Act Prep Black Book Second Edition

The ACT Prep Black Book Second Edition, currently available on Amazon (click here).

A few weeks ago, we released the second edition of the ACT Prep Black Book, which is now available on Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats.

I’m pleased to report that initial feedback has been quite positive, just as it was with the test audience.

This edition of the ACT book is significantly longer than the first one was–it’s now 630 pages, just like the second edition of our SAT book, because that’s the highest page count that Amazon’s printing service can handle. It now contains full, detailed walkthroughs for three official ACT practice tests in the latest editions of the Red Book, because some readers of the first edition had requested walkthroughs of entire tests for the second edition (instead of just providing walkthroughs for challenging or strategically interesting questions, as we did in the first edition).

Of course, writing and editing any 630-page book is a significant project, but the Second Edition of the ACT Prep Black Book wasn’t quite as big of an undertaking as the second edition of the SAT Prep Black Book was, because the “changes” to the ACT that caused us to release the second edition were far less profound than the changes to the SAT in 2015 that caused us to overhaul the SAT Prep Black Book.

Which, of course, raises a question:

Do you even need a copy of the second edition if you already have the first edition?

The short answer is a solid “maybe.” 🙂

If a tutor or an older sibling has already given you a copy of the first edition of the ACT Prep Black Book, then you may be just fine sticking with that, assuming you can also get your hands on a copy of The Real ACT Prep Guide, 3rd Edition, which contains the official ACT tests that we refer to in the first edition of the Black Book. Used copies of The Real ACT Prep Guide, 3rd Edition are often available on Amazon even though the book is officially out of print as far as I know.

The major concepts and training in the first edition all continue to apply to the current ACT, because the “changes” made to the ACT since the publication of the first ACT Prep Black Book were largely cosmetic. (As you may recall if you’re the kind of person who memorizes historical developments in standardized testing for some reason, the College Board made some significant changes to the design of the SAT in 2015 under the leadership of its new President, David Coleman. It appears that ACT Inc also wanted to look like it was rolling out changes at that time, so it wouldn’t seem outdated in comparison to its competitor.)

In short, the old version of the ACT Prep Black Book doesn’t specifically address the following features of the current ACT, which didn’t exist when we published the first edition:

  • comparative reading questions on the ACT Reading section, which were introduced in 2014
  • the number of passages on the ACT Science section, which is now 6
  • the current version of the ACT Writing section, which was introduced in 2015

But . . .

  • The comparative reading questions on the current ACT don’t require strategies that are any different from those used for all the other ACT Reading questions. You should approach them exactly the same way you approach the rest of the ACT Reading section.
  • The number of passages on the Science section has no impact on the way you should approach each individual question (the number of questions on the section has always been 40, no matter how many passages appeared)
  • Most schools don’t require you to submit the ACT Writing test, and the ones that do require it don’t seem to pay any attention to it (more on that in a later blog post), and most of the ideas we taught in the first edition still apply now anyway.

So if you’d prefer to stick with the first edition, you can definitely make that work. Many readers and students continued to report benefits from the first edition right up until we published the second edition, even though the “changes” in the ACT happened years ago.

And that leads to another question:

Why did we go to all the trouble of updating the ACT Prep Black Book and releasing the second edition, then?

The main reason for creating the second edition of the ACT Prep Black Book–but certainly not the only reason!–was to provide detailed walkthroughs for the official ACT practice tests that have been released by ACT Inc in their last three Red Books. (Yes, ACT Inc has actually published three consecutive versions of the Red Book with slightly different names but essentially the same content over the last few years. Any of those Red Books can be used with the second edition of the ACT Prep Black Book.)

As we noted above, some readers of the first edition specifically requested more walkthroughs of entire official ACT practice tests, so we’ve provided those. The second edition has detailed walkthroughs for all 645 questions in three full ACT practice tests from the Red Book. (Of course, this includes walkthroughs for the “new” comparative ACT Reading questions and for ACT Science sections with 6 passages, along with full training and analysis for the current ACT Writing test. But, as we noted above, that really shouldn’t make much of a difference to most readers as compared to what was in the first edition–the more interesting aspect should be the sheer number of walkthroughs, and the fact that we go through every single question in three tests.)

It’s also worth noting that the walkthroughs in the second edition use the same new formatting conventions that we developed for the SAT Prep Black Book. That makes the walkthroughs easier for you to read and digest, and also allows you to skim through them more quickly if you want to focus on particular strategies and concepts across multiple questions.

The training in the new edition has also been refined, streamlined, and expanded through a variety of small-to-medium changes, also based on feedback from readers, students, teachers, tutors, and parents over the years.

So, while the second edition of the ACT Prep Black Book isn’t strictly necessary if you have the first edition and the older Red Book, I’d say there are several good reasons to consider ordering the second edition of the ACT Prep Black Book:

  • thorough walkthroughs of the most effective ways to think about each question in three full-length ACT Practice tests
    • formatted for easy reading or skimming
    • providing multiple ways to approach a single question
    • updated to match the latest version of the ACT Red Book
  • updated training (to reflect feedback from users of the first edition)
    • simplified presentation of some concepts
    • expanded analysis/explanation of other concepts
    • updated ACT Writing training
  • plus the second edition is heavier if you’re into that? (but you can also get the kindle version of course)

As always, thanks for reading this. Please leave any questions in the comments below (or on the facebook page, etc).