Whether you're a high school student or the parent of one, preparing for the SAT can be stressful. Since its debut by the College Board in 1926, this standardized test has become an indispensable tool that most U.S. colleges and universities use to make decisions about student admissions — making preparing for this test an important part of a student's plan for getting into the college of their choice.
So, what's the best SAT prep book to help improve your performance and get your SAT scores where you want them? The answer depends on different factors, including your academic strengths and weaknesses.
While it's a good idea to have a comprehensive SAT study guide, it’s best to also use workbooks with practice problems for specific subjects. If you know that math is not your strong suit, get a book focusing on SAT math problems. If your reading and writing skills could use some attention, then you'll want a book centered on those areas.
With that in mind, we've compiled this list of the best SAT prep books. But before we get to the list, let's review some of the top tips for increasing your chances of getting a great score on your SAT exam.
Top SAT Strategies for Acing Your Test
When you know the test is coming up, it's easy to get nervous about how you'll do. As with many things in life, one of the best ways to combat uncertainty is preparation. Even if you don't get a perfect score on the SAT, you can greatly increase your chances of getting a high mark with these strategies.
It's never too soon to start studying and preparing for the SAT. Most experts agree that it's best to begin prepping at least two to three months before your test day. Avoid cramming the night or week before as that will only add stress and negatively impact your performance.
Use tools that provide practice questions so you have a strong sense of what to expect. Also, taking the PSAT is an excellent way to prepare for the real deal. This practice test is typically taken by 10th and 11th graders, although you can also take it as a freshman.
Get a Tutor
Tutors are a tremendous resource for test preparation as they provide personalized, one-on-one attention that is so often lacking in crowded classrooms. What's more, finding an online tutor can be invaluable as it allows students to get help anytime, anywhere.
While in-person tutors are limited by location, office hours, and availability, you can reach online tutors in a matter of minutes, 24/7. You can also browse through hundreds of vetted SAT tutors who have a range of specialties — whether you have math questions or need extra help with grammar rules.
Study With Others
Many people learn best when studying and collaborating with others. Along with getting help from a tutor, studying with your schoolmates or with a group can be an effective SAT prep method.
Use vocabulary and math flashcards, read test questions aloud, and do practice problems before checking each other's work. (Ask a teacher or your tutor if you're not sure about something.) Even if you're not the best test taker, getting familiar and well-versed in the subjects will raise your confidence and help you make the most educated guesses when necessary.
Consistency is the common thread for all these strategies. A little practice every day can make a big difference. Just like getting physically fit doesn't happen overnight, getting mentally prepared and deepening your knowledge only comes with consistent training.
7 Test Prep Books That Will Help You Prepare for the SAT
When you want the best SAT prep book, look no further than this list. Since there's no one-book-fits-all solution to preparing for the SAT, you'll likely want to use more than one of the books mentioned below. Whatever you decide, these are among the best books for getting the high-quality help you need.
1. The College Board's Official SAT Study Guide, 2020 Edition
When it comes to taking the SAT, why not go straight to the source? The Official SAT Study Guide from the College Board is a bestseller for a reason. Created by the makers of the actual exam, this SAT book features the most up-to-date information as well as plenty of useful guidance. Some of the book's highlights include:
- 8 official SAT practice tests, written by the same writers of the official exam
- In-depth descriptions of the math and reading and writing sections
- Practice questions for each SAT question type
- Content review of the SAT essay, including sample questions and responses
2. SAT Prep Black Book: Second Edition
Written by Mike Barrett and Patrick Barrett, this not-so-little black book offers a deep dive into the different SAT question types and helps you understand the structure, thought process, and "tricks" of the test. While it doesn't have any of its own SAT practice questions, the SAT Prep Black Book does offer plenty of worthwhile information, including:
- More than 600 in-depth content reviews of SAT questions from previous versions of the exam
- Advice that's organized based on your desired SAT score and goals
- Strategies on how to answer questions in the least amount of time possible
3. Kaplan SAT Prep Plus 2020
This popular SAT prep book from Kaplan Test Prep includes five practice tests as well as "proven strategies" that will help students perform better on test day. It offers hundreds of practice questions and explanations, plus video lessons. Some of the book's highlights include:
- Five practice tests (three online, two in the book)
- Over 1,400 practice questions that include in-depth explanations
- Test-taking strategy notes in every chapter that covers math
- Comprehensive reviews of two previous SAT practice tests for better understanding
4. Cracking the SAT: Premium 2020 Edition
This SAT prep book from the Princeton Review is a comprehensive tome to have in your arsenal. Along with offering an overview of the exam, Cracking the SAT Premium includes test-taking techniques, practice tests, breakdowns of each test category, and tips for obtaining a high score. Highlights include:
- 8 practice tests with thorough answer explanations for each
- Drills for each section of the SAT as well as writing exercises for the essay portion
- Online score reports for all practice tests so you can manage your progress
- Access to online content such as videos, study guides, college admissions insights, and more
5. The College Panda SAT Math Advanced Guide and Workbook
This book is all about helping students with the SAT math section. Written by a teacher, engineer, and perfect SAT score holder, the College Panda SAT Math book aims to help students reach the perfect score. Highlights of this book include:
- Explanations of the math concepts covered in the SAT, arranged by difficulty level
- More than 500 math practice questions and explanations to help you grasp each topic
- Common mistakes and tips on how you can keep from making them
6. The College Panda SAT Writing Advanced Guide and Workbook
Focusing on the SAT writing section, the author of this test prep book is on a mission to help students achieve a perfect score. Among the book's many detailed insights you'll find:
- Explanations of the SAT grammar rules, arranged by difficulty level
- Hundreds of practice questions and three practice tests
- Common mistakes and advice on how to avoid them
7. The Critical Reader: The Complete Guide to SAT Reading
Written by Erica L. Meltzer, the fourth edition of this popular SAT reading guide is great for students who need to focus on the reading portion of the SAT. Offering an extensive review of the exam along with explanations and examples of test questions, some of the book's most helpful features include:
- Strategies for simplifying and answering reading comprehension questions
- A collection of common words with multiple definitions and how to decode their meanings
- A list of all the reading questions from the College Board's Official SAT Study Guide, 2020 Edition
Take Your Test With Confidence
Whether you choose one or a few of the SAT prep books on this list, you can be sure you’re off to a good start. Giving yourself enough time to prepare, getting a tutor, studying with others, and staying consistent are essential. As long as you stay focused and committed, you can achieve the SAT score that meets (and even exceeds) your expectations.
And since it's never too soon to start preparing, consider booking a 30-minute tutoring session with TutorMe now. There are no strings attached and you can start stepping up your game in a matter of minutes. So go ahead and give it a try — you have nothing to lose and so much to gain.