The ACT is a standardized test meant to assess a student’s college readiness. It is required by most American universities for undergraduate admission and is typically taken by high school students in the spring of their junior year or the fall of their senior year. The test includes 4 multiple choice portions—English, Math, Reading, and Science—and an optional Writing test. Each section is scored between 1 and 36, and then the scores are averaged to produce a composite score.
A high score on the exam is an important part of a strong college application, and top universities look for candidates who score in the upper 20s and 30s. It is no wonder that students—and their parents—want to ensure they do their best. Even strong students can struggle on the exam, which evaluates test-taking ability as much as knowledge and academic skills. The best way to do well is to practice, and online prep courses provide the most extensive resources to do so.
Registration for the ACT exam can be expensive, and so can ACT prep courses. To help students and families looking to improve their score whatever their budget, we’ve included 3 free prep course options, in addition to 7 paid ones.
Free Prep Courses
ACT Academy (ACT)
From the makers of ACT exam, the ACT Academy is a free online resource that includes video lessons, interactive practice questions, full-length practice tests, educational games, and other materials. When you sign up, you are provided with a personalized study plan based on a diagnostic exam you take online. ACT Academy allows you to take practice tests of the full exam or focus on specific sections. Although it provides a useful range of free resources, there is a limited amount of material available, and you may find yourself using this as a supplement to other courses rather than the sole source.
Free ACT Prep Course (Varsity Tutors)
This free ACT prep course was released by Varsity Tutors as a way to increase access to quality test prep resources. Unlike ACT Academy, which is a self-guided resource, this is an instructor-led course and includes 25 hours of live online group instruction. The course covers test-taking skills such as learning to break down questions, as well as time management techniques. You will review key concepts in algebra, English, trigonometry, and other disciplines. Signing up for the course gives you access to practice exams, a free mobile app, and a test prep book with over 650 pages. You will have the chance to attend office hours with the instructor or teaching assistants, participate in group or private chats for collaboration and questions, complete homework assignments, and discuss practice problems. Best of all, this course is completely free, with sessions starting approximately once a month.
Prep Center for the ACT (McGraw Hill Education)
This free online resource from McGraw Hill Education offers 2 complete practice tests. Explanations for every question on these tests. It also offers thirteen problem-solving videos in which an ACT coach demonstrates step-by-step strategies for different kinds of test questions. Although the amount of materials is limited, this course provides an excellent supplement to another resource.
6-Week Flagship ACT Prep Course (PrepExpert)
PrepExpert was created by Shaan Patel, a student who went from an average SAT score to a perfect score through his own focused preparation. Their flagship ACT prep course lasts 6 weeks. It meets twice per week for 3 hours of online instruction and once per week for 4 hours of a self-proctored ACT exam. PrepExpert offers a 4-point improvement guarantee and recruits only the most talented instructors: every teacher has scored in the top 1% of the test they teach.
Magoosh ACT Prep (Magoosh)
Magoosh offers a flexible, self-paced online ACT prep course. By studying for 20 minutes a day on your computer or mobile device, this course can help you prepare whether you’re cramming last-minute or starting well in advance. Each question includes a video explanation. The site also has ACT tutors available 24/7 for those questions not answered by the course material. Magoosh also offers a money-back guarantee: if you don’t improve your ACT score by 4 or more points, you’ll get your money back. At less than $100, it is an incredibly affordable option.
ePrep for the ACT Premium+ Course (ePrep)
ePrep makes preparation easier for students who may want to take the ACT more than once. The annual pass offers 12 months of access to the Premium course study materials, including 6 full-length practice tests, 99 subject-specific video lessons, and 1290 video answer explanations. A vocabulary builder resource is also offered. The course is ideal if you work well when self-paced, and it includes a score improvement guarantee of 4 points.
ACT Cram Course (The Princeton Review)
For those who are trying to prepare at the last minute, the Princeton Review offers a course to help. It includes 6 hours of live online classroom instruction, access to additional video lessons, full score reports, and 2 full-length practice tests, plus practice questions and 8 section-length practice tests. It also provides access to an online student portal with additional resources. The class consists of two 3-hour sessions in the span of a week.
ACT Online Prep (ACT)
The nonprofit organization that makes and administers the ACT exam offers a paid study resource in addition to its free ACT Academy. This course provides you with 6 months of access to resources. It offers practice tests and comprehensive content review. Although it does not have the dynamic lessons and videos that many other courses on this list do, it is a remarkably affordable option.
Live Online ACT Prep (Kaplan)
If you are looking for a comprehensive study option and have a larger budget, consider Kaplan’s Live Online ACT Prep course. It offers 18 hours of core live online instruction, with an additional offering of 14 hours of elective live online instruction. Also included are 9 full practice tests, a variety of online quizzes, and access to ACT prep books. Finally, this course includes over 25 hours of on-demand lessons. The amount of material included is unparalleled.
ACT Coaching (Testive)
Testive’s most popular ACT prep course is its monthly coaching option, which is best utilized over a period of several months. It includes personalized lesson plans, customized weekly assignments, and access to adaptive learning software. You will participate in a weekly 1-on-1 video chat with your coach, and be able to access to more than 3000 practice questions and over 50 hours of instructional videos. Parents will be able to view weekly meeting notes and a portal to track their child’s progress. Testive offers a score improvement guarantee, so you can feel good about your investment.
As a core component of your college applications, your score on the ACT exam can influence your future for years to come. Set yourself up to do your best by enrolling in one of these free or paid online courses to prepare for the ACT.