It’s important for you to do well on the ACT, but doing well can involve additional ACT prep costs. But the truth is that additional ACT test prep—whether it’s in the form of study guidebooks, ACT prep courses, or one-on-one ACT tutoring—can raise your score quite a bit. If you’re trying to get into a competitive school, having a high ACT score is a critical part of your application.
Answering the question “how much does ACT prep cost” can be pretty tricky...but we’re here to help. In this article, we’re going to answer that question and give you an ACT prep cost comparison. Then we’ll walk you through the different types of prep and how much ACT prep classes cost, explain the positives and negatives of each, then give you some tips for choosing the right type of ACT prep for you.
So let’s jump in!
ACT Prep Cost Comparison
When it comes to ACT prep cost, the prices can vary pretty significantly between the least expensive and most expensive options. That’s why we’ve put together a chart of the average cost of ACT prep courses to give you a quick ACT prep cost comparison.
Type of ACT Prep
Cost for 40 Hours of Prep
$0-$50 per book
$0-200 if you use multiple books to prepare
$100-$1400 per course
$100-$2800, depending on the length of each course
$800-$1800 per course
$800-$3600, depending on the length of each course
$40-$200 per hour
This table shows you that there’s an ACT test prep option at every price point. ACT guide books are the most cost-effective option (for our favorites, check out this list), while tutoring can end up being quite expensive. ACT online prep costs can also vary depending on the company and length of the course.
Because of the huge differences between prices and services, it’s hard to determine the average cost of ACT prep courses and tools. Generally speaking, you can expect to spend somewhere between $50 and $2,000 on ACT test prep, depending on which options you choose.
ACT Prep Cost Breakdown by Type
Let’s now break down the costs related to three options: self-guided preparation, purchasing an online course, and hiring a one-on-one tutor.
Self-Guided ACT Prep
- Total Cost: $0 to $50
- Best For: People on a budget and/or people who are self-motivated studiers
If you wish to go it alone, all the resources you need are available at little to no cost. If you choose to go this route, you should start with the official, free resources on the ACT website.
First, the ACT provides a free 64-page study guide on their website. But that’s not all! They also provide a host of materials to help you prepare for the ACT. The resources ACT provides are completely free and an excellent place to begin your ACT test prep journey.
Once you’ve gone through those resources, it’s time to turn to ACT guide books. The ACT has Official Study Guide books available for purchase at their website in the $20-$50 range. But there are lots of options in this category! You can also find excellent guide books on Amazon or at your local bookstore. If you’re not sure where to start, take a look at this list of the best ACT study guide books on the market.
Another thing that can help with a self-guided approach is study groups. You and some of your classmates can schedule a weekly meeting time where you study for the ACT together. Having several people studying for the same test creates a pool of knowledge you can share. Study groups also add an element of accountability. If you don’t study for a whole week, then everyone in your study group knows about it.
If you’re a non-traditional test taker (you’ve been homeschooled, you graduated high school years ago, etc.), you can still find a study group that works for you. Stop by your local library or adult education center and check their calendars and events. Many communities offer free or low-cost ACT prep courses that are open to everyone.
Pros of Self-Guided ACT Prep
The advantage of self-guided preparation is that—so long as you’re motivated— it can be just as effective as paid ACT prep classes (and cost a lot less). This is especially true if you spend some time putting a study plan together and sticking to it. You should also do a little research to see what strategies other test-takers used to get a 36 on their exam. And don’t forget to use practice tests to check your progress.
Cons of Self-Guided ACT Prep
The big problem with self-guided study is making sure you are motivated and disciplined enough to actually follow through on keeping up with your study routine. This type of study plan is best for people who like routines and can follow through on their plans. If you find that you have trouble keeping to a set schedule without oversight, then this approach may prove difficult for you.
The other drawback to this approach is that you lose out on expert guidance. While it’s true that you can compare notes with members of your study group, classes and tutoring give you access to an ACT expert that can answer your questions and teach you strategies that can raise your composite score.
Online ACT test prep is great for students with a busy schedule.
Online ACT Prep Courses
- Total Cost: $100-$1400
- Best For: People who learn best in a classroom environment, people who desire structure in their study approach
ACT prep classes cost more than self-guided study, but they have a lot of additional benefits, too. First, classes are designed by experts to help you improve your score as quickly as possible, so you’ll have a better chance of actually seeing a difference on your ACT score report.
Another benefit is that there are a lot of choices when it comes to online ACT prep courses. ACT prep courses range from learn-at-your-own-pace classes to instructor-led courses that take place in a virtual classroom. You’ll be able to choose a format (and price point!) that works for you. For instance, PrepScholar offers a range of ACT test prep courses that cover everything from self-guided study to online, one-on-one tutoring.
Finally, many online courses offer targeted test preparation. So if you’re doing great on three of the ACT sections but really struggling on the science portion, you can find an online course that focuses only on that section. Choosing targeted classes can help make online ACT test prep more affordable, too!
Pros of Online ACT Prep Courses
There are countless resources and courses for you to choose from, which means you’ll be able to choose a class that’s right for you and your budget. ACT online prep costs can vary pretty widely, so you’ll want to do your homework once you know how much you want to spend getting ready for the ACT exam.
Online classes can also help busy students fit test prep into their schedules. Self-paced classes let you study whenever it fits into your schedule. Even better: most self-paced online ACT prep classes know that students are busy, so they break learning modules into short chunks. That way, you can fit your study time around your high school classes, your extracurriculars, and your job.
Cons of Online ACT Prep Courses
Many of the most affordable online ACT prep courses are self-guided. While that works for self-motivated students, some people may find that they need more accountability to get their studying done. In other words, self-guided courses aren’t a good fit for anyone who studies better in group settings or with individualized attention.
Additionally, while some classes are designed to help you cram for the ACT exam, that’s not always a good idea. In fact, science has shown that cramming for tests is less effective than long-term studying. Putting your online ACT test prep course off until the last minute will make it less effective in raising your test scores.
Finally, there are some associated costs with online learning. For instance, you’ll have to use the internet to access most of your course materials. If you don’t have access to a reliable internet connection—or if your internet is too slow to stream videos or participate in live discussions—you may not be a good candidate for online test prep. You’ll also need a fairly up-to-date computer, too. You may need to download special software or apps in order to take your class, and if your computer isn’t current enough, you might have trouble accessing class materials.
In-person ACT prep courses offer students a typical classroom experience.
In-Person ACT Prep Courses
- Total Cost: $800-$1800 per course
- Best For: People who want a traditional classroom experience; people who want the accountability that comes with in-person instruction
If you’re taking traditional high school courses, then you’re already pretty familiar with what in-person ACT prep courses are like. These classes are developed by ACT experts, and they’re often taught by certified ACT instructors. To get the most out of an in-person course, you’ll have to take notes, work through problem sets, and sometimes even do homework!
The biggest difference between online ACT prep courses and in-person ones is that in-person ACT prep happens in a real-life classroom setting. When and where your class takes place depends on who is offering the course. Some high schools offer optional ACT prep classes either before or after school, which can be really convenient. You don’t have to leave campus or arrange for a ride...you can just come to school early (or stay a little late)! But if that doesn’t work for you, many prep providers offer weekend classes that may fit into your busy schedule.
Perhaps the biggest benefit of in-person ACT prep courses comes from having an instructor who can explain difficult material clearly. You’ll be able to ask tons of questions, and you’ll probably even get some one-on-one attention from your teacher. Instead of navigating a virtual classroom, you’ll have a real person who can come over and walk you through tricky concepts and questions.
Pros of In-Person ACT Prep Courses
One of the biggest perks of an in-person ACT prep course is that it mimics the classroom environments you’re already familiar with. You don’t have to figure out how to learn from a book or navigate a virtual classroom. You just show up, bust out your notebooks, and get to work.
Additionally, in-person classes are often offered by schools or other certified companies, meaning you’re likely to get a top-notch educational experience. Your teachers will have gone through some amount of training, and they’ll definitely know the latest tips and tricks to getting the highest ACT test score possible.
Finally, in-person ACT classes offer the benefits of hands-on instruction with a lower price tag than one-on-one tutoring. Like we mentioned, instructors will be evaluating your work, and you’ll have the chance to ask them tons of questions. If you learn well in a classroom environment and like getting feedback on your work, then an in-person class may be a great fit for you.
Cons of In-Person ACT Prep Courses
Unfortunately, these classes really do work like high school courses, meaning you have to show up at a specific time...and on a regular basis. If you’re super busy, you may struggle to fit these types of structured courses into your schedule. Additionally, not all schools offer on-campus ACT prep classes. If you don’t have access to reliable transportation, then taking an in-person test prep class may not work for you.
Even if you can attend this type of ACT class, you’ll still have to take notes during lectures and study materials outside of class. While these courses can make a huge difference in your composite ACT score, they only work if you’re putting in effort. For some students, the time commitment of an in-person ACT prep course is just too much to add to their already busy schedules.
One-on-one tutoring can be expensive, but the individualized attention can really help you improve your ACT composite score.
One-on-One ACT Tutoring
- Total Cost: $40-$200 per hour; $1000+ total
- Best For: People who need help to get motivated, people who learn best from in-person explanation, people who are struggling with the material covered by the exam
Private tutoring seems like an excellent approach to studying for the ACT. Having a person who can offer personalized individual recommendations based on their assessment of your own strengths and weaknesses can be very valuable. However, tutoring isn’t cheap! In fact, one-on-one tutoring is the most expensive ACT test prep option on our list.
Good ACT tutors charge around $40-$200 per hour. But if you’re really struggling with understanding the concepts on the ACT, tutoring is the way to go. You’ll get individualized attention that’s tailored to your specific needs. Not sure how to calculate the angles of a triangle? Struggling with analogies? No problem—your tutor is there to help!
Tutoring is also a great option for learners struggle with learning on their own. Having someone there with you to guide you through your ACT test prep can help you keep your eyes on the prize...which is an excellent ACT score.
Pros of One-on-One ACT Tutoring
Individual, one-on-one attention means that you can get immediate feedback regarding your strengths and weaknesses. Your tutor will also be able to observe your study habits, and will create a unique study plan for you that will help you target problem areas. This expertise has the potential to raise your score significantly, especially since you’ll have guided instruction on any material you may not understand.
Just like with ACT prep courses, private tutors offer you the chance to work closely with an ACT expert. But unlike a class with multiple people, you’ll be getting totally individualized attention! And finally, having a private tutor means that you have the accountability factor to help motivate you. You’ll have to show up to meetings prepared, and your tutor will follow up with you to make sure that you’re really tackling your problem areas.
Cons of One-on-One ACT Tutoring
The biggest con is, of course, the expense. For many families, a private tutor can be way beyond their budget. Also, not all tutors are created equal. Many college students bill themselves as “ACT tutors” because they’ve taken the test...but that doesn’t mean they’re an expert! It’s important to look for trained professionals who are ACT experts, so you’ll have to do your research before you decide to hire someone.
Also, how much tutoring can actually improve your score is ultimately based on how much effort you yourself put into improvement. One-on-one tutoring doesn’t eliminate the need for self-motivation, even if it does minimize it quite a bit. Ultimately, only you can improve your scores. Even the world’s best ACT tutor can’t raise your ACT scores if you’re not willing to put in the work yourself!
3 Tips for Picking the Right ACT Prep Course for You
Now that we’ve answered the question, “how much do ACT prep courses cost,” it’s time for you to pick an ACT prep method. But before you decide, check out our top three tips for picking the right ACT prep method for you.
Tip 1: Determine Your ACT Weak Spots
Before you start studying for the ACT, it’s a great idea to figure out the areas where you’re strongest...and the areas where you’re weakest. Once you know where you’re struggling, you can focus your studying and get more bang for your buck!
The best way to do this is by taking a few ACT practice tests. Make sure you time yourself to mimic the testing environment and see how you perform under pressure. Once you finish a practice test and score the results, you’ll be able to tell where your score is the lowest. That will show you which subject areas you should focus your studying on!
From there, you can start looking at ACT prep courses that meet your needs. If you’re struggling with math, for example, you can look for math-specific courses instead of choosing a general overview course. Not only will you get more out of your prep, you’ll probably save some money in the long run, too.
Tip 2: Think About Your Learning Style
Do you learn best when you’re reading your textbook? Or do you understand concepts better when your teacher talks about them in class? Figuring out how you like to learn—or at least, how you learn best—can help you pick the most effective ACT prep tactic for you.
Here’s what we mean: if you learn best when a person talks to you about them, then you may not get as much out of an ACT prep book as you would out of an ACT prep course. The same is true for the pricer options, too. If you’re nervous about studying with others and prefer working alone, then an ACT study book may work better for you than one-on-one tutoring.
So how do you figure out your learning style? Take a minute and think about the classes where you get the best grades. (These may not be your favorite classes!) What teaching styles do the teachers in your best classes use? Do they lecture a lot? Do they assign tons of homework? Are you required to read a textbook? You’ll probably see a trend in the classes you do well in, which will help you choose the type of ACT prep that’s a good fit for your learning style.
Tip 3: Put Together a Budget
Since you’re reading an article about how much ACT prep costs, so you’re probably interested in how much you’ll end up spending to prepare for the ACT. It’s always a good idea to have a budget in mind. That way you can make good decisions about your ACT online prep costs without putting financial stress on yourself or your family.
You may find that the test prep method that would work best for you is a little outside of your price range based on the numbers in this article. Remember: we’re talking about the average cost of ACT prep courses! Depending on where you live, what kinds of ACT prep services you need, and how much time you have to study, you may be able to find more affordable options.
Your standardized tests are just one expense you’ll encounter as you apply for college. One big financial hurdle is paying for college applications (yes, there are application fees)! If you’re worried about cost, you may consider applying to some fee-free colleges, too.
Of course, you’ll also have to figure out how to pay for college, too. A good place to start is by learning everything there is to know about the financial aid process. This article will get you off to a good start, then you can read more about the FAFSA, which you’ll have to submit to qualify for federal financial aid.
Another great way to pay for college is with scholarships! Learn how to find scholarships you qualify for, and don’t forget to apply for some of these full-ride scholarships, too!
Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
Ashley Sufflé Robinson has a Ph.D. in 19th Century English Literature. As a content writer for PrepScholar, Ashley is passionate about giving college-bound students the in-depth information they need to get into the school of their dreams.