ACT Test Prep – Time to Start for Fall!

Standardized TestIf you have a rising high school Junior who is planning to take the ACT test, it is time to start thinking about ACT test preparation, if you haven’t already.  The same goes for rising Seniors who are seeking one more chance to improve their scores.  Hopefully your student has been doing some type of prep already this summer, but if not, now is the time!

Fall ACT test dates are in September, October and December.  Exact dates and registration deadlines can be found on the ACT website.

Some high schools sponsor their own ACT test prep classes.  If yours does, make sure your student takes advantage of this.  It will usually provide the best combination of low cost and personalized attention.  Publicly available test prep options range from FREE to over $2000.  If you are looking for public test prep options, I have created a free downloadable ACT Prep Resources spreadsheet to give you an idea of what is available.  Prep resources fall into the following categories:

  1. In-Person Classes – I have included those that are most widely available in various cities across the U.S.
  2. In-Person 1-on-1 Tutoring – I have only included one widely available resource for this.  There may be others in your area.  This is usually the most expensive option.
  3. Online Classes – These vary from instructor-lead courses that occur at a specified date/time to on-demand self-serve options.  Online classes are usually cheaper than in-person classes.
  4. Books – There are several highly regarded comprehensive ACT prep books available that include sample tests and helpful information on the test sections.  These are very inexpensive.  There are also subject-specific books.  I did not include these in my ACT Prep Resources spreadsheet.
  5. Free Resources – I found several free ACT test prep resources including YouTube videos, sample questions on the ACT website, free downloadable practice tests and one website devoted to free ACT prep.

Before starting any form of test prep, it’s a good idea for your student to take a practice test as a benchmark.  Most test prep classes and books include a sample test at the beginning so that the student knows where he or she stands and what subjects need the most work.

Beware of test prep vendors that promise to increase your student’s score by a specific number of points.  How can they really guarantee that?  If they say the “average student” experiences a certain point increase, then they are most likely relying on measurable data and not making your student a promise.

Most students will want to take the real ACT test three times, unless they are completely satisfied with their first or second scores.  Studies have shown that students do better on the ACT as they get older.  In many cases, a first-semester Senior year ACT test will result in the best overall results.

My oldest daughter had a test prep class at school and after that, we relied on books.  First she used an overall ACT prep book and then she moved into subject-specific books on her two weaker subjects.  Her individual scores changed considerably from her first test to her last test and her overall raw score went up three points and super-score (average of the highest sub-scores across all test dates) went up four points.  I really have no way to tell whether this was attributable to test prep or things she learned in school during her Junior and Senior years.  Either way, I do believe test prep is a good idea.  It’s just a matter of figuring out how much you are willing to spend for the chance to raise your child’s scores.  Check out the prices listed on my ACT Prep Resources spreadsheet.  Three or four points on the ACT can make a huge difference when it comes to admissions, merit aid and scholarships.

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