There's one thing that every student studying for the ACT definitely needs: practice tests that are almost identical to what you will face on test day. No matter how you study, we've found that most students really benefit from taking a full ACT practice test several times in as close to official test-taking conditions as possible. This is the best way to get comfortable with the pace, timing, and format of the exam, and to work on both your endurance and stress-management techniques.
So how do you get your hands on enough ACT tests to put yourself in the hot seat for practice? In this article, we'll link to all the official tests and question sets released by ACT, Inc. and give you suggestions on where to find others so that you have more than enough practice materials to get ready for this important college admissions test.
Why Should You Use Old Official ACT Tests to Study?
The good news about the ACT is that although its design has undergone some changes in the past few years, older tests are still very similar to the one you'll be taking. This means that you should still definitely try your best to use official ACT practice tests to study instead of those written by other companies.
What's Changed on the ACT?
Although the basic format of the ACT has stayed consistent for the past few decades, ACT, Inc. has made some revisions in recent years.
First, the ACT Reading section now includes one set of paired passages, with multiple-choice questions that compare and contrast them. If you're worried about this style of passage, we have some advice on how to approach the paired passage section of ACT Reading, as well as some commiseration on what makes this part of the test hard.
Second, the ACT Writing section now features an expanded prompt and an increased focus on your ability to analyze differing points of view. There have also been some adjustments to the way it's scored. For all the details, read our full breakdown of all changes on the new enhanced ACT Writing test.
Finally, the ACT Science section now includes only six passages instead of seven. That's one less passage you have to make sense of, so appreciate this change!
Why Are Official ACT Tests Still Your Best Option?
Now, let me explain why official tests are better than those written by other companies. Official tests released by ACT, Inc. are made up of questions from older tests that have been retired. This means that they've gone through the same writing and editing process as the questions you'll see on test day. In other words, they're the real thing!
On the other hand, test-prep companies might be good at mimicking ACT style, or they might not be. By using unofficial ACT practice tests, you're essentially putting yourself in the position of having to judge the authenticity of style, wording, and approach of third-party works. With official ACT tests, though, you can trust that questions are exactly like those you'll see on the exam.
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Free Official ACT Practice Tests
The ACT used to have a number of old practice tests freely available online, but, in 2021, they decided to significantly cut back on their free practice test offerings. There is currently one full-length official ACT available for free online, in two different formats.
One format is a printable practice ACT that you can download, print, and take with pencil and paper. Since you'll be taking the actual ACT with pencil and paper, we recommend taking this version of the practice exam to get the most realistic testing experience.
There is also a computer-based version of the same ACT practice test that you can access through your MyACT account. Once you receive your scores for a question set, you'll move on to the next batch of questions. Unfortunately, these features make it impossible to take this ACT test under realistic timing conditions, but at least you can get some helpful practice with it.
Free Official ACT Practice Question Sets
In addition to releasing a full official test, ACT, Inc. publishes practice question sets on its website. If you count them, you'll see that these practice questions make up another complete ACT.
However, I don't recommend using them for your test-day conditions practice sessions. This is because the correct answers to these ACT practice questions pop up immediately after you click your answer choice. Believe me: this will not happen on your actual test booklet! This feature makes its impossible to take these practice questions with proper ACT timing requirements.
Instead, use the online practice questions to work on skills and to boost your comfort level with the different ACT test sections.
- 75 ACT English questions
- 60 ACT Math questions
- 48 ACT Reading questions
- 40 ACT Science questions
- 1 ACT Writing prompt with six graded sample essays
Additionally, Kaplan, a test prep company that has partnered with the ACT, provides free official prep materials including a half-length practice test, a short pop quiz, and an ACT question of the day.
Additional Sources for Official ACT Practice
One option you have is to look for free official ACT tests on the internet. There are plenty of official, old ACTs (that have not actually been published by ACT, Inc.) available online. Most of these are photocopies of actual past tests, which means they aren't authorized to be distributed and that the websites they're on are breaking some intellectual property and copyright rules.
I don't think you'll be at much risk if you decide to use them, but I'd advise you not to announce this fact over your school's loudspeaker.
To find them, run a search for "free old act tests" and look for less commercial sites. Since you have the form numbers for the authorized exams, you can consult these to see which tests you haven't taken or seen before.
Maybe save the heralds for announcing your awesome ACT score, not broadcasting your internet searches for unauthorized practice tests.
Another option is to buy official ACT prep books and resources. There are several sources of ACT tests you can buy:
The Official ACT Prep Guide, 2021-2022 Edition: This book features six full-length official ACT practice tests and costs about $30 on Amazon. You can also check whether your library has a copy—just make sure that it doesn't have the answers written in it!
The Real ACT Prep Guide, 3rd Edition: This is an older version of the above book, published in 2011. This means that the practice tests will have some of the differences we mentioned above in terms of test format and content; however, this book does include five unique ACT practice tests for if you need additional practice. New versions cost about $40, but your library may have the book, or you can buy it used for about $10 (although you run the risk of someone having written in the answers already).
- ACT Online Prep: This digital prep program comes with two practice tests and costs $40 on the ACT website. We'd advise you to skip the included prep material, though, as it is neither customized to you nor organized for the most effective studying.
- The Official Beginner's Guide for ACT, 2020-2021 Edition: This book introduces newcomers to the ACT and PreACT. It comes with access to an online PreACT practice test and a full-length ACT practice test (available both online and in the book itself). It costs about $16 on Amazon.
What's the Best Way to Use These ACT Practice Tests?
Now that you've (hopefully) downloaded all the official ACT practice tests linked to above, how do you make sure you're using them in the best and most effective way? Here are two suggestions.
#1: Mimic Real Testing Conditions as Closely as Possible
It makes sense that the more practice you have with how the ACT will actually go on the day you take it, the more prepared you'll be. Here are some ways you can ensure that your practice ACTs are as close to the real deal as possible:
- Print out the tests and work on paper.
- Test in a quiet room, without music or other interruptions and distractions.
- Time yourself ruthlessly and stop working on a section if your time runs out. You need to know if you're having trouble with pacing so you can figure out how to stop running out of time on the Math, Science, Reading, or Writing sections.
- Take the whole test in one sitting. It's a four-hour marathon of an exam, so you'll need to get used to this time frame, with just the breaks that the real test will allow.
- Take the test this way more than once. In my experience, the third or fourth time you take an ACT practice test is when you become so familiar with the format that taking it becomes second nature.
#2: Review Your Answers
Once you identify the biggest problem areas in your ACT practice tests, you can use other kinds of test prep to hone your skills and fix your weaknesses. Check out our guide to figuring out which ACT prep method is best for you.
The wrong place to take your practice test.
Need to know whether to retake the ACT? We can help you decide.
Wondering how to study for the ACT? Check out this complete study plan we developed to know when you should take the ACT and when to study for it.
Read our detailed guide on what it takes to get a 36 on the ACT, written by a real perfect scorer. You can also read our in-depth strategy approaches to getting a 36 on ACT English, ACT Math, ACT Science, ACT Reading, and ACT Writing.
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Anna scored in the 99th percentile on her SATs in high school, and went on to major in English at Princeton and to get her doctorate in English Literature at Columbia. She is passionate about improving student access to higher education.