In this article, you will find eight of the best SAT prep books on the market to help you accomplish your desired scores.
It is time to take the SAT, and you want an SAT study guide, but there are hundreds of books on the market, each with its own features. How do you know which ones are best? We will look at the best SAT books of 2020 and help you narrow down your search to help you get the score you want to get. We will also look at the College Board’s Official SAT study guide to see if it is something you should use while studying for the SAT. Finally, we will look at the dos and don’ts of using these prep guides to help you score as high as possible.
Best Sat Prep Books at a Glance
- Barron’s SAT, 29th Edition
- SAT Prep Black Book (Bestseller)
- Cracking the SAT: 2020 Edition
- Kallis’ Redesigned SAT Pattern Strategy(Our Top Pick)
- Kaplan SAT Prep Plus 2021
- McGraw-Hill Education SAT Elite 2020 2nd Edition
- 500 New SAT Math Problems arranged by Topic and Difficulty Level
- The Critical Reader
Best SAT Prep Books 2020
1. Barron’s SAT, 29th Edition
Barron’s SAT, 29th Edition, comes with abundant sample questions and bonus online practice exams. The book itself comes with seven practice exams. The content review will prepare any student for the SAT. Everyone in the SAT world knows that Barron’s SAT prep books are excellent because of a diagnostic exam that helps you find your weaknesses so you can work to make them no longer flaws. It is very comprehensive and covers almost all of the SAT topics, including the format.
If you are a high scorer and want to improve your score more, the SAT guide is for you. The format is heavy and would be hard for students who lack the motivation to become engaged. We like that you can take a practice test within the book or online. Our favorite feature is the diagnostic test. It is our favorite feature because it will allow you to learn your weaknesses and help you with what you need to know instead of practicing what you already know. This book provides valuable practice to increase SAT scores, especially in SAT reading.
Besides the heavy delivery that could make questions confusing and complicated, we don’t particularly like a couple of factors. Barron uses a lot of questions from an old practice test. Using old items makes it hard for students to understand new content and delivery. The SAT math section lacks support in this SAT guide. A bit more content in the algebra section would be good too. These factors don’t subtract from the usefulness of this book, however. If you are a high scorer and want to increase your score, this book is perfect for you, but if you are a low scorer, you will want to find a different SAT book as this one may be too difficult.
2. SAT Prep Black Book – Bestseller
Written by a tutor who has students worldwide, the SAT Prep Black Book offers easy-to-follow walkthroughs of questions from the College Board’s official practice tests. This SAT prep book gives detailed and systematic instruction using real SAT questions from the College Board. Author Mike Barrett covers each question type on the SAT and innovative tips for test-takers. These tips include isolating the “distractor” and how to deal with problematic wording.
The SAT Prep Black Book made it on our best SAT prep books list because it is the best traditional SAT book available on the market today. It teaches the student the structure, outline, and tricks of the SAT, which is very beneficial. It teaches useful strategies that save time and help students answer the questions effectively. One of our favorite things about this book is its usefulness for all learners, not just the top 5%. The book provides customized advice, dependent on a student’s target score. Using this SAT prep book will give the student confidence and what advice they need to know to get an acceptable SAT score. Reading this book is engaging.
If you are a strategic thinker and look at things strategically, then the Black Book is for you. If you need help studying concepts, this book is not for you. All of the questions come from an SAT practice test that you can get online for free. Providing thorough explanations for the items on these full-length practice tests is what this book does. If you need to relearn new skills, this book does not do a good job teaching content and concepts.
3. Cracking the SAT: 2020 Edition
Every year, the Princeton Review publishes test prep materials for both the SAT and the ACT. One of the most popular books is Cracking the SAT: 2020 Edition. This book provides five full-length practice tests with answer clarifications, comprehensive review and techniques, drills, and practice questions. The first thing you will notice in this Princeton Review book is an all-inclusive review of the SAT format. You will learn strategies for answering questions and be able to apply them on a practice test. A crucial part of test prep is learning to manage your time, and the Princeton Review covers this.
One of our favorite features of the Princeton Review book is the ability to score your practice tests online. This saves time. The explanations of questions easily apply to other similar questions. Cracking the SAT can be very wordy, which might be deterring to students. This wordiness doesn’t always line up with the SAT conciseness. Some of the questions are too easy for average to high scorers and make this book more suitable for low scorers.
4. Kallis’ Redesigned SAT Pattern Strategy 3rd Edition – Top Pick
Designed with the new SAT in mind, Kallis’ Redesigned SAT Pattern Strategy will help you achieve your SAT test score goals. It is the best SAT prep guide on the market. This book offers you six full-length practice tests, over 1000 practice questions, 101 question topics, and detailed answer explanations. Kallis says you will learn by doing, which will actively engage the reader. You get a step-by-step answer explanation that is concise and thorough, while the SAT practice problems closely imitate the real SAT.
Kallis’ Redesigned SAT Pattern Strategy does a great job explaining questions that will help you understand your mistakes and improve your score. Kallis teaches several concepts covering grammar rules, literature, and math. This book provides content review as well. Carefully learning these concepts will increase your score in the reading section and math section. We like this book because the step-by-step explanations provide users a more strategic approach to SAT prep. It will provide students an in-depth understanding of SAT logistics before the actual test day.
Using this SAT prep book will prepare you to know exactly what to expect when taking the SAT test. Unlike the Black Book, one thing this book does poorly in teaching SAT test-taking strategies. This book is pricier than other books on this list. If you are easily motivated, this book is for you. If you struggle with independence and motivation, you might look into a different book. You have to create your own study plan and stick with it to be effective SAT prep and raise your score.
5. Kaplan SAT Prep Plus 2021
If you are looking for an SAT study guide that will boost students from good to excellent, Kaplan has a great product available with their SAT Prep Plus. When you purchase Kaplan SAT Prep Plus 2021, you will get five full-length practice tests, guidance using proven strategies that work, and a bundle of online resources. The online resources include online practice and online videos that explain numerous concepts in the book. Kaplan SAT online practice questions include 1,400 detailed explanations.
Because this study guide focuses on strategies and has a substantial math section, this book is excellent for low scorers and low motivation students. There is an abundance of practice questions that will prepare you for your test day.
We found that the questions are not very similar to those on the real SAT, but the design of the explanations help you learn the concept. Kaplan has a long history of creating efficient test prep materials, and this test prep book will ensure you increase your SAT score. If you are in crunch time studying for your SAT, find a different book. This book has over 900 pages that will be difficult to get through if you don’t have ample time.
6. McGraw-Hill Education SAT Elite 2020 2nd Edition
Available in paperback and as a kindle book, the McGraw-Hill Education SAT Elite 2020 2nd Edition is one of the most unique SAT prep books. Like many other books on this list, McGraw-Hill provides questions, explanations, and strategies. What makes it unique is the thorough explanation of the SAT and its format. Each math topic’s presentation has excellent detail.
We like this book’s unique features and data features. This book is enormous. It has places for progress reports, learning analytics, games, and quizzes. Five full-length practice tests provide help during practice time restraints. The questions are realistic and resemble the real SAT in the math section. We love the guidance it offers in creating a study plan. The strategies taught will be useful for readers.
The biggest downfall of this study guide is that the reading and writing sections’ coverage is vague. There needs to be more to make it a useful study guide for these subjects.
Content-Specific SAT Prep Books
After taking the SAT or PSAT, you may know that you need help in one subject more than another. Several SAT prep books are content-specific that make an excellent study guide. So whether you need help with the SAT math section or the SAT reading and writing section, there is a specific content review book for you.
7. 500 New SAT Math Problems Arranged by Topic and Difficulty Level
Dr. Steve Warner wrote 500 New SAT Math Problems arranged by Topic and Difficulty Level when the new SAT came out back in 2016, but don’t let this date deter you from using this excellent study guide. This book’s topics include Algebra, Advanced Math, Problem Solving and Data Analysis, Geometry, and Complex Numbers. Going through each topic will provide math practice using high-quality explanations. As you work through each topic, the math problems vary by difficulty level.
This is one of the best SAT prep books for several reasons. First is the amount of practice math questions in this book. 500 practice questions for the new SAT is a lot. The questions are very close to SAT math problems on the real test. The explanations are clear and provide different ways of solving each question type. We love the arrangement of this study guide. The five levels make it easy to pinpoint where to start studying. If you score a 600 on the SAT math section, you should begin studying Level 3 and 4 SAT math questions in this SAT prep book. Narrowing down your study plan and studying just 20 minutes a day will help you do well on the test. Knowing that learners learn different ways, Dr. Warner teaches how to do math problems in different ways.
Our only negative thought about this book is the price. We feel that it is a bit pricey for a book covering only one section of the SAT. We wish this book taught more SAT strategies like how to plug answers into questions to check for the correct answer. This book does, however, do an excellent job of teaching underlying content to improve your score.
8. The Critical Reader, 3rd Edition
If you are looking for the best SAT prep book for the reading section, look no further than The Critical Reader. This book is full of supportive strategies to use when answering practice questions in the reading section. It outlines the skills you need to score well on the test. This SAT prep book helps you find answer outliers and find one precise, correct answer. If you need help locating information in stories and finding key details, this book will help you do this efficiently and quickly, so you do not use a lot of time. Another skill that Ms. Meltzer includes in her book is multiple meaning words. This list of words is beneficial in both reading and writing.
This is the best SAT prep book for a couple of reasons. First, several of the skills reviewed and taught will benefit both your reading and your writing scores. The questions are of high-quality, and the explanations are thorough. The book goes over the different question types on the test, which will help you know what to expect on these sections during the test. The passages on the reading test are very similar to the passages on the real test. There are exerts from US/World Literature, Science, and History/Social Studies. We like that Ms. Meltzer included some of the practice questions from the College Board’s SAT study guide. This is very useful and helps connect concepts. The book presents the content review in a variety of question types, just like the test.
There are only a few aspects of this book that we do not like. First, it is not very aesthetically appealing. The font is hard to read because it is so small, and it is not very engaging. It will be a struggle for unmotivated students to get motivated using this book. It is straightforward, which is good for some readers but boring for others.
If you are looking for a content book for the SAT writing section, look into the Critical Reader: The Complete Guide to SAT Grammar-4th edition.
The Offical SAT Study Guide
Every year the College Board publishes the official SAT study guide, and the question arises if it is worth purchasing. This is just one of the many prep books available that can be useful to raise test scores. The guide comes with eight official SAT practice tests written by the same team of authors that writes the SAT. It is relatively inexpensive compared to other SAT books. The book includes detailed descriptions of the math section and the SAT reading section. It has practice questions for each question type and works concisely with Khan Academy’s SAT prep program.
This official SAT study guide isn’t the best prep book. The college board has 10 practice tests available on their website that are SAT practice tests. The book comes with only 8. The description of each section is available online. If we were to purchase this book from the College Board, we would use it for the targeted practice questions that help understand each type of SAT question. It is not one of our favorite SAT books, but the student could have a sense of security, knowing they purchased the official guide and work through the official SAT practice tests.
- Published by the College Board
- The same team writes questions for authors.
- Same practice tests are available online for free
- Test information available online for free
What to Look for in an SAT Prep Book?
There are so many aspects of SAT prep that it may be hard to find books that fit precisely what you want. There are a few features that make a book one of the best prep books available.
New SAT vs. Old SAT
2016 ushered in a new era for the SAT. Dramatic changes made the new SAT score range different, as well as the number of questions. The essay portion became optional, and there is no guessing penalty, which is probably one of the most significant changes.
When you begin to study for the SAT and look for study assistance, the best materials use the new SAT format and design. Using old practice tests won’t hurt anything, but using new practice tests is the best use of your time. As you research the best test prep for you, be sure to find one that prepares you for the new SAT.
Almost all prep books come with practice tests. There are 10 SAT practice tests available online for free; however, there are often other practice tests available in these books. As you study for the SAT, be sure to take the time to take a couple of practice tests. Having and completing multiple SAT practice tests will help you score well.
One way to learn new content is by reading and looking over ways to solve the SAT practice test’s questions. A good test prep book will have thorough explanations on how to solve and answer questions. These will often be step-by-step, and reading through them will give you the ability to mimic their steps to answer other questions. The best books have clarifications for almost every question. Some of the books on this list have more explanations online. Taking SAT practice tests and then reading through the answer explanations is one way to improve your SAT scores.
The best prep will include the teaching of some content that will help you score well. You want to shy away from prep materials that are just practice tests. You will want help understanding more than just practice tests, so finding a book that teaches content is one of the best ways to raise your score.
Along with teaching content, you want a book that explains the SAT and strategies to use on practice tests to see what methods work best for you. Some common strategies taught in the best materials include reading the questions before passages on the reading section, eliminating incorrect answers, only one correct answer, and paying attention to connotation and context. Finding a book that helps teach numerous strategies will help your scores increase.
Dos and Don’ts when Using the best SAT Prep Books
We know choosing a prep book can be overwhelming, but using that book can be even more overwhelming. We will look into how to use your new materials and what not to do with them.
First, DON’T try to read the book from cover to cover and expect to learn. Instead, DO come up with a plan that breaks the book into smaller sections. Set small, easily accomplished goals. Decide on how much time you want to devote to each subject.
DON’T expect to get through more than one book at a time. DO concentrate on working through one comprehensive book at a time. You don’t want to be jumping from one comprehensive book to another; this could waste valuable studying time. You can work through a comprehensive book and a content-specific book at the same time. Refer to each book as you work through a specific topic to see the material’s presentation, which may differ from book to book. You might understand one way different from the other.
DO take an official practice test to start. There are a lot of practice tests available to take. Taking an official test to start will allow you to find weaknesses and give you a baseline score. DON’T just take it and set it aside. Analyze your results to help build your plan and to help decide on time management pieces.
DO take another official practice exam right before the real SAT to see how much you have improved. PrepScholar is another great online prep course with a group of SAT experts dedicated to helping students master the SAT. This will help you gain confidence. Be sure to plan this into your study plan. DON’T plan to take this exam within a week of the real test. You want to give your brain a rest before the actual SAT, so plan to take it a couple of weeks before the SAT that matters.
DO read the information about strategies, question types, and format. DON’T skip it because you don’t think you will need it. These strategies are often what help the top scorers score well.
DO take time to reflect on what you have learned or refreshed after each study period. DON’T expect to learn and remember everything after looking at it only once. This is why we suggest beginning studying at least three months before the test.
Finally, always DO your best. DON’T become lazy or slack off during your studying time. Your time is valuable, so motivation and engagement are essential.