As a professional test prep tutor, reviewing all the official materials from the publishers of the ACT and the SAT is a critical part of my job. I was excited to review the newly released book, The Official Beginner’s Guide for the ACT 2020-2021, from Wiley the publishers of the ACT. Unfortunately, this book is not worth the price for either students new to the ACT or veteran test takers.
The Beginner’s Guide provides a condensed version of the ACT format description and general test-taking tips contained in The Official Guide to the ACT. It lacks in-depth information about each section and example problems that the previously published book contains. The Beginner’s Guide does provide an additional full-length ACT practice test (April 2018) not available in The Official Guide and makes this practice test available in an online format via a code when you register on their website. To be clear, the online test is the same one printed in the book: you are only gaining one additional test by purchasing this book.
The book also includes a separate code for a PreACT Diagnostic Test. This diagnostic test is less valuable than it seems as the shorter testing does not allow students to practice the stamina needed to complete the ACT, nor does it allow students to become familiar with the actual ACT format. While the diagnostic PreACT test could be used as a preliminary studying step, it has no clear benefits. As always, Chariot Learning recommends practicing using real tests under real testing conditions. Check out to find the next online proctored test.
This book continues the Wiley ACT book trend of releasing a new edition every year. These yearly editions rarely change their content but students and parents may be tempted to purchase new editions in an attempt to remain current. This is a marketing scheme that results in additional sales with little actual editing by the company and little benefit to students.
The bottom line is that students would be better served buying the most current edition of The Official Guide to the ACT, which contains all the information found in The Beginner’s Guide and five full practice tests. The only benefit of The Beginner’s Guide is the additional full-length practice ACT, but I would instead recommend taking the money that would be wasted on this book and putting it towards quality test prep. I do not recommend The Beginner’s Guide for the ACT 2020-2021.