A new Official ACT Prep Guide 2018-2019 was released earlier this month, causing many students to worry that their 2018 editions or 2016-2017 editions are out-of-date. Unfortunately, test makers have found that frequent new editions of their official guides drive up sales, and the ACT is not alone in its practice of releasing updates every year; we are seeing the same from the GMAT, GRE, and SAT. The good news is that the changes are usually minor—such as the deletion of a paragraph or a change in font and type size--and thus do not warrant purchasing the update. This year, however, the ACT has added a single practice test, making the update more tempting. So should you toss out the old in favor of the new? Read on to find out.Here’s a breakdown of the changes between the old version and the new:
- In Chapter 7, several paragraphs about the four types of passages (prose fiction, humanities, social studies, and natural sciences) have been removed. The paragraphs explained each passage type in detail and discussed the concepts common in these passages that a reader must pay particular attention to. This section has been replaced by three short paragraphs about specific knowledge and skills on which you will be assessed: key ideas and details, craft and structure, and integration of knowledge and ideas. Honestly, both editions have little nuggets of knowledge, but I'd be surprised if many students missed either portion.
- At the end of Chapter 9, a blank page reserved for “Notes” was removed.
- A new test, Test 4, and answer explanations for the test have been added to the book. The first three tests are the same as the tests in the 2016-2017 and 2018 editions. The new test is the June 2017 ACT.
So should you upgrade? If money is no object and you plan to donate or recycle the old edition, then why not? But if you’re more frugal or environmentally-minded, you really do not need to purchase the 2018-2019 edition. The June 2017 ACT is floating around the internet (as are many other former ACTs), so the only thing you’ll really be missing is the explanations for that test. My hope for you by Test 4 is that you are deconstructing your mistakes on your own; through dedicated study, you can figure out why you missed a specific question and internalize the material in a way that you can’t just by reading the answer explanation. Plus, if you really need help, there are ACT message boards on Reddit, College Confidential, and other test-oriented sites where both test prep tutors and astute students are waiting to help out test takers with specific questions. I’ve even been known to help out a non-PowerScore student with a question or two when they email me (firstname.lastname@example.org). So while an upgrade may be more convenient, it is certainly not necessary.