No matter how you prep for the ACT—whether you have a tutor, take a class, or study by yourself—you must get access to official ACT tests. These tests are released by ACT, Inc., and contain real questions given to actual students on previous test dates. These questions have been removed from circulation (so you won't ever see them on a real test), but their quality is second to none when it comes to ACT realism.
In this post, I'll tell you how to find all currently available official ACT practice tests. Most are free and offer a good way to get your feet wet with ACT prep. We'll also discuss how to use these tests to improve your ACT score.
A Quick Intro to ACT Practice Tests
The ACT format hasn't changed much in the past decade (except for the essay), so tests released in 2005 are almost as good as tests released in 2015. We'll give you the tests in the following section, and then teach you how to best make use of them.
Be aware that practice tests are not a cure-all for all ACT problems. Definitely learn what practice tests do and don't do and understand the dangers of abusing practice tests. In addition, make sure you take them at the optimal frequency and aren't taking full practice tests too close to your test date.
All Free, Full-Length ACT Practice Tests
The following ACT practice tests are totally free. We've gathered all of them together in one place for your convenience.
Currently, there are five PDF tests that you can print out and take on paper:
- ACT Practice Test 2015-16 (Form 72CPRE)
- ACT Practice Test 2014-15 (Form 67C)
- ACT Practice Test 2011-12 (Form 64E)
- ACT Practice Test 2008-09 (Form 61C)
- ACT Practice Test 2005-06 (Form 59F)
Notice a few years missing? That's because ACT, Inc., duplicates the same test in different years. For example, the 2015-16 test is identical to the 2016-17 and 2017-18 tests. We've included the form ID with each test so that you can confirm for yourself what's the same and what's not (you can find this code at the bottom-left of each page on the tests).
There is also one ACT free online sample test. Although the test format is a little clunky, it's overall a convenient digital resource. To use it, click through each section to answer questions in short batches. Once you receive your scores for a question set, move on to the next batch of questions. Unfortunately, these features make it impossible to take the test under realistic timing conditions, but at least you can get some helpful practice with it.
2 Official ACT Practice Tests You Can Buy
So far, we've given you all free, official ACT practice tests. But what about paid practice tests? For even more high-quality practice, consider buying the following official ACT practice tests.
Priced at about $25, this official prep book is definitely the best resource for realistic ACT practice questions. Don't bother using Kaplan or The Princeton Review for practice tests—their quality is far inferior to the tests created by ACT, Inc.
The 2018 edition includes three full-length ACT practice tests with essay prompts. However, these tests are the same as those in the 2016-17 edition and also have a lot of overlap with the free PDFs above, so you might want to consider buying a copy of the third edition (which has five unique practice tests) instead.
Costing $40, this official online program includes one extra full-length ACT practice test as well as many authentic practice questions that reflect the most recent changes to the ACT. The online prep material isn't all that great, so you're really only buying it for the tests.
How to Use Official ACT Tests: 4 Tips
Because each ACT practice test takes about four hours to complete, it's important you get the most out of each test. Below, we go over some important tips to keep in mind when taking the tests.
But before we get to our tips, it's worth reiterating that practice tests can't be used to address all possible ACT problems. If you're struggling to understand certain concepts, for example, you'll need to make sure you're brushing up on your content review and learning difficult topics from scratch. So while ACT practice tests are an excellent way to track your progress, they certainly aren't the only resources out there!
Now, we'll show you how you can use ACT practice tests to your advantage.
#1: Take Each Test in One Sitting
The ACT is a marathon, forcing you to sit and concentrate for four hours on an early Saturday morning. You need to build up endurance so that you don't make careless mistakes at the end of the test.
By taking the practice test in one sitting, you'll increase your endurance for the real test. If you don't have time in your schedule for a four-hour session, then splitting it up over multiple days is OK—as long as you heed our next tip.
#2: Use Official Time Limits
It is critical that you recreate the time limits on the ACT as you take practice tests. Each section essentially requires you to answer one or more questions within just a minute, which causes most students to end up with less time than they need, especially on the Math section.
But don't be tempted to give yourself even two extra minutes, as this could unfairly allow you to finish more questions, thereby improving your score substantially. Remember, ACT practice tests should be reliable indicators of your real ACT score. But if you give yourself more time than what's allowed, you won't be able to see where you're actually scoring.
At the end of every test, make sure you review every mistake you made and every question you got correct. If you bypass this step, you're not going to learn from your mistakes, and you'll continue making them over and over again.
A rule of thumb is to spend at least two hours reviewing every full ACT practice test you take. Though this is time consuming, it's important to emphasize quality of learning over quantity of learning. In the end, it's better to take three tests with detailed review than six tests with no review.
#4: No Improvement? Supplement Your Practice Tests
While some students can learn from their mistakes, others need guidance to point out where their weaknesses are as well as assignments that help them directly improve their weak points. A good prep program can supercharge your ACT prep so that you're always focusing on the best material. Check out our industry-leading online ACT program. We've designed it to cover all of the advantages of ACT books and tutors—and more—at an affordable price. Featuring in-depth strategy lessons and thousands of practice questions, our program uses content from the leading books.
Our program guides you step by step through what you should be working on at every moment to best improve your score. It customizes to your strengths and weaknesses, and then gives you focused practice so you learn the patterns on the ACT. Furthermore, it motivates you to study so that you put in enough time.
There's a 4-point guarantee, too—meaning that if you don't improve your score by 4 points or more, you get all of your money back!
Want more ACT practice? Check out our massive collection of official and unofficial ACT practice tests. And if you're hoping to hone your math skills specifically, we've compiled the best ACT Math practice tests in a separate guide.
Taken the ACT already but unhappy with your score? Use our guide to decide whether you should retake the ACT.
Not sure when to take the ACT? Get a complete study plan for the ACT to figure out the best date for you.
Check out our industry leading ACT prep program. We have a 4 point improvement guarantee - improve your ACT composite score by 4 points, or get every dollar of your money back. We're that confident in our program.Have friends who also need help with test prep? Share this article!
As co-founder and head of product design at PrepScholar, Allen has guided thousands of students to success in SAT/ACT prep and college admissions. He's committed to providing the highest quality resources to help you succeed. Allen graduated from Harvard University summa cum laude and earned two perfect scores on the SAT (1600 in 2004, and 2400 in 2014) and a perfect score on the ACT.