments based on subjects or concepts that need more improvement.
- Variety of content: Besides practice tests and questions, you have access to over 60 hours of content, 70 skill lessons with strategy videos, and live online classrooms and in-person tutors. Also, you and your parents will receive weekly email reports from real PrepScholar teachers discussing how you are improving and motivating you to reach your set goals.
- Time flexibility: Out of 5 different prep options, the Complete ACT Online Prep is the most flexible with time. Although you need to adjust your time to fixed schedule a little bit more, the PrepScholar Classes option also offers all materials online plus online classes taught by experts. You can receive all the benefits of an expert-led ACT class without having to step out of your own room.
- Price: Starting as low as $397 and going as high as $995, PrepScholar prep courses are worth it, but may be a bit pricey for some students.
Testive is a very parent-friendly prep course. All of its options not only start with a free consultation between an expert and your family, but also leave a lot of space for both parents and students to work together in setting study plans and communicating with expert tutors.
- Practice tests: The number of practice tests varies by course options. Besides full-length practice tests, each student gets a focused practice set that lasts about 20 to 30 minutes daily and instant answer explanation for questions you get wrong.
- Customization: Testive offers three different prep options.
- Lasting at least a month, the Coaching option includes live 1-on-1 online coaching sessions, unlimited access to online study materials, personalized study plans and weekly assignments, and adaptive learning software to your performance.
- Lasting from 4 to 6 weeks, the Bootcamp option includes everything in the Coaching option plus 1-on-1 sessions twice a week.
- Lasting at least a month, the Coaching Plus includes everything in the Coaching option plus even more thorough monitoring of a student’s progress and 1-on-1 sessions twice a week.
- Variety of content: Besides the online materials, such as video lessons and study plans, Testive’s options are very good at communicating feedback and advice from tutors to students and their families. All options provide text message reminders, weekly meeting notes for parents and students, parent portal to track progress, and email and phone support.
- Time flexibility: Since all of its materials are online, all three options are flexible with time. However, since the Bootcamp option is for students who need to get done with the ACT in a few weeks, you need to see if your schedule leaves enough room to focus just on the ACT for a short period of time.
- Price: The Coaching option costs $399 per month, the Coaching Plus option costs $599 per month, and the Bootcamp option costs $799. To start, you can take one full-length practice test for free.
The Princeton Review
The Princeton Review offers a wide variety of study tools and course options to fit every student’s different situation and study styles. Its options offer the most practice tests out of our 6 handpicked prep courses.
- Practice tests: The number of practice tests varies by course options, from as low as 2 to as high as more than 30 full-length practice tests. Besides full-length practice tests, thousands of practice questions, hundreds of video contents, and 24/7 support from online tutors are available. So, basically, you’ll never run out of practice questions or resources explaining them.
- Customization: The Princeton Review offers 6 different options.
- The ACT Self-Paced option includes a year access to all online materials, such as videos and personalized online tools, and 8 ACT practice tests.
- The SAT & ACT Self-Paced Prep includes everything in the ACT Self-Paced Prep plus 15 SAT practice tests, 8 PSAT practice tests, and online video lessons for AP tests.
- Lasting a year as well, the Ultimate option includes everything in the ACT & SAT Self-Paced Prep plus 18 hours of in-person focused class time, 6 extra practice tests, and 3 scheduled, proctored practice tests.
- The ACT 31+ includes everything in the ACT & SAT Self-Paced Prep plus ACT Advantage LiveOnline Sessions, 20 extra full-length practice tests, 8 single-section practice tests, 1 expert tutor, 4 proctored practice tests, and 24/7 On-Demand Tutoring.
- As the most personalized option, the Private Tutoring option includes access to all the online materials, custom-built apps for managing progress, communication with a tutor and scheduling, and SAT and PSAT prep.
- The ACT Cram Course option includes 6 hours of live online classroom instruction, 2 full-length practice tests, 8 section-specific practice tests, and access to online materials.
Also, with every course option, you get personalized lesson plans based on your practice tests and drills to avoid wasting time on things that you already know and to focus on things that you keep getting wrong.
- Variety of content: The Princeton Review offers a wide variety of different content, from over 280 online video lessons to 377 online drills to multiple hours of chat time with experts. You and your parents can track progress and set study goals to avoid any cramming or panic attacks the night before the test date.
- Time flexibility: Out of six different course options, the Self-Paced option allows the most flexibility with time. Students can access on-demand lessons online whenever they want.
- Price: The price varies a lot by options. For example, the ACT Cram Course costs $399, the ACT 31+ costs $1,349, and the ACT Self-Paced costs $150.
With expert teachers who scored at 90 percent or above on the ACT, Kaplan provides customizable and expert-led course options.
- Practice tests: All course options include up to 9 full-length practice tests. Besides practice tests, thousands of practice questions and both recorded and live lessons online are available to help you know not only what’s on the test, but also how to tackle them.
- Customization: There are 5 different course options.
- The Self-Paced option lasts for 6 months and includes ACT prep books and unlimited access to all online study materials and assistance, such as a personalized study plan, expert instruction and QBank, which builds personalized quizzes.
- With varying duration by schedules, the Live Online includes everything in the Self-Paced option plus 32 hours of live online instruction and over 25 hours of on-demand lessons.
- The College Prep Pass includes everything in the Self-Paced option plus essay feedback within 72 hours, double the amount of hours of video lessons, live classes for not only the ACT, but also the SAT, PSAT and AP tests and a college checklist to help you keep track of important deadlines.
- The Tutoring option includes 10, 20 or 40 hours of in-person tutoring and access to all online materials and live online courses.
- Lasting through December of the senior year, the Unlimited Prep option gives you access to all online study tools, such as Kaplan classes, The SAT and ACT Channels, proctored practice tests and QBank for all three tests, the SAT, ACT and PSAT.
All of Kaplan’s prep courses are highly customizable. All options provide online resources as well as customized study plans based on your practice tests. You also receive progress reports to help track your performance.
- Variety of content: Besides practice tests and practice questions, there are updated online quizzes and Qbank, a set of 500 flashcards, up to 50 hours of video lessons, 24/7 access to live review sessions, online classrooms, private Q & A, progress reports, and hours of private coaching available for students.
- Time flexibility: Out of many course options, the Self-Paced option is the most flexible in time. The option gives you access to not only the online practice questions and online QBank, but also 25 hours of self-scheduled video lessons on terms and topics tested in the ACT.
- Price: Varying by course option, the price can be as low as $299 or as high as $1,999. The Self-Paced option starts at $299.
Your ACT score is important because it helps you make the very first cut in most colleges’ admission process. But while it’s definitely worth spending the time to prepare for it, it should not take a lifetime. So, be smart and strategic when preparing for the exam. And, before spending thousands of dollars on a prep course, try out free ones first. If you thrive on studying by yourself, stick with the free resources online. If you need that extra push, consider a prep course with online classrooms or tutors.
Hyeyeun Jeon is from South Korea and a graduate from Carnegie Mellon University with a double major in Professional Writing and International Relations. She is passionate about non-fiction storytelling. She loves reading, watching, writing and producing stories about extraordinary lives of everyday people.