The 4 Best ACT Prep Courses To Take (2019)

This post may contain affiliate links. Read the disclaimer.

Top 4 ACT prep courses - featured graphic

 

If you want to get admitted to one of the top colleges in the country, you need to crush the ACT.

 

The test is a key ingredient in your college application process and you need some serious preparation time to get the score you need.

 

 In this article, I’m going to review four best online act prep courses you can take.  Completing them will put the fear out of the equation and let you approach the test with confidence and peace of mind.

 

These courses come in a variety of different formats and pricing options. The one you choose will depend on your budget as well as the preferred method of study. Let’s check them out, shall we?

 

Here’s a quick list of the winners in this comparison:

 

1. The best ACT live-online prep course out there:

Princeton Review ACT 31+ ($1399 – discounts apply)

2. A great budget-friendly self-prep ACT course:

Magoosh ($89 – discounts apply)

3. A great unlimited prep option (including ACT, SAT, and PSAT):

Kaplan ($1200 – discounts apply)

4. The best mid-range self-prep ACT course:

Prepscholar ($397 – discounts apply).

 

Now that you had a glance at the available options, let’s dig deeper and see how they compare.

 

Table of contents:

 

 

How this ACT course list was compiled

 

There are over a dozen different ACT prep courses you can take online. These include Testive, Barron’s, ACT Online Prep, Peterson’s, Higher Scores Test Prep, Prep Factory, Green Test Prep, Clear Path Advantage, and many others.

 

The purpose of this review is to take the guesswork out of the equation and provide you only with the best and most proven options that will guarantee a higher score on the test.

 

 I checked the features, materials, and reviews of most courses available on the market  – so you don’t have to. In the end, I came up with a list of four finalists based on the benefits they provide. Each one of them is suitable for customers with different budgets and preferred methods of study.

 

There’s a live online option, a self-prep option, an “ultimate” option (good if you prepare for SAT and LSAT as well), and a premium self-prep option for students who like to study on their own by using high-quality learning materials.

 

Let’s see how these courses stack up against each other by looking at the comparison chart below.

 

A side-by-side comparison of the four best ACT prep courses

 

1. Princeton Review – ACT 31+ Live Online Course2. Magoosh – ACT Self-Prep Course3. Kaplan – Unlimited ACT course4. Prepscholar – Self Prep ACT Course
PriceCheck the price here (discounts may apply)Check the price here (discounts may apply)Check the price here (discounts may apply)Check the price here (discounts may apply)
Hours of live online instruction18h0h – self-prep18h0h – self-prep
Books Included with the courseNo books included but you can buy them separatelyIncluded with the courseNo books – fully online based
Video lessons280+ video lessons250+ video lessons14 hours of video lessons60h of on-demand video content
GuaranteeA guarantee of a 31+ score after two months of prep+4 Points guarantee, 7 days risk-free trial Simple higher score guarantee – improve or your money back+4 Points guarantee, 5 days risk-free trial
Includes SAT and PSAT prep materialsYesNoYesNo
Access to instructors out of classYes (email or phone assistance 24/7)Yes (email assistance within 1 or 2 business days)NoNo
Practice questions3200+1350+1000+1800+
Full-length practice tests7 full-length and 16 additional single-section tests4 full-length tests9 full-length tests4 full-length practice tests
Live proctored practice tests3???
Study plan/scheduleYesYesYesYes
Access to a mobile appYes (parent portal and student portal)YesYesNo

 

 

1. The best ACT live-online prep course out there – Princeton Review ACT 31+

 

the princeton review logo

 

Princeton Review ACT 31+ – check the course here.

 

Princeton Review is one of the market leaders in the test preparation industry. They offer several excellent online ACT courses (as well as in-person ones). Their top service is called “31+” because they guarantee that you’ll get at least 31 points after two months of intensive prep (or your money back).

 

This is a bold offer worth considering if you think about applying for one of the top 30 colleges in the country. The course is not cheap ($1399), but it’s still affordable if you compare it to the average college tuition of $35,800 per annum ($56,900 for top 10 schools in the US).

 

Taking this “31+” course is still a good deal if you’re applying to a mid-level college because it will provide you with a solid foundation of knowledge you can also use for the GRE. Additionally, it’s better to get a solid prep and pass the ACT once and for all, instead of taking multiple stabs at it (and paying out $67 each and every time).

 

AND, as a bonus, if you get the guaranteed “31+” points, and have a GPA of around 3.0, you have a very high chance of receiving a freshman merit-based scholarship ($6,000 – $15,000 per year) which would definitely help to cover the cost of the tuition. In other words, it’s good to invest a bit upfront a receive the rewards along the way.

 

The only stipulation in the guarantee is that first, you need to present a score of 28 to be eligible for the “31+ or your money back part”. This is understandable because suddenly jumping from 20 points to 31 or more is a long shot.

 

princeton review act course screenshot 1

You’ll get lots of video instruction with detailed explanations with each course.

 

This ACT course takes around two months to complete, with a single, three-hour long class every week. You’ll be taught only by expert instructors who help students to reach the top 5% of test takers. That’s 18 hours of live instruction in total (usually in small groups of no more than a dozen students).

 

But the great thing here is that you don’t have to wait for the next class to get your answers and doubts resolved.  You can simply contact your instructors through phone, email, or the mobile app  provided with the course, and get your questions answered within minutes.

 

As a parent, you have access to a mobile app where you can monitor the progress of your child and see the exact scores on test exams. This is a great way of controlling the situation without being intrusive.

 

Additionally, the course is packed with some amazing features including 280+ video lessons from top preparation instructors, seven full-length practice tests, and 16 more single section tests. This is more than enough material to reach the top 10% or top 5% of the exam takers.

 

princeton review act course screenshot 2

You can chat directly with your instructor and other students and get instant help.

 

What’s really neat about the Princeton Review is that they also offer  over 3000+ practice questions  through an online dashboard. Also, after completing each series of questions you’ll get detailed reports and explanations.

 

The system also uses a “Drill Smart” technology based on big data. It will measure your performance in different sections of the test, and “learn” where do you need to improve to kick your scores up a notch. In other words, it will allow you to focus only on the areas that will lead to higher performance.

 

If the price tag on the 31+ course is too high for you, you can also check their self-prep ACT course priced at $299 which is also excellent.

 

Here’s the summary of the features of the ACT 31+ Live Online Course:

 

Princeton Review – ACT 31+ Live Online Course
PriceCheck the price here (discounts may apply)
Hours of live online instruction18h
Books Included with the course
Video lessons280+ video lessons
GuaranteeA guarantee of a 31+ score after two months of prep
Includes SAT and PSAT prep materialsYes
Access to instructors out of classYes (email or phone assistance 24/7)
Practice questions3200+
Full-length practice tests7 full-length and 16 additional single-section tests
Live proctored practice tests3
Study plan/scheduleYes
Access to a mobile appYes (parent portal and student portal)

 

 

 

2. A great budget-friendly self-prep ACT course – Magoosh

 

magoosh logo

Magoosh ACT Prep Course – check it here.

 

Magoosh offers a sneaky little course that will allow you to take your score to another level. The main advantage of prepping with Magoosh is the price – plain and simple.

 

While other companies will charge you a few hundred dollars (or even over a grand for the most intensive courses), Magoosh sets a new standard in the self-prep world by pricing their courses at $89 and 12 months of access to their online dashboard.

 

Magoosh act course screenshot

The online dashboard gives you access to detailed reports.

 

This is a perfect option for students and families on a tighter budget who still want to get a great ACT score. Of course, you won’t get any live online classes here and the whole experience is based online.

 

But the good part is that you can access the course through a mobile app and all you need is an internet connection. The app is really great and allows you to study when you have a few minutes of spare time.

 

It will show how you perform in each section of the course, so you will know exactly where do you need to improve. It’s also available on all the major platforms including PC, Mac, Android, and iOS.

 

It also includes a neat feature which gives you a timeline of your ACT prep. You just need to insert the exact date of your exam and the app will guide you. It will tell you how many days do you still have till deadline and how many hours have you studied in total.

 

This is a great motivator and it helps you to keep your efforts consistent. There are over 1350+ practice questions which is a bit less than what’s on offer from other companies, but still enough to improve your score by 3 or 4 points.

 

 Actually, Magoosh has a +4 point improvement guarantee,  so if you don’t improve your score by at least 4 points you will get your money back.

 

Also, after signing up for their course, you have 7 days to make up your mind. And if within a week you decide the course is not for you, you will get your money back as well. This is a great risk reversal which shows that the producers of the course are confident about its effectiveness.

 

Additionally, if you ever get stuck with a question, you can contact one of the instructors by email and you will get a response within one or two business days. Yes, it takes more time compared to the course from Princeton Review, but it’s better than nothing. And while waiting for the answer, you can focus on other questions. It’s all about the right strategy.

 

Another neat feature of this course is the number of video lessons it provides. Most students like to study with some kind of a visual material a and here they won’t be disappointed. The course provides over 250 video lessons regarding the most important parts of the ACT – including strategies for dealing with the trickiest questions on the test.

 

And to cement your knowledge and give you a taste of the real world test-taking environment you will be able to  complete up to 4 full-length practice tests.  That’s over 10 hours of intensive study right there.

 

Recently Magoosh also released printed versions of the ACT guide which includes additional practice questions and many strategies to improve your score. The book is affordable and it received glowing reviews from students.

 

Here’s the summary of the features of the Magoosh ACT Self-Prep Course:

 

Magoosh – ACT Self-Prep Course
PriceCheck the price here (discounts may apply)
Hours of live online instruction0h – self-prep
Books No books included but you can buy them separately
Video lessons250+ video lessons
Guarantee+4 Points guarantee, 7 days risk-free trial
Includes SAT and PSAT prep materialsNo
Access to instructors out of classYes (email assistance within 1 or 2 business days)
Practice questions1350+
Full-length practice tests4 full-length tests
Live proctored practice tests?
Study plan/scheduleYes
Access to a mobile appYes

 

 

3. A great unlimited prep option (including ACT, SAT, and PSAT) – Kaplan

 

kaplan logo

 

Kaplan ACT Course – check it here.

 

Kaplan is actually the oldest test prep company in the world which started in the first half of the 20th century. They have a huge network of educational centers all around the US and Canada, which makes them a great option if you’re interested in a classroom course.

 

Just like Princeton Review, they have a couple of different ACT prep options. These include in-person classes, a moderately priced self-paced course, and the so-called unlimited prep course.

 

You can check all the different options on their website, but in this review, we will concentrate on the unlimited prep option. It’s true, it’s among the priciest courses (second only to the private tutoring one which starts at $2,599).

 

The unlimited prep course starts at $1,500 and it’s a great pick if you want to pass the SAT and PSAT along with ACT. There are occasional discounts on the Kaplan website and from time to time the price of the course can go down to $1,200 which makes it much more affordable.

 

kaplan act course screenshot

You’ll get detailed reports about your performance.

 

With the unlimited prep, you’ll get access to the classes and materials for all three tests. This is perfect for students who need more flexibility and want to increase the chances of getting admitted to the dream college by taking more than one test.

 

All of the study paths include 18 hours of live instruction with a team of great Kaplan teachers who consistently receive glowing reviews from pupils. Another great feature which is available only in this course is six hours of personalized one-on-one live online coaching.

 

During this time you can ask your instructor anything you want. This includes questions related to college admissions as well as the best strategies you can use to crush the ACT.

 

And if you’re still thirsty for knowledge, you can get access to over 14 hours of additional video lessons which basically consist of recordings of the previous courses.

 

You will also get the highly rated books and printed materials that will enable you to study when you don’t have access to your computer.

 

But no worries, there are also some other study options if you are on the go.  Kaplan has one of the best educational apps  that will allow you to go through dozens of ACT practice questions by playing with your phone.

 

This is a fantastic option for the younger generation that spends hours of their time glued to the screens of their mobile phones and tablets.

 

Kaplan also has a feature that will allow you to  customize your practice time with the so-called Quiz Bank.  It will show you how well you perform on each section of the test and then personalize your prep by attacking your weak spots instead of going through problems you can easily solve.

 

The only thing this course lacks is a great higher score guarantee. Other ACT courses on this list usually promise an improvement of four points or even a specific score guarantee (like 31+). But here you only get the simple guarantee. It states that if you improve your score at all (it could be a single point), you won’t be eligible to get your money back. This makes taking the course slightly riskier.

 

But overall it’s a great course, especially if you want to take the ACT and PSAT as well.

 

Here’s the summary of the features of the Kaplan Unlimited Prep Course:

 

Kaplan – Unlimited ACT course
PriceCheck the price here (discounts may apply)
Hours of live online instruction18h
Books Included with the course
Video lessons14 hours of video lessons
GuaranteeSimple higher score guarantee – improve or your money back
Includes SAT and PSAT prep materialsYes
Access to instructors out of classNo
Practice questions1000+
Full-length practice tests9 full-length tests
Live proctored practice tests?
Study plan/scheduleYes
Access to a mobile appYes

 

 

4. The best mid-range self-prep ACT course – Prepscholar

 

prepscholar logo

 

Last but not least we have the Prepscholar ACT course. As with most companies, it comes in several different packages (which include live classes and private tutoring). But their most popular course is a self-prep one. It’s fully based online and comes with a mid-range price of $397.

 

What I really like about this course, it’s that it gives you a lot of value for your money. Most companies give you access only for a few months to their online resources. But here you will be able to access the course for one year. This is great because you can use the materials as an aid for a few more months, even if you failed to get your dream score during your very first ACT attempt.

 

The course covers all sections, including English, math, reading, science, and writing. It has over 60 hours of content you can go through (that should be more than enough to improve your score by at least a couple of points).

 

prepscholar act course screenshot

The course dashboard will help you to stay on track.

 

Additionally, the course comes with a nice guarantee similar to what Magoosh has to offer. The producers of the course are confident in their materials and the guarantee that you will improve your score by at least 4 points or you’ll get your money back.

 

 They also have a 5-day risk-free trial,  so if you decide you don’t like the course within the first 5 days you can get your money back as well.

 

But there are two things that are lacking here if you compare Prepscholar to Magoosh, for example. The first one is that you don’t have access to the instructors so if you’re stuck with a question you’re basically on your own. There is only technical assistance available.

 

Another saying is that this is the only course on this list, which doesn’t have a mobile app. That’s bad news for students who like to complete a couple of practice questions while on the go.

 

But on the other hand, they have a couple of additional features which make up for the flight disadvantages.

 

For example, there’s an add-on (for which you pay a little bit more), but you get access to the course for the full two years. This is nice if you think you’ll need to take the ACT a couple of times. For a small additional fee, you can also complete a dual SAT + ACT course which is great if you’re planning on taking both tests.

 

 They also have 4 full-length practice tests and over 1800 practice questions  which is more than enough for a few solid months of preparation. And their online dashboard is neat and provides detailed reports about your performance.

 

Overall, it’s a great budget friendly course but if I were to choose between self-prep ACT course options, I would still go with Princeton Review or Magoosh. That’s because they’re cheaper but offer a similar amount of materials along with strong performance-based guarantees.

 

Here’s the summary of the features of the Prepscholar ACT Course:

 

Prepscholar – Self Prep ACT Course
PriceCheck the price here (discounts may apply)
Hours of live online instruction0h – self-prep
Books No books – fully online based
Video lessons60h of on-demand video content
Guarantee+4 Points guarantee, 5 days risk-free trial
Includes SAT and PSAT prep materialsNo
Access to instructors out of classNo
Practice questions1800+
Full-length practice tests4 full-length practice tests
Live proctored practice tests?
Study plan/scheduleYes
Access to a mobile appNo

 

 

Bonus section: most frequently asked ACT prep questions

 

young girl graduating from school

 

The basic information about ACT

 

The test is 2 hours and 55 minutes long (plus 40 minutes if you’re taking the optional writing section).  The cost of the test is $50.50 (without writing) and $67 (with writing).  For non-US students, it’s $150 and $166,50 respectively.

 

The ACT consists of the following sections: English, math, reading, science, and writing (optional). The test is administered seven times a year and it’s best to take it during the spring of your junior year or fall of your senior year.

 

The test is scored on a scale from 1 to 36 and the average score achieved by test takers is 21. To get into one of the top US universities  you will need a score between 25 and 32. 

 

To register for the ACT, ask your school counselor or register online on the ACT website.

 

How much time do you need to properly prepare for the ACT?

 

Here we can only deal with estimates because each student is different. It really depends on how much attention you paid to your classes during the whole of high school.  But on average, it will take around 10 hours of study to improve the score by 1 point, and up to 150 hours of study to improve by 6-9 points. 

 

Most of the ACT courses on this list guarantee an improvement of at least 4 to 6 points over the course of 3 to 4 months which is reasonable in my estimation.

 

Is it better to attend live online classes or the self-prep option is just fine?

 

It all depends on your current level of knowledge as well as the score you need to achieve to get accepted to a great college. First of all, find out what is the average score of the students who got into the college of your choice. For example, to get into Harvard you’ll need between 32 and 35 points. But to get into the University of Vermont, you’ll be fine with 25 to 30 points.

 

All things being equal, the live online courses are going to give you a more solid prep, as you can expect to get a higher score after taking them. They will give you a more structured approach to study and the instructors will be able to answer your pressing questions on the spot.

 

But if you consider yourself a math genius, and have enough self-discipline to study on your own, the self-prep ACT course should be just fine.

 

Can you get our money back if you’re not satisfied with the course?

 

Yes, most of the companies offer a solid performance based guarantee.

 

For example, if you don’t improve your scores by at least 4 points you will get your money back. Other prep companies let you test out their platform for up to 7 days and if you don’t like it you can get a refund. The last option is a simple higher score guarantee. It means that if you improve your score by 1 point (or more), you won’t be able to get your money back.

 

Please refer to the guarantee section in the comparison chart for more details about each course.

 

Conclusion

 

You can find multiple ways to get prepared for the big test day. You can learn with books, by completing online practice tests, or by hiring a private tutor. But these days using technology is the best way to get all the knowledge you need to crash the ACT and get into the college of your dreams.

 

Higher education in the USA is far from cheap at this moment. Since you’ll need to shell out thousands of dollars to go through college, it’s worth it to invest in a great ACT course, get a fantastic score, and ensure that you’ll get admitted into the best school that money can buy. Good luck!

Share this post

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on pinterest
Share on linkedin

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Related Posts

Pin It on Pinterest

Shares