Updated 15 October 2020
High school leavers looking to enroll at a college will likely need to sit the ACT exam to gain a place at their chosen institution.
The ACT, which stands for American College Testing, is an entrance exam used by colleges and universities to make decisions regarding admissions. It is usually taken during the spring of junior year or fall of senior year.
The test is written, multiple-choice and covers math, science, English and reading, with an optional writing section (some colleges will ask for this whilst others won’t).
The results provide institutions with a benchmark against which to mark all applicants.
It is unlikely you will have encountered a test like the ACT before, so opening the exam paper on test day without any prior preparation can be very intimidating.
The style of question in the ACT test takes some getting used to. Practice is key to keeping calm and being able to work through the questions methodically. That’s why it’s advisable to do as much preparation as you can before the test; there are plenty of online resources and courses available to students in the US.
ACT prep courses often play a crucial role in helping a student score highly in the ACT test.
They do this by:
Getting students used to the layout of the questions and the types of problems included in the test.
Allowing students to simulate a test situation by working through past papers.
Including practice questions previously used in actual ACT tests.
Explaining how to work out answers to questions and the method to use.
Helping students stick to a study schedule so that they stay on target as test day approaches.
Breaking everything down into manageable, bitesize study portions to prevent students from getting overwhelmed.
Often including one-to-one support from teachers who themselves have taken the ACT test and scored highly.
Providing students with the opportunity to identify their weaknesses and work through areas of difficulty.
It’s great that there are lots of different options for ACT study support but it can be difficult to decide between providers that offer similar packages.
Here are a few things to look out for when searching for an ACT prep course.
The person teaching the course must have achieved a high score themselves on the ACT test. The majority of companies declare the percentile their teachers must be in (or higher) to teach the program.
The majority of ACT study programs have an online information center that can be accessed after the virtual lessons have come to an end. The length of time you will have access varies. If you know you don’t have a lot of time to dedicate to study, it might be an idea to opt for a course that gives you more than six month’s access to all of its study aids.
Programs that include virtual classroom lessons have set dates and times when students are expected to log in. Some companies only offer a few options on dates, times and length of course, whilst others have a long list of different options to choose from.
The more practice questions and dummy test papers you can do, the better. Look for a course with a large bank of questions and ACT past test papers.
So what’s the best ACT test prep course? We’ve listed our top 10 ACT prep courses in alphabetical order.
You’ll notice distinct differences between them – some focus on one-to-one tuition and constant monitoring, whilst others put the responsibility on the student.
Some of the courses we’ve included offer physical classroom time in major cities. However, all of these have been suspended due to Covid19, so we have not included details of these options.
Magoosh is great for those who want to do everything at their own pace and can’t commit to scheduled live lessons.
For $99 you have access to Magoosh’s premium content for an entire year.
Instead of watching live sessions, students can use the resource center to access over 250 pre-recorded video lessons covering every concept tested on the ACT exam.
There are over 1,300 practice questions and video explanations for each one, complete with examples of wrong answers and explanations detailing why they are wrong.
A team of ACT tutors is on hand 24/7 to offer personalized support. A box at the bottom of the screen enables you to type your question and submit it without navigating away from the page you’re on.
For some, this won’t compare to live lessons and the ability to speak to a teacher face-to-face on camera.
Students have the opportunity to take short diagnostic tests to track their progress and identify weaknesses. Four practice tests are included in the package and you’ll also be provided with suggested study schedules and checklists designed by ACT experts.
Magoosh offers a seven-day money-back guarantee if you don’t feel you’ll get on with the program, and there’s a full refund guarantee if you don’t achieve an increase of four points or more on your score.
One Magoosh subscription enables you to log in on all of your devices, so you can study whenever and wherever you need to.
PrepScholar’s classes are live-streamed, allowing (a maximum of nine) students to interact with their teacher and classmates.
There are different schedules to suit your lifestyle; classes last between two weeks and five weeks depending on the structure you choose.
Regardless of which schedule you choose, there are a total of nine online teaching hours.
In addition to the set class, you also have access to PrepScholar’s Complete Prep ACT program for an entire year. This allows you to continue revising for the exam with all of the resources, even when the class itself is finished.
Unlike many other ACT prep courses, the PrepScholar classes are small enough for the curriculum to be tailored to the needs of the students. Teachers will focus on your weaknesses and help with aspects of the test you struggle with.
All of PrepScholar’s teachers scored in the 99th percentile. A full refund is given if you don’t manage to increase your ACT score by four or more points once you have completed the course.
Kaplan’s online course allows students to have a one-to-one live dialogue with a teacher, whilst watching a class led by another teacher.
The result is that the class isn’t interrupted and you can ask as many questions as you need to.
Kaplan gives six months of access to its resource center – so half of what some of the providers offer. However, courses are fairly short compared to other providers so, likely, you won’t need more than six months of study aid.
Students can choose from a variety of different schedules; most are based around a program of two hours, twice a week and last for around 30 days. Full-time Live Online programs are available; a Monday to Friday course takes less than two weeks to complete.
Kaplan has excellent transparency where its course teachers are concerned. Each teacher tutoring on the ACT Live Online course at Kaplan scored above the 90th percentile on the ACT.
A huge plus is the personalized progress reporting Kaplan offers. Each student has access to a customized review plan focusing on their strengths and weaknesses. Fantastic for working out where to focus your attention.
If your score doesn’t improve after taking the Live Online course, Kaplan will give you the option to get a further 12 weeks of free access to the online resources. They even extend this policy to those whose scores improved, but not enough for them to be satisfied with it.
Alternatively, if your score did not improve you can choose to have your money back.
The official ACT online course is powered by Kaplan and you can also find the course on the Kaplan website for the same price.
Given that you have to do a full sign up and hand over all of your details to ACT before you can even read about the course in any detail, it could be argued that it would be easier to go direct to Kaplan.
However, going through ACT for this course gets you the Self-Paced course (also powered by Kaplan) free. If you go through Kaplan, the Self-Paced course is an additional $99.
A downside to going with ACT over Kaplan is that there are no refunds available if things don’t work out for you. So, if you opt to go with ACT, make sure you’re confident that you’ll be able to put enough time into study to raise your score.
The ACT Live Online course (full details under Kaplan below) includes 16 hours of instruction from experienced teachers. Teachers answer questions from students in real-time and can adapt to your personal study needs, as well as offering support off-camera.
The Self-Paced course included in this package provides an online resource with 30 video lessons, five full-length ACT practice tests, nearly 2,000 ACT test questions and key strategies to help you on test day.
Olive Book prides itself on ensuring it stays up to date with the latest developments in the ACT test.
Students will always study what is most crucial for the test – Olive Book prioritizes the content that shows up frequently.
This provider gives students the option of choosing to study by subject or to have all of the subjects mixed up.
If you work better methodically and want to cover the English section followed by the entire Math section and so on, then the ‘Subject’ option will suit you.
If you know you need to continually have your interest sparked and don’t enjoy focusing on one subject for any length of time, you might find the ‘Blended’ option to be a better fit.
The two options have the same content, just in a different order.
Unlike other programs that run the same course on a variety of different dates and days, Olive Book offers just one start date with a set date for the ACT test as well.
This might seem like a big commitment, but Olive Book has a no catch refund policy. If you’re not completely satisfied or the course doesn’t help you, you can get a full refund.
This course is free to students ‘demonstrating need’; Olive Book gives the example of being eligible for a free reduced school lunch.
There are no live classes in this package. Students can work through a large bank of questions covering all of the ACT subjects. Many of them are accompanied by professionally animated video explanations.
This resource is available for six months after purchase.
Powerscore’s Live Online course runs for three and a half weeks and offers students 24 hours of virtual classroom teaching.
Students log in to see the teacher on screen and the whiteboard they are using.
Questions can be asked via messenger and the teacher will cover the query in class or respond privately.
Following each three hour lesson, students receive a homework assignment on the topics covered.
Each lesson is archived so you can go back to watch again at any time. There’s also an email assistance program where you can access help once the class is over.
On enrolling, you will receive a study guide that accompanies the lessons, as well as The Official ACT Prep Guide.
Students on this course have access to the Online Student Center. This online resource includes test scoring, handouts, performance feedback, lesson explanations, flashcards, homework assignments and resources for parents.
Students have access to this portal for up to two ACT administrations after the course has been completed.
You can choose from a selection of different start dates to suit your availability.
There is an Accelerated version of this course which is $350 and lasts just eight days. This level includes half of the interaction instruction hours, and classes are held on Saturdays and Sundays.
Powerscore offers students the chance to do the course again if they do not achieve a four-point score increased (three on the accelerated course).
Instructors on this course have scored in the 95th percentile or above.
Prep Expert’s approach is slightly different from that of Kaplan or Princeton, and landing on the website, you might be put off by how low budget it seems for the big price tag. But there are a lot of pros to studying with this company.
The focus for this course is on class time and exams. The six-week course is more intensive than other ACT courses, covering a total of 72 hours.
The class meets virtually in an online classroom twice a week for three hours of teacher instruction, and a further four hours a week of self-directed study in the form of a self-proctored ACT exam.
This method of study isn’t for everyone; in addition to attending online classes on a specific day at a specific time, the self-proctored exam has to be completed every week by 11 p.m. on a specific day, so the course takes a certain level of commitment.
There isn't a huge online resource or personalized homework plans as offered by some of the other providers.
The schedule is set, but it’s lengthy enough to cover everything in detail and students also receive two ACT prep books on enrolment.
The strategies used by Prep Expert teachers have been developed by a perfect ACT scorer and a perfect SAT scorer.
All of the Prep Expert teachers have scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT test. Prep Expert offers a four-point score improvement guarantee or your money back.
PrepFactory used to be a free service, but a $100 charge has now been brought in.
The package includes one-to-one tuition and tailored programs, so it’s still a good deal.
For your $100, you get a 90-day subscription to the website resources and a total of three one-to-one sessions with one of PrepFactory’s (99th percentile ACT score) tutors.
PrepFactory offers an assessment of your skills and gears lessons towards the strengths and weaknesses identified in that assessment.
The program provides students with strategies to tackle questions on test day, and practice test papers.
There is a tech-only option for $50 which includes these features but doesn’t include any tutoring.
The downside of PrepFactory is the lack of information available regarding exactly what students can access through the online resource, and how the technology works for the tutoring.
There is no information online about schedules, software needed, format of tutoring, amount of practice tests included, etc.
If you are interested in this course, it would pay to submit a request online and write some questions into an email to be answered by PrepFactory, so that you can make an informed decision and compare PrepFactory with the other providers.
Price: $798 (minimum)
Testive takes a very different approach to the other providers we have featured. The company tailors programs to the specific needs of the individual, and the entire offering addresses the parent organizing studies for their child, rather than the child themselves.
Testive considers the child’s approach to learning, the family’s diary commitments, the activities the child is involved in, test prep goals and education plans.
Once a profile is set up, the student must take an ACT practice test. The results are uploaded and analyzed by Testive to determine a study plan.
On the Coaching program, each week students get a one-to-one coaching session with a Testive representative. Coaches then assign students practice questions to work on each day for 20 to 30 minutes, using the web app.
Testive claims it helps students achieve a huge increase of (on average) 18 percentile points on their score.
There is a commitment policy from Testive which demands students complete at least one practice test each month, at least 100 test questions each week and meet with a coach once a week.
The important thing to note with the Testive Coaching program is that the $399 advertised on the website isn’t available, as it’s a monthly cost and the program is for a minimum of two months. The suggested time frame is four months, at a cost of $1,596.
Time starts as soon as you’ve signed up, so be sure to book and pay when you’re ready to begin studying.
If money is an issue, it could be advisable to opt for Testive’s Bootcamp, which is an intensive six to eight-week course at a cost of $799 and includes two one-to-one coach sessions per week.
All Testive coaches have achieved scores in or above the 99th percentile in the ACT or SAT test.
This course includes 18 hours of class time, plus a year’s worth of access to Princeton’s online resource center.
The resource center has 137 online drills and over 1,200 practice questions, plus practice tests.
Homework assignments are tailored and study plans are customized to suit the student’s pace.
Plans work around personal goals and take into account your starting score and how much time you have to complete the course.
If there’s something you covered in class that you feel you need to go over, or you have a spare minute to do some revision, you can access a store of over 140 online video classes on a range of different topics, 24/7.
Students on the Ultimate course get unlimited access to ACT Advantage which provides further opportunities to engage with Princeton’s expert instructors.
You can attend a session as many times as you need to – great for going over and over a topic you’re struggling with.
There are a lot of choices when it comes to choosing when and how to do the Ultimate course.
Start dates are frequent and you can choose an option that suits you depending on what days the live classes will be held and how long you want to spend on the course.
There are options to complete the course in under 20 days or more than 60 days.
Princeton has excellent information on its teachers, however, despite them having to do an entrance exam to teach, they do not have to have achieved a certain ACT score like many of the other provider's demand.
Princeton promises students will score higher after taking their Ultimate course and commits to refunding tuition fees if they don’t. It will also let you repeat the program for free if you’re not 100% satisfied with the course.
If you are working towards taking the ACT test, utilizing an online test prep resource is likely to pay off and get you the high score you’re hoping for.
There are great free resources online to help with your ACT preparation, but parting with some cash can get you access to experienced ACT teachers who can help focus on and improve your weaknesses.
Think about the following when considering which course will suit you best:
How much time do you have? Do you need to complete the ACT test within the next few months, or do you have a year plus to study before having to think about sitting the exam?
Do you have self-discipline when it comes to studying, or do you need help with time management, schedules and study plans?
Do you work best when working through questions at your own pace, or do you need to be visually stimulated with live classes, recorded videos and animated explanations?
Establishing the most effective method of study for you can help you decide which of the ACT prep courses will suit you best.