Since the 1930s, BARRON’S test prep experts have developed successful standardized test-taking strategies for students. When it comes to ACT prep, they have Barron’s ACT books. But is using a textbook the best way to prep for the exam? After all, there are many ways to prepare for the ACT, most of which are free.
In this article, you’ll get a complete review of Barron’s ACT and the pros and cons of various test prep methods so you can make your own decision. Our analysis will include the following topics:
- What’s Barron’s Test Prep
- Different methods of prepping for the exam and their pros and cons
- About Barron’s ACT
- What content is included in the Barron’s ACT book
- The pros and cons of Barron’s Act bookHow to know if Barron’s ACT will be suitable for you
Read on to get the full, unbiased Barron’s ACT review from the experts at Prep Test Pros.
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What Is Barron’s Test Prep 🤔
Barron’s began as a book store in Brooklyn, New York, in the 1930s. Manuel H. Barron started it to supply study materials for the New York State Regents exams after finding that there was nothing accessible.
He designed the study guides himself. Since then, Barron’s has grown to include test prep materials for the ACT, TOEFL, GMAT, among other tests. Their study guides are especially popular with students who like thumbing through textbook pages and taking notes.
But while Barron is a publisher of various exam textbooks, they aren’t the only way to prep for exams; you can use tutors and courses too. So, here’s a look at the pros and cons of these methods.
Different Ways to Prep for The ACT And Their Pros and Cons ✨
1. Online ACT Prep Courses
Often considered the best way to prep for standardized tests, online courses comprise various instructional methods such as video lessons, live classes, books, tutoring, practice questions, and tests. They often provide customizable study plans, pre, and post-diagnostic exams, and performance tracking and are available to users of both desktop and mobile devices.
It isn’t surprising that most users stick with online courses to the end; they are usually engaging and fun. There is just one drawback: they tend to be expensive.
2. Private ACT Tutors
It’s no secret that hiring a qualified ACT tutor is one of the best ways to prep for the exam, especially if you have difficulty grasping certain concepts or are looking for top marks to get into Ivy League schools. Act Tutors tailor their teaching methodologies and pace to individual students’ progress, learning style, and habits.
You’ll get curated study plans, direct instructions, and personalized feedback. The downside is that private coaching is often the most expensive way to prep for any exam. The rates can vary from $150/hr to $300/hr. I
n addition, it can be difficult to know if the tutor you are hiring really is good. Furthermore, your tutor won’t be around for you all day; instead, you’ll have tutor access for a limited amount of time. Therefore, you must be capable of preparing independently when they are not around.
3. ACT Prep Books
The use of test prep books has decreased in popularity since the invention of the internet. Most students already have demanding schedules; they like online courses because they can study on the move; most textbooks don’t allow that unless they are digital.
Also, learners typically find most books boring, out-of-date, or even sub-par. Nevertheless, there are good reasons to prep using books, and there are good ACT prep books you can find if you look around well.
Why Use an ACT Prep Book? 🤔
According to PrepScholar, it takes between 10 to 150+ hours to prep for the ACT, depending on your target score improvement. Most online courses provide the same number of study and practice hours.
However, if you don’t have money to spend on an online ACT prep course, a good textbook will just suffice. Plus, some courses don’t include enough study and practice material, and you may want to supplement your prep with a textbook. Most online courses even include books that track with what’s taught in the video and live lessons; that way, you can get more insight if you don’t understand a concept in class.
A good ACT study book teaches useful test-taking strategies, common types of questions found in the exam, and the best ways to maximize one’s study time. Such books are very valuable for students who plan to devote substantial time to test preps to improve their grades. You can choose the best books and begin preparing for D-Day once you identify your target score and the sections you need to improve.
About Barron’s ACT
The Barron ACT is one of Barron’s test prep resources. It’s in its fifth edition and contains in-depth instructions and practice materials for every section of the exam.
The ACT study guide is written by Brain W. Stewart, an experienced teacher who knows the ACT very well. It’s one of the most up-to-date ACT prep books on the market right now and will teach you the intricacies of ACT and show you how to approach the most difficult questions.
The book includes plenty of sample questions with explanations for each section of the ACT (Math, English, Reading, Writing, and Science) and four practice tests at the end accompanied by an answer key and explanations of the correct answers. It is designed for candidates who already understand the test and wish to advance their skills.
Barron’s ACT study guide comes in two versions. Here’s a look:
Barron’s ACT Standard vs. Barron’s Version ACT Premium
In terms of content, the Premium book’s content is more customizable. You’ll see practice questions labeled as easy, medium, or hard. This makes it easy to customize your own set according to the level of difficulty you want. The other thing is the Premium book contains four practice tests at the end and two online. If you buy the standard book, you won’t get the online practice tests.
That said, there’s not much difference in terms of price. A paperback version of the premium book costs $20, while the eBook is $23. The standard version costs $18 (no eBook). However, take note that these are the 2nd editions. The fifth edition of the book is the premium version only and costs $27. Of course, you should always go with the latest edition.
Contents of Barron’s ACT ⭐
The book comprises an introduction plus five core sections divided into 25 chapters and spaced out over 322 pages. Here’s the breakdown:
The Barron’s ACT book’s introduction covers the fundamentals of the ACT by answering commonly asked questions. This intro addresses everything from how to register for the exam to the exam date and venue and how to use the book to prepare.
In addition, the writers offer four “major ideas” that readers may utilize to overcome their fears and establish strategies for ACT success. The test-taking tactics, recommendations, and in-depth explanations presented in the latter sections of the book are built on these four key areas.
✨ Diagnostic Test
After the introduction, there is a Diagnostic Test. The Diagnostic Test is used to assess students’ readiness for the ACT and identify their strengths and weaknesses. Students can then use these results to construct personalized and tailored study plans to help them attain max score increases.
✨ ACT English
The first core section reviews the English section of the exam providing a grammar review with short sections dedicated to concepts that are certain to be tested. You’ll cover sentence basics, tense, punctuation, number agreement, word order possession, transitions, parallelism, wordiness, proper wording, and illogical comparisons.
The chapter concludes with ten useful ACT English strategies and examples of how to use them in real-world situations. You can use the strategies to complete the sample ACT English passage that comes after the section.
✨ ACT Mathematics
Students often struggle with the ACT Math section. Fortunately, there is an entire section in Barron’s ACT on how to improve your math score. The section aims to help learners develop skills and strategies for dealing with ACT math questions. Therefore, the authors discuss Pre-Algebra, Intermediate Algebra, Elementary Algebra, Coordinate Geometry, Plane Geometry, Trigonometry, Statistics, and Probability.
They also cover the most tested topics to ensure you spend your time working on skills that will give you a max score boost. Each concept begins with a simple one-paragraph description followed by practice questions and their answer explanations. At the end of each topic, you get additional practice questions for independent practice.
✨ ACT Reading
The Reading section introduces the basics of ACT reading questions, plus the best ways to tackle them. You’ll learn methodologies for time management, focused reading, and using logic to pick answers. At the end of the chapter, there are practice passages and questions with answer guides. You’ll see questions testing meanings of words, generalizations, how to draw conclusions, compare statements, etc.
✨ ACT Science
Some test takers may find the ACT Science part challenging. This section covers the types of skills that will be tested in the exam. These skills include Data Representation, Conflicting Viewpoints, and Research Summary. After that, the chapter provides three reading strategies for handling science passages.
Barron’s ACT also includes sample paragraphs for each category of skills outlining what readers should take out from each one. The book includes a brief summary of the correct response and how learners can get to the correct answers for each practice question and paragraph.
✨ ACT Writing
While the ACT essay section is optional, some universities may require students to attempt the section and get a good score. This is true especially for foreign students as the schools might want to get an idea of your English writing skills.
Fortunately, Barron’s ACT dedicates an entire section to teaching students methods that will boost their skills across key ACT writing areas such as prewriting, wording and sentence structure, examples and description, thesis writing, evaluating complexity, and different viewpoints. It will also take you through a perfect essay, so you learn what makes it stand out. You’ll also learn time management and other practical tips for essay writing success.
✨ Practice Tests
The last section of the book comprises three full-length practice tests, which, in addition to the diagnostic tests, makes four full-length practice tests in the book. Each test is formatted as similar to the real ACT and accompanied by an answer key. The practice tests also come with solution explanations so learners can figure out where they went wrong.
Online Practice Tests and Video Lessons
Apart from the practice tests in the book, you also get two of them online, bringing the total to 6. There’re also video lessons on select ACT subjects. Use these resources to supplement your prep.
Why Choose Barron’s ACT? 👍
With Barron’s ACT, you get a lot for your money. Here’s a look at the pros:
✅ 4. Decent Concept Review
Most online users say Barron’s ACT is impressive and explains the fundamentals of studying for the test exceptionally well. First-time test-takers will find the first chapter very helpful for getting an overview of the ACT.
Additionally, you will learn how to deal with the different types of questions. The authors summarize common “tricks” used in the exam. For example, many math questions can be solved quickly if you read the questions carefully and apply logic rather than providing lengthy and often tedious solutions.
Additionally, you’ll learn how to manage your time effectively. As a whole, this book serves as a great refresher course for students who’ve become a little rusty in math, science, reading, and writing.
The author presents many samples of questions and explains how to answer them. In addition to providing tips for solving “trick” questions, the book includes three full-length practice ACTs at the end.
✅ 5. Six Full-Length Practice Tests
There’s no better way to prepare for the ACT than sitting for practice tests under real test-like conditions. The ACT exam can feel long and boring if you haven’t taken it before. Barron’s ACT six practice tests prepare students for the hassles of the exam.
You will know what kind of question to expect, how much time to spend per section, and also develop the much-needed confidence and stamina. What’s more, they are all accompanied by answer keys and solution explanations so you can score your work and figure out where you went wrong.
✅ 6. Major Concerns are Addressed Directly
Every learner who studies for the ACT is apprehensive about taking the test. The Barron’s ACT book recognizes readers’ main concerns and helps them overcome them. You will learn four practical tips to combat anxiety and find success in the exam.
✅ 7. Helps craft a Targeted Study Plan
You can maximize your ACT study time by taking a self-assessment test to identify your strengths and weaknesses before you begin studying for the exam. Barron’s ACT makes this possible by providing a diagnostic test at the beginning of the book.
You can use this to narrow down on the areas you are not good at and come up with a study plan that hammers more on these areas while leveraging your strengths for max score gain.
✅ 8. Price
The Barron’s ACT book costs only $27 and covers all ACT topics using lessons, practice questions and drills, and six practice tests. It includes answer explanations for each practice question, drill, tests, and online video lessons on select topics. This is approximately the same number of resources you get with the Magoosh one-year self-paced ACT course. The advantage of Barron’s ACT is it costs less and allows lifetime access.
✅ 9. Customizable Practice
The Premium version of the book has practice test questions marked as “easy,” “medium,” or “tough,” so you can choose the difficulty level you want based on your skills levels.
✅ 10. Transparency
While other courses may lie that any student can use, the introduction part of Barron’s ACT book includes a bulleted list of what type of students will benefit more from the book.
Barron’s ACT has many strengths, but it’s not perfect! Before you use this book for ACT prep, you should be aware of cons such as:
❌ 11. It’s Pretty Long
Barron’s ACT is a long book with 850 pages. If you are already scared of the exam, you might find this book extremely intense for your needs. If you are not familiar with the exam, you may not be able to use it without reading every page.
And even if you’ve taken the exam before and are just looking for a few points to improve your score, you may find it hard to sift through the information looking for useful points. Many learners already familiar with the different ACT subjects prefer smaller books for more focused studies.
❌ 12. You May Feel Overwhelmed by the Practice Questions
There is a lot of practice questions in every section of the book. Indeed, all major concepts are reinforced with practice questions. Although the practice tests are thorough, they may feel excessive for some students, especially since the book includes three practice tests at the end.
As an example, the ACT Science section includes six practice passages varying in difficulty from “easier” to “medium” and “harder.” Additionally, the explanations accompanying the practice passage can run several pages long.
While the comprehensive nature of Barron’s ACT practice tests and questions might appeal to some learners, others prefer less and might feel overwhelmed.
Who is Barron’s ACT for?
The first part of the book contains a bulleted list of what types of students the book is created for. Here’s a summary.
- Students looking for comprehensive study and practice materials for all ACT sections
- Students who’d like assistance in crafting ACT study plans and guidance for individualized preps
- Students looking for practical tips to manage ACT anxiety
- If you are interested in optimizing your ACT-taking mindset
- If you want a resource that anticipates the questions you have about the ACT and provides well-reasoned, contextualized responses