The Best ACT Prep Courses
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The Best ACT Test Prep Courses

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The number of ACT test takers are growing in number. According to Education Week, more than 1.92 million students took the ACT in 2015, an increase of .07 million (1.85 million) over the previous year; because more students are opting to take the ACT, it's important to discuss the best ACT prep course that a student should enroll in.

But just what is the best ACT prep course? After an in-depth analysis, I've come to the conclusion that the Kaplan ACT prep should be recommended for your ACT test-taking needs. After all, the ACTs are quite essential, acting as one of the keys to enter your dream college.

ACT vs SAT

First of all, let's dive into the differences between the ACT and the SAT - because both are used for admissions and merit-based scholarships - using the following categories in order to help you decide which test is better for you:

ACT Test Structure

First is first: the structure. The ACT tests you in five areas, whereas the SAT assesses you in four. The ACT sections are: English, Math, Reading, Science Reasoning, and an Optional (but highly recommended) Essay. The SAT focuses on Reading, Writing and Language, Math, and the Optional (but again, highly recommended) Essay.

ACT Test Length

Without the essay, the ACT is two hours and 55 minutes in length, while with the essay, the ACT is three hours and 40 minutes. Without the essay, the SAT is three hours in length, but with the essay, the SAT is three hours and 50 minutes.

ACT Scoring

The scoring is vastly different. Currently, the SAT is set on a scoring scale between 400 and 1600, whereas the ACT scoring scale is set between 1 and 36.

It's best to decide which test you should take by participating in a practice test of each to see how you'll fare. In the end, you can always take both tests.

The Best ACT Test Prep Courses

Determining the Best ACT Prep Course

A variety of factors came into play when I sought out the best ACT prep course. Here are just some of the factors I have considered when choosing the best ACT prep course:

Admissions

The best ACT prep course and service should not only offer intensive and customizable prep courses, but also admissions guides. The best services should offer FAQs and plenty of information to help guide you through the admissions process with ease. A service that offers these resources, especially a mock interview, deserve recognition.

ACT Practice Tests

Practice tests are important. Not only do these types of tests provide you with a general feel for the actual exam, but they prepare you for the content you will be facing. What is taken into consideration is the realism of the exam - the more realistic, the better.

Study Delivery

The methods of course delivery are important. For instance, while some students preferring the self-prep method, others place more value and emphasis on in-person instruction or one-on-one tutoring. It's important that a service offers a variety of course delivery options.

ACT Prep Materials

Prep materials need to not only be thorough in content but also plentiful. Does the service offer plenty of prep materials? What does it offer? Flashs, quiz banks, or something else? What makes it stand out from the rest of the pack? For instance, Kaplan helps you prep by offering SmartReports, which gives you a plethora of information that revolves around your performance.

Customer Support

Only the best services provide amazing staff and customer support. Are the instructors amazing? Are they caring? Do they guarantee high scores? What avenues of customer support does the ACT prep course feature? Can you contact the company by email, social media, live chat, or phone? All of these questions are taken into consideration when determining the best ACT prep course provider.

Kaplan ACT Courses

Kaplan is the top scorer on my recommendation list for a variety of reasons.

First of all, you're taught by experts. In fact, fewer than one out of ten candidates qualify to teach Kaplan prep courses for both the SAT and the ACT exams. Second, Kaplan's team has devoted plenty of time into understanding the ACT and the SAT, so members know the ins and outs of the tests. You'll also receive detailed breakdowns of where and how you need to improve. Finally, if your score doesn't rise, then you're guaranteed your money back.

There are quite a few ACT prep courses that Kaplan offers, so let's delve into a quick overview of them, one by one.

Unlimited Prep

This is the best value that you can possibly have with Kaplan. Not only will you have unlimited access to the ACT Kaplan courses, but you'll be able to take and re-take In Person and Live Online ACT courses as many times as your heart desires until December of your senior year. So the earlier you begin to prep, the more valuable the Unlimited Prep package will become. Remember, with Kaplan, 95 percent of students are able to enter their top choice colleges, according to a Kaplan survey as of May 2012, May 2013, May 2014, and May 2015.

In Person

With this package, you'll enjoy proven, score-raising strategies, six three-hour sessions taught by expert Kaplan teachers, eight full-length practice tests with score analysis, updated Quiz Bank and online quizzes that contain over 1,400 questions between the both of them, timed practice in class, in-depth review of answers and explanations, and 50 hours of online instruction in 5 to 15-minute lessons. Best of all, this is accessible via all mobile devices - this includes smartphones, laptops, and tablets.

In Person Plus

You'll receive everything that is within the In Person package, plus three hours of one-on-one tutoring and personal coaching, resources for the SAT, and the Math Foundations course.

Live Online

The ACT Live Online course contains an online class that meets on a regular schedule, but you can join wherever you have internet access. Furthermore, you'll enjoy a more classroom-like setting, with the teacher and whiteboard visible on the computer screen. You'll also be able to interact with your teacher, teacher's assistant and classmates via online chat. What is included in this package is everything from the In Person course.

Live Online Plus

With Live Online Plus, you'll receive everything that is found within the Live Online course, plus three hours of one-on-one tutoring and personal coaching, resources for the SAT, and access to the Math Foundations course.

You're probably asking: resources for the SAT? Yes, that is not a typo. According to Kaplan:

Most colleges accept your ACT and SAT scores, and much of the content on both tests overlap.

With ACT Prep PLUS, we also help you prepare for the SAT by providing supplemental online resources, which focus on areas of the exam that differ from the ACT.

ACT Premier Tutoring - In Person

You can always opt for the ACT Premier Tutoring. There are three types of tutoring courses that you can enroll in, listed by hours. The hours range from 12 hours in person to 36 hours in person.

ACT Premier Tutoring is unique because it provides the most personalized preparation possible: you'll be formulating an individual instruction and a custom study plan that is solely based on your needs. Not only that, but according to Kaplan, the expert tutors have second-to-none credentials, you're able to set the schedule, and you're still backed by the Money Back Guarantee.

Furthermore, both students and parents can access Smart Reports, which tracks progress, performance and homework. The program also includes adaptive On Demand Instruction, comprehensive study materials (lesson book, flashcards, online workshops, and quizzes).

Overall, the program includes the ACT Prep Course and the Math Fundamentals.

ACT Premier Tutoring - Live Online

Live Online is just like the In Person tutoring, except:

  • Live streaming video lets you prep with your tutor face-to-face in a personal Live Online room.
  • You'll receive one-on-one motivational instruction with an expert private tutor.
  • You'll have access to digital notepads which allow tutors to write down important takeaways and notes from each lesson and email them to you after said lesson.
  • You'll be able to review challenging content through the digital whiteboard and utilize the available interactive online features.

Self-Paced Online ACT Course

You can always opt for the self-paced online ACT course, which provides you with 50 hours of instructional lessons by expert ACT teachers, proven strategies, and interactive coursework that includes hundreds of practice questions. You'll have access to the following features:

  • Eight full-length practice tests
  • Updated Quiz Bank and online quizzes
  • Online student and parent reports
  • A personalized study plan

Math Foundations

Of course, you can always enroll in the self-paced Math Foundations course, which will train you in arithmetic, algebra, and geometry. You'll receive 27 online lessons on-demand with expert teachers, over 400 practice questions, an online course book, and six months of access. The subjects covered in Math Foundations are arithmetic, algebra, and geometry.

The Best ACT Prep Books

Though you may be happy with just a particular ACT prep course, you should also supplement your learning with an ACT prep book or an ACT study guide. So just what are the best ACT prep books?

Kaplan's 2016-2017 ACT Strategies, Practice, and Review

This book is an all-in-one book, and it shouldn't be used as your core studying book. That's because it only covers the fundamentals of the English, Math, Reading, and Science Reasoning sections. In other words, Kaplan's ACT Strategies covers the basics and important bases, and it does contain six practice tests. Unfortunately, the practice questions may be a little unrealistic and the answer key may have errors.

Barron's ACT 36 - Aiming for the Perfect Score

This title couldn't be any blunter. If you're aiming for a near perfect score, you should consider this book. After all, Barron's ACT 36 contains plenty of thorough content (thousands of practice questions with explanations), but at the same time, the questions may be a little unrealistically tough.

The Official ACT Prep Guide

What better way to practice than with the official ACT prep guide? Fortunately, this guide offers plenty of realistic questions so you can recognize and understand the format of the ACT. With this test, you'll have access to three full-length tests, which provide a good amount of practice for most students. However, the answer explanations probably won't be helpful for those who are self-learning, as it won't exactly show you how to solve the question thoroughly.

ACT Black Book

While not the greatest on its own, it's a powerful supplementary tool. By the time you're finished with the ACT Black Book, you'll have the most effective ACT strategies at your fingertips. According to some people, the ideas you'll find will essentially change your view of the ACT and motivate you to strive for a higher score. However, this book requires more self-discipline compared to any other book. If you're a self-learner, this may be the perfect book for you.

ACT Practice Test

Not only should you consider books as a supplement to your courses, but you should also factor in practice tests. However, what are some practice tests that you can take?

Kaplan

You can always practice with the material you're given if you've enrolled in one of the courses. However, you could also take part in free practice sessions near you or online. You can always sign up for the Free ACT Practice Test + Score Review in person event, which begins on set times and dates.

Then again, you can instead opt to take the free online ACT Practice Test if you're too far away from a center. You just simply need to register on the Kaplan site to do so.

Finally, you can always participate in the Kaplan's TurboTests, which will give you an indication of how you would score if you took the ACT today. The TurboTest serves as a diagnostic test that helps you know where you stand when it comes to your school's target ACT score range. The time it takes to take this test is under 90 minutes, which is less than half the time of the real test. You'll also be able to review your score by section, so you can guide your studies as you prep for the official test.

The ACT Test (Subject) Practice Test Questions

Brought to you by the ACT, you can't get any more official than this. You can test yourself with practice questions in both Math and English subjects. You'll find five sets of math questions, which are 12 questions each and five sets of English passages, which supplies you with 15 questions for each passage.

Recap

Out of all the possible ACT prep courses, I would have to recommend Kaplan. Kaplan places emphasis on personalization and customization, as each student has their own method of study. Not only that, but it's also unmatched in terms of convenience and expertise. Because of how much care it places into supporting the needs of the student, Kaplan deserves the award of Best ACT Prep Course.

The ACTs are just the beginning of a long but awesome college experience that may be riddled with student loans. You should consider reading our review of the best scholarship websites to help you soften the blow of student debt.

If you're looking for information and our evaluation of other online prep courses, you can check out our articles on the GMAT, GRE, LSAT, and MCAT prep courses.

ACT Prep Courses FAQs

Q What is a good ACT score?

A

The average ACT score is considered good, so a good ACT score is set at 20. However, you're doing excellent if your score is above 24.

Q What is the highest ACT score?

A

The highest ACT score that you can achieve is 36.

Q What does ACT mean?

A

The ACT stands for American College Testing, which is an assessment of a high school student's readiness for college.

Q How is the ACT scored?

A

ACT scoring is rather simple. Here are the general basics:

Students earn one point for each correct answer and neither lose nor gain points for each omitted or incorrect answer. The raw score is then calculated by determining the number of questions that have been answered correctly. If a student answers 23 math questions correctly, then the student would receive a 23 as a raw score. The raw score would then be converted into a scaled score between 1 and 36. Sections each receive their own score. After scaling, the final ACT score is calculated as a result of the averages between all four sections.

Q When do ACT scores come out?

A

The official ACT site contains the ACT test dates after the test has been taken. Generally speaking, your scores will be available online for early viewing about two weeks after the test date. Paper score reports, however, will arrive between four and seven weeks after your test date.