Trying to choose the best SAT prep book to study from? Look no further, here are 5 SAT prep books with practice test series that will help you ace the SAT.
Before we begin, remember choosing between taking the SAT and the ACT for your college applications is an important decision. If you are not sure about taking the SAT over the ACT, then take a look at our detailed comparison of the tests and guide on deciding whether the SAT or the ACT is a better choice for you.
There is no best SAT prep book. Every book has a set of strengths and weaknesses. However, a tailored combination of the best SAT prep books out there can truly impact your SAT result. Unlike the ACT, students can easily score high on the SAT by balancing their preparation over multiple SAT prep books. Students will need to be motivated and determined to stick to their study plan.
Also read: How to Build an Effective SAT Study Plan
As a result, we’ll be discussing two must-have SAT prep books and some of the other best SAT prep books out there with a quick analysis of their strengths and weaknesses. By the end of this guide, you will know which combination of these books are the best SAT prep books for you.
The Must-Have SAT Prep Books
The following SAT prep books are essential for any student taking the SAT—regardless of your starting skill level and proficiency, go ahead and get these books right now.
Must-Have for SAT Practice: The Official SAT Practice Tests
Okay, you’ve caught us. This is not really a prep book. Here’s what it is. It’s a completely free resource from the College Board—the official creators of the test you will be taking. If you’ve read our guide on effectively self-studying the SAT then you know how much we emphasize taking official practice tests. To be familiar with test means interacting with the test’s material. Of course, this critical SAT prep book still has its strengths and weaknesses.
Best Sample Questions
As of June 2019, there are currently 8 official SAT practice tests available online on College Board’s website. These practice tests are downloadable and completely free! If you want to skip printing out the exams and study online, you can find the same free practice tests in Khan Academy’s Official SAT Practice.
This one is a given. Real questions from previous administrations of the SAT are definitely going to be the sample questions to study from. Since the practice tests come with an answer key and answer explanations, this ‘prep book’ will help you pinpoint your weaknesses. You will also be able to familiarize yourself with the SAT’s content and question types.
Weak Answer Explanations
Although the SAT Official Tests do come with answer explanations, without knowing the SAT formula, the answer explanations offer little to no help when it comes to the line of thinking the question requires. Often, the explanation will say A, B, D are wrong and that C is the correct answer for vague reasons. Rarely does the explanation talk about the process by which the question arrives to the answer.
No Instructional Material
Again, this is not really a SAT prep book. The practice tests give you about 48 hours (4 hours to take the test + 2 hours to review answers for 8 tests) of practice material but if geometrical figures are not your forte, taking practice test after practice test won’t help you learn that material. Plus, 48 hours of practice is not a lot of time for more motivated students.
No Test-Taking or Content-Learning Strategies
Following the same line of logic as the last limitation, the practice tests are not an actual SAT prep book. Test-taking strategies can greatly increase your SAT score if you utilize them efficiently. As a result, you will need to look into other avenues to learn these essential strategies.
The Must-Have for SAT Strategies: SAT Prep Black Book, Second Edition
While the other prep books on this list focus on the content of the exam, SAT Prep Black Book focuses on the formula of the SAT and teaches you the strategies needed to succeed on the test. In their opinion, any student can receive a perfect score on the SAT as long as they recognize and can manipulate the SAT formula. Each question on the SAT has an obvious correct answer and this book will teach you to beat the test and eliminate incorrect choices when you are not sure about the answer to a question.
Teaches You How to Beat the Test
Instead of playing by the test’s game, according to the author, Mike Barrett, you should learn to beat the test. The test follows the same template every year with little to no changes. As a result, learning the question types and strategies in finding the correct answer would help you ace the test without necessarily knowing all the material. By learning the tricks of the test, you will feel more confident and motivated to excel at the SAT. After all, the SAT only tests what you already know. Unfortunately, it is the manner by which they test you that can be difficult. Knowing the formula ensures your ability to look past the confusing wording of simple questions.
Must Be Used in Conjunction with Another Book
There are no practice questions in the Black Book! The book presupposes that you already have the content of the SAT down and then teaches you to apply those skills to the test. It also requires a lot of time and effort as the book is overwhelming in its attention to detail in question-specific strategies.
Now that we’ve discussed our Must-Have SAT prep books, let’s go over some of the other SAT prep books you may find helpful.
Best SAT Prep Books
These are in no particular order but please take note that we have chosen the following books with an understanding that every student is different. Students have varying skill levels, motivation levels, and target scores. To ensure that every student receives helpful guidance, we have carefully selected three of the best SAT prep books that each cater to a certain goal or type of student.
If you have the content of the SAT down and really only want to focus on practice questions, The Tutorverse’s The New SAT: 1,500+ Practice Questions works perfectly.
Detailed Answer Explanations
This SAT prep book does an amazing job explaining the answers to each practice question. Not only does it have a fleshed-out thought process explanation leading you to the correct answer, it also provide a comprehensive description of the relevant content topics and skills the question necessitates. This will allow you to pinpoint your strengths and weaknesses.
More Progress Through the Book = Higher Level of Difficulty
As you progress through the book, the questions become noticeably harder and harder. The organization by difficulty will give you a good understanding of your skill level.
The Tutorverse’s also provides grammar review, practice essay questions, sample essay responses as well as a full-length practice test. Getting through the whole book, while also supplementing with the Must-Haves, would be sufficient preparation for the motivated student.
More than 1500 questions mean that the book is immensely long. The amount of content in the book may be too overwhelming for some students. You will definitely need to plan out your studying with this book if you do not want to use the book from one cover to the other.
If you would like to focus on learning the content before attempting practice questions, then Barron’s SAT is a great, traditional, comprehensive prep book that covers everything from content, test-taking strategies, suggested study plans, a diagnostic test, section-wise drills and lessons, and full-length practice tests.
Meticulous Content Review
Believe it or not, Barron’s SAT devotes around 50 pages for each section in content review and test-taking strategies. Usually, quantity does not indicate quality but in Barron’s case, this holds true. Every section has detailed concept rules and no overview is lacking.
Overwhelming, Directionless Amount of Content
The sheer amount of content found in the book is overwhelming and reading through the book from one cover to another is ineffective. Students will need to create a plan to tackle the sections in short bursts.
High Level of Difficulty
Barron’s SAT tends to over-prepare you for the SAT. While you may argue that over-preparing would not hurt your chances at a good score, it would be an ineffective use of your time and effort, considering your outside commitments to school and extracurriculars. As a result, the questions are not accurate representations of the SAT as they are much more difficult.
If you are less motivated to study and score high on the SAT and want to be fairly familiar with the exam, take it and then forget about it, then this is the best all-in-one SAT prep book.
Decent Overview of the Exam and Test-Taking Strategies
Prep Plus 2019 is not really the best SAT prep book out there. We would not usually recommend it to students but if you are looking for a low effort method of studying the SAT, this is the best SAT prep book for you. Overall, it gives you a decent amount of practice and review for the SAT as well as provides good test-taking strategies.
Poor Quality Control
Unfortunately, this book is riddled with errors in the questions and answers. After you have been scoring 600 in a section, the test-taking strategies in the book are not helpful. You will need to supplement or choose a different book to study from if you want to score higher than 600 in a section.
How should I decide which SAT prep books to use?
It is simple. Look at the benefits and limitations of each book and evaluate your own needs. For example, if you are aiming for a perfect score, we would recommend using a combination of the Official SAT Practice Tests, the Black Book, and the Tutorverse’s. This would only work if you are willing to put a lot of time and effort into studying for the SAT.
Studying with any SAT prep book requires a lot of commitment. With these books, however, we hope to make that burden a little easier. Good luck! We’re sure you will do amazingly.