SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips

How to Use Khan Academy for ACT Prep: Complete Guide


Khan Academy has recently partnered with the College Board, the makers of the SAT, to produce free and official SAT prep materials. Unfortunately, there's currently no official Khan Academy ACT prep; however, students can still use Khan Academy’s resources to help them prepare for the ACT.

This guide will go over what materials Khan Academy offers, why you should consider using them, and exactly which resources will be most helpful and which topics you will need to use additional review materials for so that you can be as well-prepared for the ACT as possible.


What Is Khan Academy?

Khan Academy is a non-profit education site that was founded in 2006. The site offers thousands of free videos on a wide variety of topics, including math, computer programming, and chemistry. The videos typically go over sample problems step-by-step to help viewers understand the concepts behind solving the problem. It’s free to join, and anyone can create an account.

In 2015, Khan Academy and the College Board (the organization that designs and administers the SAT, PSAT, and AP exams) announced that they had created a set of free SAT study tools. These resources include quizzes, tests, video tutorials, and personalized practice recommendations.  Because these tools were developed in collaboration with the College Board, they are official prep resources and give an accurate representation of what the actual SAT will be like.

Check out our guide to learn more about Khan Academy and its SAT prep resources.


Can You Use Khan Academy for ACT Prep?

Unfortunately, there is currently no official Khan Academy ACT test prep , however; students planning on only taking the ACT can still use and benefit from Khan Academy’s resources, including the SAT prep resources.

How can you do this? And why would you want to?

First, Khan Academy offers lessons on a wide range of subjects. Their emphasis is on math, but they also have lessons on other subjects the ACT tests, such as parts of speech and grammar. Therefore, you'll be able to find resources for many of the topics the ACT tests on Khan Academy.

You can also use Khan Academy's SAT prep resources to prepare for the ACT. How is this possible when they are two different tests? First, there is a large overlap in the topics the ACT and SAT test, particularly since the SAT has recently undergone major changes that make it much more similar to the ACT. Both exams test math, science, critical reading, and writing and language skills. This means that much of what you study for the SAT, including Khan Academy’s resources, will be useful for the ACT, and vice versa.

Additionally, Khan Academy’s SAT resources are official resources, which means they were developed by the same people who write the real SAT questions. This means that Khan Academy’s practice questions give an accurate look at how official test questions are written and which topics they cover. While these questions won’t be exactly the same as those found on the ACT, they can often be much closer to real ACT questions than many unofficial prep resources which can differ greatly from the real ACT.


How to Use Khan Academy to Prepare for the ACT

For full details on how to set up an account on Khan Academy and navigate its resources, check out our guide on how to get the most out of Khan Academy. After setting up an account (it only takes a few minutes), you’ll be able to choose which subject you want to start studying. We'll go over the most topics to focus on with Khan Academy ACT prep below.

The sections below each over a specific section of the ACT: English, Math, Reading, Science, and the optional Writing section. For each section, we'll explain which Khan Academy materials are most useful and if there are any topics you should use additional resources to prepare for.


ACT English



What the ACT English Section Covers

The ACT English section is 45 minutes long and contains 75 questions. The section includes five essays or passages, each accompanied by a series of questions. ACT English covers two main topics: Usage and Mechanics and Rhetorical Skills. Usage and Mechanics tests your knowledge of grammar, punctuation, usage, and sentence structure, while Rhetorical Skills tests "bigger picture" ideas such as the ideas, style, and organization of each passage. Spelling, vocabulary, and obscure grammar rules are not tested on ACT English.


Khan Academy Resources You Can Use for ACT English

Within Khan Academy's SAT prep resources, there are two sections that correspond to ACT English: Writing and Language as well as Grammar and Effective Language Use. Writing and Language has three subsections which focus on making revisions to argumentative, informative, and non-fiction narrative passages. Grammar and Effective Language Use has 21 subsections focusing on different grammar and punctuation concepts such as possessive pronouns, modifier placement, and pronoun clarity. These sections will help prepare you for the majority of the ACT English section, particularly the Usage and Mechanics questions.

Beyond the SAT prep resources, Khan Academy also has other grammar videos under "Arts and Humanities." These videos focus on parts of speech, punctuation, and syntax, and they're a good resource to start with if you want to brush up on your grammar before answering practice questions.


Topics Khan Academy Doesn't Cover for ACT English

The SAT Writing and Language section recently underwent major changes, and, as a result, it is now much more similar to ACT English. Both test sections now use a completely passage-based format, and both test similar grammar rules. Because of this, Khan Academy's SAT prep resources and grammar resources cover most of what you'll need to know for ACT English. However, ACT English does include main-idea questions, which you won't see covered on Khan Academy, so if you want more practice with those, be sure to use other, ACT-specific resources (discussed more at the bottom of this article).


ACT Math



What the ACT Math Section Covers

ACT Math is 60 minutes long and contains 60 questions. There are six main topics ACT Math covers. They're listed below, along with the percentage of the section that includes questions on that topic (the total is more than 100% because some questions fit into more than one category).

  • Pre-Algebra (20-25%)
  • Elementary Algebra (15-20%)
  • Intermediate Algebra (15-20%)
  • Coordinate Geometry (15-20%)
  • Plane Geometry (20-25%)
  • Trigonometry (5-10%)

So overall, ACT Math has the most questions on algebra, along with a substantial amount of questions on geometry and a few trigonometry questions.


Khan Academy Resources You Can Use for ACT Math

The SAT Math section emphasizes algebra more than ACT Math does, so Khan Academy's SAT prep resources, specifically the Heart of Algebra and Passport to Advanced Mathematics sections, have a lot of material to help you study algebra. Khan Academy also has additional algebra videos under its Math resources to help you reinforce your algebra knowledge.

For geometry, Khan Academy has geometry videos under its Math resources. These videos cover both coordinate and plane geometry. Within its SAT math resources, the Additional Topics in Math section includes geometry questions.

There are only a handful of trigonometry questions on ACT Math, but you can still prepare for them by reviewing the Additional Topics in Math section under SAT resources and the Trigonometry videos under Khan Academy's Math resources.

There are also two differences to note between SAT Math and ACT Math that you might be confused by if you use the SAT prep resources. First, a calculator is not allowed on part of SAT Math, but you can use a calculator the entire time for ACT Math, so disregard any remarks about not being able to use a calculator. Second, on the SAT, you'll get a formula sheet with relevant math formulas, but you won't receive this on the ACT, so you'll have to put in more of an effort to memorize important formulas. 


ACT Reading



What the ACT Reading Section Covers

ACT Reading contains 40 questions that you have 35 minutes to answer. The section contains three single passages and a set of paired passages. The five passages will always come from four topic areas: humanities, literary fiction, natural sciences, and social sciences. You're not expected to have any prior knowledge of the passage topics. The questions in ACT Reading test your skills in understanding main ideas, locating details, and interpreting purpose and voice. 


Khan Academy Resources You Can Use for ACT Reading

The SAT Reading and ACT Reading sections are quite similar. All the questions are related to passages, the passages come from similar categories, and, for both exams, and both include a set of paired passages. This means you can use all of Khan Academy's SAT Reading resources to help you prepare for ACT Reading. Khan Academy's SAT Reading resources include videos, examples, and practice questions for four types of passages:  science, literature, history, and social science.

Using these resources can help you become more comfortable with critically reading different types of passages and answering questions on main ideas, vocabulary-in-context, inferences, and details from the reading. This is also good because Khan Academy doesn't have any general resources on improving critical reading skills, so only their SAT resources are relevant for prepping for ACT Reading.

So Khan Academy's SAT Reading resources do a pretty thorough job of covering the topics ACT Reading tests, however; there are a few differences between the Reading sections of the two exams. First, the science passages on SAT Reading will include charts and graphs, which you won’t see in ACT Reading. However, you should still study and answer these questions since you will see similar questions on the ACT Science section. Also, on the SAT, questions for passages always go in chronological order. On the ACT, you can (and likely will) be jumping around throughout the passage as you move from question to question, so be prepared for that difference.


ACT Science



What the ACT Science Section Covers

The ACT Science section is 35 minutes long and contains 40 questions. Like the Reading section, on ACT Science there will be several passages with questions following each passage. There are seven passages on ACT Science, and these passages could contain graphs, charts, diagrams, experiment summaries, or conflicting viewpoints from multiple scientists. Each passage will be followed by four to seven questions. As opposed to testing specific facts or topics, ACT Science tests your knowledge of scientific skills such as data analysis, hypothesis evaluation, and how to summarize research.


 Khan Academy Resources You Can Use for ACT Science

Due to the skills ACT Science tests and because there is no science section on the SAT, Khan Academy's resources don't prepare you for this section of the ACT as well as they do for other sections. Khan Academy does have a science section with videos on numerous scientific subjects, but this isn't much use to you because it mostly covers scientific facts you don't need to know for the ACT. For example, on ACT Science, you don't need to know the steps of cell division (which Khan Academy goes over), but if you're given a passage that explains research on cell division, you'll need to be able to analyze that research and its results (which Khan Academy doesn't focus on).

However, there are some resources you can use to help you prepare for ACT Science. Under Khan Academy's SAT prep resources, questions from SAT Reading and SAT Writing and Language that include graphs or charts are often similar to some questions seen on ACT Science. The SAT has no science section, so questions testing some of the same skills ACT Science tests are spread throughout other sections.

Therefore, if you're studying the SAT Reading or Writing and Language sections and come across a problem with a graph or chart, know that you won't see questions like that on ACT Reading or ACT English, but it can help you prepare for ACT Science.


Topics Khan Academy Doesn't Cover for ACT Science

As mentioned before, this is the section of the ACT you'll need to use the most outside resources to prepare for. You can get some practice by answering SAT questions that include charts, graphs, and data analysis, but to be fully prepared for ACT Science, you'll want to spend time studying resources specifically focused on the topics this section tests. We'll go over some of these resources at the bottom of this guide.


ACT Writing



ACT Writing is an optional section where you'll be given 40 minutes to write a persuasive essay. Khan Academy does not have any resources on essay writing, even for the SAT essay (which is different than the ACT essay so it wouldn't help you much anyway). If you choose to take the ACT Writing section, you'll need to use outside resources to prepare for it.


Other Resources to Use for Your ACT Prep

Khan Academy can be a helpful resource, but it definitely shouldn't be the only one you use to prepare for the ACT. Make sure to attack the ACT specifically with ACT prep books and practice tests. Official ACT practice tests will be particularly helpful because they’ll help you become familiar with how the ACT words questions and how those questions differ from the SAT’s.

Khan Academy ACT prep will give you the best preparation for the ACT English, Math and Reading sections. You will definitely need supplementary prep materials for ACT Science and, if you choose to take it, ACT Writing. Check out our ultimate guide for ACT Science, as well as these guides on the best way to prepare for ACT Science and the only science you need to know for ACT Science. We also have a complete guide to ACT Writing and tips for how to get a perfect score on your essay.

Another major skill you can't get from Khan Academy is strategies to help you answer ACT questions. The ACT asks similar types of questions on each of its exams, and by knowing different strategies, you can tackle specific problems faster and more easily. To learn these strategies, you'll need to use prep materials specifically designed for the ACT. The ACT prep books mentioned above often include strategies for different ACT problems, and you can also check out all our guides to the best ACT strategies you should know.


Khan Academy ACT Prep: Final Notes

Even though Khan Academy does not have resources designed specifically for the ACT, you can still use them to prepare for the exam.

Because there is quite a bit of overlap on what the ACT and SAT test, much of Khan Academy’s SAT prep materials are relevant for the ACT, particularly because the SAT has recently undergone significant changes that make it closer in content and style to the ACT. Khan Academy also has general resources that can help you study for the ACT.

You’ll definitely need additional review materials, particularly for the Science section, but Khan Academy can still be a useful resource and get you more prepared for how official test questions are worded and what they test.


What's Next?

Looking for a top ACT score? Learn how to get a perfect 36 on the ACT by reading our guide, written by an ACT full scorer.

Wondering if you should take the ACT Writing section? Check out our guide to learn how to decide what to do.

Want more information on ACT Science? Our guide goes over everything you need to know to ace the ACT Science section.


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Christine Sarikas
About the Author

Christine graduated from Michigan State University with degrees in Environmental Biology and Geography and received her Master's from Duke University. In high school she scored in the 99th percentile on the SAT and was named a National Merit Finalist. She has taught English and biology in several countries.

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