Not all prep courses are created equal. For this ranking, we combined the expertise of our ACT tutors. Together, this data represents over 30 years of combined experience helping students get higher scores on standardized exams.
This prep course might be the best in the industry. Students have the option to prep for a multitude of exams, not just the ACT. The study program is innovative and interactive, keeping students on track and pushing them to their limits. This is a rigorous package that has a lot to offer the motivated student.
Kaplan has devoted itself to making test prep resources accessible to students all over the globe. This is especially true in the math department! According to ACT expert Bronte D’Aquisto, “Kaplan offers better, if not the best, math foundations prep out of any other company.” If math is your area of weakness or an area where you absolutely must score high, then you should seriously consider Kaplan.
Too busy to study the ACT? Think again. Magoosh is barely a decade old, but they have created an innovative, online, self-paced ACT class that provides students with cutting edge resources to propel their progress. You can study from any device, anytime, anywhere! All you need is motivation.
With PrepScholar ACT, you start by joining the Automated Online Prep Program — which is their online tool-kit for independent study. This gives you total access to PrepScholar’s library, drills, and explanations. Then you add hours with an expert tutor. Packages differ only in the amount of tutoring prep (4, 12, or 50 hours), so you only pay for what you need.
Many colleges and universities require ACT scores as part of their admission processes. The goal of the ACT is to assess a high school student’s readiness for higher education. An ACT score alone will not determine whether or not you get into college, but it is an important data point that admissions officers will weigh against other applicants. It goes without saying that the higher your ACT score, the higher your odds of getting accepted into the institution of your choice.
To that end, an ACT test prep course is a worthwhile investment. It is the most effective way to become a top scorer!
The ACT is a multiple-choice test that helps assess your aptitude in 5 areas:
The maximum score for the ACT is 36. The average is 21. Maybe you know your score. Maybe not. Maybe you’ve taken enough full-length practice tests to know you won’t get the score you want, and you need some help. A test prep course might be the solution. In any event, if you’ve already spent (at most) 2 months of self-guided study with an ACT prep book and free online resources, then you are the perfect candidate for an ACT test prep course!
If you answered, “None of the above,” you’d be correct! There is no such thing as the best ACT prep course. No prep course can guarantee a perfect score. The goal of a test prep course is simply to get a higher score than the one you currently have. Deciding on the best ACT prep course for you depends a lot on your situation, schedule, budget, preferred learning style, and level of self-discipline.
In the ranking below, we offer a broad sampling of the most well-reputed and effective ACT test prep courses. Some offer one-on-one tutoring. Others are self-paced. Still others give you hybrid options — part self-paced, part tutoring. You have options. Read each review and find the one that best fits your needs!
Our ACT Experts have 30 years of combined experience tutoring students to achieve higher scores. They’ve explored countless online ACT prep courses, and these are the ones that they recommend to their students.
The Princeton Review might be the most widely recognized test prep company in the world. They have been in the game for a long time. They also provide prepping resources for almost any exam one can think of — including the ACT. The ACT is not an easy test. Unlike the SAT, there is a science section and a more advanced math portion.
Thankfully, The Princeton Review is up to the challenge. They offer targeted courses that focus on any of the 5 sections of the test. They promise you a higher score and stand behind their statements with a money-back guarantee!
The Princeton Review has two options for students preparing for the ACT:
Each of these prep programs has its own sub-programs. There are several options based on your budget, time commitment, and goals. Whatever package you choose, there will be a minimum of 4 full-length practice exams, both scheduled and proctored. There are also 20 practice tests that students can access in their own time.
Here’s the breakdown of packages:
This is Princeton Review’s most basic package. It includes…
And all of this is within an innovative, customized study plan, tailored to your needs.
So-called because it guarantees its graduates will make a score of 31 or higher on their next ACT, this prep program is pricey but still manages to be Princeton Review’s bestseller. The package includes…
If your goal is to get into a top-tiered college (or if you are seeking merit scholarships), this ACT prep course package is a must.
If you work well alone and need a flexible study plan, the Self-Paced package might be just the ticket. Bronte D’Acquisto, an expert ACT tutor who has worked with students all over the globe, says, “The self-paced prep course is one of my favorites in the industry because students have the option to prep for a multitude of exams, not just the ACT.” The package includes…
All exams will come with a detailed score report. This will both track student progress while also highlighting areas that need improvement.
If that wasn’t sweet enough, students will have access to AP video lessons in order to help prepare them for US Government, US History, World History, English Language, and Chemistry AP exams.
For students who wish to score in the 99th percentile, The Princeton Review’s in-person or online scheduled ACT prep course class is the way to go. The time and financial commitments will be hefty. But no other test prep course will better guarantee you that high score.
For students who will be taking multiple tests in sequence — specifically, the PSAT, SAT, ACT, or one of the AP exams listed above — you can’t do better than The Princeton Review’s self-paced online ACT prep course.
The ACT company offers a variety of options for online ACT prep. You can choose to work entirely with their automated practice material, or you can mix in some combination of live and recorded group classes.
Both of these courses use authentic ACT practice questions, which is a big advantage. Even if you’re already working with The Official ACT Prep Guide, the teaching and practice tools available here will help you build essential skills.
There are two course options. The first is comprehensive but self-paced; the other offers more high-intensity but limited access.
ACT Online Prep is a self-contained set of automated practice materials. You get access for 6 months to the following:
You can also get the ACT Online Prep Pack, which includes all of the above, plus a copy of The Official ACT Prep Guide, help planning a study schedule with daily goals, and access to an extra 2,400 online practice questions. Since you won’t be taking the actual ACT online, it really does help to be able to do at least some of your prep with pencil and paper.
ACT Rapid Review is a suite of test-prep products created by ACT, Inc. in partnership with Kaplan. Each option includes some combination of live and recorded group classes:
There are more add-ons available, too. If you know you want to practice with real ACT content, start by calling the company for help figuring out which package is right for you (email and chat are also available on the site).
This is a good program for students who…
One of the primary differences between the SAT and ACT is the math section. The ACT Math is notorious for testing students on more advanced math concepts, such as trigonometry. This is why Kaplan ACT Prep stands out. According to ACT expert tutor Bronte D’Acquisto, “Kaplan offers better, if not the best, math foundations prep out of any other company.”
If math is your area of weakness or just an area where you absolutely must score high, then you should seriously consider Kaplan.
Kaplan truly teaches math in an easy-to-follow way that allows students to build a learning foundation. Their packages fall into 2 main groups:
Their variety of packages are too numerous to list here, but here are the most popular picks:
This is Kaplan’s basic package. For an added cost, you can supplement it with the Unlimited Prep option, which extends access to December of your senior year, or the Online Tutoring package, which gives you direct one-on-one help from an expert tutor. The Live Online packages offers…
As you can see, Kaplan offers an abundance of resources for students to utilize as they work to master the ACT.
For those who cannot commit to a weekly scheduled class, Kaplan offers a self-paced option. Students will receive…
Lessons are filmed in advance, but they include interactive features. This will greatly improve your engagement with the material.
Kaplan should be the first choice for students who would like to take the ACT but are weak in math. Even if math is not your strong suit, Kaplan will give you a learning foundation that will keep you afloat during the exam.
“I would highly recommend Kaplan to any student who struggles with the Math portion of the ACT,” says D’Acquisto. “Often students shy away from the ACT due to the difficulty of the math despite the fact other sections, such as the Reading, are more straightforward than the SAT. However, with Kaplan’s resources, the Math section can be conquered.”
Veritas Prep was founded by MBA students at Yale, and it’s always had a culture of intensity and drive. Where Magoosh and Shmoop are warm and fuzzy, these guys are tough and competitive. They’re best known for teaching the GMAT, but they offer training for the ACT, SAT, and GRE as well.
Veritas offers 3 online ACT prep course packages:
This is a self-study program using video lessons and online progress-tracking tools. You get one year of access to everything. They’ll help you create a long-term study plan to keep yourself on track, and you can message instructors any time if you get stuck. Included are:
This package gives you everything in ACT On Demand plus a 25-hour online class that covers the whole ACT. All online classrooms use a “film studio” platform. This means they have a large suite of teaching tools — they aren’t just a lecture imposed over PowerPoint slides. This makes sessions livelier, more engaging, and more like a traditional classroom.
Here, you get everything in Live Class plus 12, 24, 36, or 48 hours of one-on-one tutoring.
Veritas Prep writes its own practice material. All of the tutors are experts who…
Whatever package you choose, Veritas Prep offers students daily live online “office hours.” Think of it as a free tutor always on standby to answer any questions you might have or give advice on subjects you’re struggling with.
Veritas is a top choice for students who…
“Friendliness is a core value for Magoosh,” claims Freya Shipley, a standardized exam coach who has been working with ACT students since 2005.
Magoosh is barely a decade old, but they have created an innovative, online, self-paced ACT prep course that provides students with cutting edge resources to propel their progress. Magoosh takes a modern approach to online ACT prep and makes it accessible to students who need to be able to study anytime and anywhere.
Magoosh does a wonderful job keeping students on track by creating weekly study guides for students to follow. Using data from daily lessons, as well as test scores from practice exams, the Dashboard displays a student’s estimated ACT test score as well as their progress compared to others enrolled in the same prep course.
Students will also have the option to take online or paper-based practice exams. The smart review system will allow them to review their performance based on time, difficulty level, subject matter, or student bookmarks.
The course includes…
All Magoosh students get access to the same resources. Plans vary only in duration (1, 3, or 12 months).
Every practice question has an easy-to-follow text or video explanation. The course is highly interactive and gives students the ability to take notes or leave bookmarks throughout the lessons. Email assistance is provided to students who might get stuck along the way.
Magoosh offers a score improvement guarantee. If you’ve taken the ACT at least once before, Magoosh promises a score increase of at least 4 points — or your money back!
Magoosh is a great choice for students who can work diligently at their own pace. Though it lacks the advantage of tutoring sessions or tangible course materials, it has much to offer for students who are motivated to get a higher score and don’t mind the video-online format.
“I would highly recommend this course to motivated students who can keep up with a self-paced program, but who are too busy to commit to weekly scheduled classes,” recommends Bronte D’Acquisto, another ACT student tutor.
The Shmoop team puts a lot of work into making communication fun without compromising substance. Their content is always playful, but most of their writers are serious academics.
If you enjoy verbal humor and a slightly cartoony style that’s still rigorous and covers everything you need to know for the ACT, Shmoop’s online prep course program may be perfect for you.
While some Shmoop content is free, their test-prep courses are not. You can pay monthly, or save a lot by buying a 12-month subscription in advance. Once you register, you get access to all of Shmoop’s extensive test-preparation content (including an SAT prep course, SAT subject tests, AP exams, and much more).
Shmoop is a good choice for students who…
With PrepScholar ACT, you start by joining the Automated Online Prep Program — which is their online tool-kit for independent study.
Everyone gets access to the complete library of video lessons, practice drills, and explanations. Once you’ve joined, it’s then time to decide how much one-on-one coaching you want to add to your course curriculum. Options for this include…
You’re also free to schedule a customized number of hours with a tutor. And, if you prefer, you can start with the Automated Online Prep Program and add classes or tutoring later on. PrepScholar offers quite a few options, so your first step should be to call them and ask a consultant to help you figure out your ideal package.
As you build your skills, the automated program tracks your progress and guides you toward areas where you need to improve.
PrepScholar is a good program for students who…
Every top-scorer is a motivated student with excellent study habits and loads of self-discipline. These students have the most to gain from flexible self-paced courses. However, some like to take their independence further and, instead of enrolling in a course, just work through a prep book.
All students can benefit from an ACT prep book. Doing this exclusively has some pros and cons. The pros are obvious. ACT prep books are cheap and easy to use. There are also various free online resources you can use to supplement the prep book like forums, YouTube channels, and organizations like Khan Academy. With these, you can go far.
The cons are a little more extensive. For one, the benefits of such an austerely independent study program places a great burden on strong study habits, a healthy lifestyle, self-discipline, and motivation to push oneself constantly beyond what one has already mastered. Naturally, these are good things to have anyway. But poor habits creep in easily, and we are often the worst judge of our own progress.
A second con is the “feedback problem.” When working solo, it is easy to convince yourself you are making better progress (and in the most important areas) than you actually are. An outside pair of expert eyes can track your progress with more accuracy while identifying areas that need improvement. They can challenge you to work out the problems you would avoid if left to your own devices.
The built-in problem with independent study is test-takers can only push themselves to a certain level. Eventually, they hit a threshold. Once this is done, it is no longer fruitful to carry on alone — no matter how many more hours of study you put in. Even for motivated and high-aptitude students, a prep book “dries out” after about 2 months. At that point, it’s best to reach out to a tutor or teacher if further progress is desired.
This problem hasn’t been solved even by innovative newcomers to the ACT prep market like Khan Academy. Khan Academy is totally free and offers a study program that mimics an online course. Khan Academy does not offer any books or physical learning materials. For some who prefer studying off-screen, this could be a difficulty. Finally, many users complain that the content becomes repetitive after a month or so. While this is a worthy supplement to any independent prep, it doesn’t escape that threshold, though it may manage to extend it somewhat.
In conclusion, a course or a study program that involves live interaction with a tutor or teacher can push you beyond your limitations, make your study schedule more productive, and target and strengthen key weaknesses. A book-only approach, even when it takes advantage of free online study supplements, ceases to be beneficial after a month or so — even for self-disciplined and high-aptitude students.
Whether a teacher or a tutor is better depends on a student’s learning style, aptitude, time commitment, and budget.
An online ACT prep class imitates a traditional classroom setting. You are 1 student in a group. Most of the time, there are no students physically in the same room as the teacher. All are streaming online.
An online tutor may also have multiple students, but he or she will meet with each one individually, one-on-one.
Tutoring is the oldest educator-student relationship in history. The pros are it is highly personalized. Both student and educator have each other’s full attention. The result is high productivity. The tutor can more effectively identify key weakness in the student–as well as gaps in knowledge or bad habits–than a traditional teacher. The con is the tutor is more expensive.
An online course, on the other hand, takes place in a group setting. This limits the accessibility of the teacher’s expertise for the individual student, as well as high-quality one-on-one time. If you are having difficulty with a problem, or need more information on a topic, you might have no one to turn to. The teacher will inevitably be less cognizant of the student’s particular needs and preferences.
The upside to classes is that they are usually more affordable than private tutoring. Materials also tend to be included, and students will be exposed to most of what they will see on test day.
With these considerations in mind, the best approach is for test-takers to begin with a class or a self-paced program, and then afterwards look into private tutoring to really hone their skills. In-person tutoring is more rewarding if you have that option, but it is often less flexible.
If you can commit to taking the ACT multiple times, it is a good idea to complete an online course, take the ACT, and then assess your strengths and weaknesses when you get your scores back. A private tutor will be more effective at targeting your particular weaknesses than a teacher. After purchasing a few private lessons, retake the ACT.
If you have decided to take an online ACT prep course, you will (usually) have two options: a scheduled online class or a self-paced course that has no instructor.
ACT Online Classes
An online class functions in a similar way to traditional classrooms. Students simply log into a virtual classroom remotely. But like a traditional classroom, you will share a session under a single instructor with multiple other students. The instructor will conduct a lesson and assign problems. Throughout the course, the instructor will engage with students in turn and offer opportunities to answer questions in real time.
There is a strong difference between someone who knows the right information and someone who can convey that information in a clear and engaging manner. Just because an instructor knows how to get a perfect score on the ACT does not mean he or she is a good instructor. For a student to progress, much depends on the latter.
It is important to learn an instructor’s teaching style as well as his or her credentials. The best way to do this is to make a phone call for a quick chat. Prepare a series of questions in advance. What you are looking for are instructors who are generous with their time, passionate about their work, and value fun. Ask questions about the course: Is there a balance between content and test-taking strategies? What do you expect students to learn by the end of the course?
The curriculum will also be a priority in any class that is worth taking. Make sure you know what books or online resources are included in the course before enrolling. There should be a heavy emphasis on working through practice questions similar to those which will appear on the ACT. The curriculum should also feature at least one full-length ACT practice test.
ACT Self-Paced Courses
Self-paced courses do not include an instructor. However, they will feature a series of recorded lessons with accompanying assignments or tasks. There will probably also be a phone number or chat-box so you can talk to an expert tutor for the occasional question. Personal interaction will be severely limited.
Since video tutorials are the backbone of a self-paced course, they need to be high-quality. The information should be presented in an organized and clear way. Some programs offer interactive presentations. These are valuable and can keep you more engaged. A reputable test-prep program will allow you to get a sample of the lectures prior to purchasing the course.
You will want a self-paced ACT course that tracks your progress and gives you frequent notices on your level of mastery. This is essential since a self-paced course is basically a glorified form of independent study. This makes feedback a rare (but vital) commodity. The best self-paced programs will continuously update and display a student’s strengths and weaknesses somewhere on the dashboard.
So you’ve decided to go beyond independent study. Whether you decide to enroll in an online ACT class or self-paced ACT program, there are a few things you should expect. That is, if the prep course or program is one of the best.
First, you should expect a large amount of practice materials. Most of these should be questions, problems, or tests that resemble the ones you will encounter on the actual ACT. For an online class, these practice materials will probably be assignments you will need to complete between classes. What form these take can depend on the style of the instructor. In a self-paced program, you will need to complete the practice material before moving into the next lecture. There will be less diversity here. Practice materials will likely look the same lecture to lecture and usually take the form of a series of problems or a quiz.
If you choose to enroll in an ACT class, there will be a greater burden on your time. You will be completing practice materials at the pace of the class. There may also be a greater variety of work to be done. You should be willing to study between classes.
If you choose to enroll in a self-paced program, you still need to be prepared to study. More of this depends on strong study habits and self-discipline. It is up to you to make the most of your time. However, students who do not put in at least several hours of studying every week will not see their ACT scores increase much.
The first order of business to make the most of your ACT prep course and maximize your test score is to establish excellent study habits. Set aside a non-negotiable time each day to study and complete practice materials. Sometimes, it helps to designate a single workspace (maybe your computer desk) and set a timer for 45 minutes or an hour and refuse to stop working until the timer goes off.
In any event, putting in a lot of time does not necessarily translate into mastery. It must be time spent well. 30 minutes of focused study is better than 1 hour of distracted study.
Be honest with yourself about what you don’t know. Be willing to rewatch videos or reach out to a tutor to get a question answered. Also, know what you do know. Conduct self-tests by reciting important information in your own words or memorizing formulas.
Finally, take advantage of full-length ACT practice tests These are a critical component of your progress. You can find dozens of free ones online. In fact, it might help to think of a practice test, not as a test, but as just another homework assignment. Remember, success on the ACT comes from doing ACTs. Try to complete 1 a month. With an online course, there is no accountability to anyone but yourself. Don’t cheat yourself. Do those practice tests!