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When studying for your SAT, it’s all about studying smart and finding the learning approach that best fits you. There’s just too much ground to cover without the help of SAT prep books but just like how some study methods work better for you but not for others, not all prep books are made equal. It’s not as easy as finding out what’s the best SAT prep book out there. It’s more about finding prep books that complement your own style, your strengths, and your weaknesses, and giving you the right boost in the right places.
In this guide to the best SAT prep books out there, we don’t just give you the top bestselling or recommended books. We try to explore their strengths and weaknesses fully so that you can choose the prep books that will fit your particular studying needs. It’s important to remember that not all students are the same and that you don’t all study the same or learn the same. Some study strategies will work wonders for you when it doesn’t make sense to others. It’s all about finding a good fit for yourself.
That’s why it’s also important that you try to assess yourself as objectively as possible by making a list of the subjects that you have a good grasp of and the subjects that you don’t feel confident about. Are you having a harder time with math than English? Or is it the other way around?Table could not be displayed.
More than just asking yourself which subjects you’re more comfortable with than others, you should also try to take a cold hard look at how you study and how you learn. Does memorization work for you? Are you more of a visual learner? Or do you need context markers to retain important information?
This thorough guide on choosing the best SAT prep books can only be effective if you know your weak areas and your strong ones. That way, you can choose the books that can complement your most effective study strategies and give you a better understanding of the subjects where you need it the most.
In This Article
1 – Official SAT Study Guide (2020 Edition)
I would never recommend that any student buys just one SAT prep book to prepare for the test. It’s always better to get input from two or three prep books and use them to supplement each other. That being said, if you can only invest in one SAT prep book, then it should be the Official SAT Study Guide 2021 edition.
As its name suggests, this study guide is made by the same people who make the SAT. This means that they are in an excellent position to offer input and strategies for the test. But what’s really important is that the 2021 edition can offer a lot of explanations, tips, and practice tests for the new 2021 SAT format.
With ten full-length practice tests, it is the best source of official sample tests that give you an accurate way to assess your progress and your performance. You can also download these tests on the SAT website but having the study guide does spare you the trouble of printing which you will have to do to take the practice tests on paper, just as you would in the real SAT.
While the Official SAT Study Guide does cover all of the bases including testing tips and advice, it lacks depth on some subjects. If you are looking to focus on certain topics, you will want to supplement this guide with other SAT prep books. For an umbrella SAT prep book that gives you something on everything, this official study guide is your bible.
2 – SAT Prep Plus 2022: 5 Practice Tests + Proven Strategies + Online + Video
Kaplan study guides are among the more reliable study guides available today and actually have more than one kind of SAT prep book in the market.
The Kaplan SAT Prep Plus for 2022 is a good all-in-one solution to studying for the SAT. Like most SAT prep books that are umbrella-like in style with a wider focus, it has just about everything that you need to study for the test. It has strategies, tips, and practice tests. It also comes with a DVD and online material to add to the 1 300 pages of content that the book offers. If you want a comprehensive SAT prep book, this is your best bet.
Some of the things that I particularly liked about the Kaplan SAT Prep Plus for 2022 are the tips that they included from SAT instructors who had perfect scores when they took the test and a mobile version of the book that you can use as a handy study aid.
Also, I found the improved score guarantee pretty interesting. Apparently, if this prep book doesn’t help you improve your score, you can get your money back.
While the Kaplan SAT Prep Plus for 2022 is a lot better than the basic version, I think that this prep book works better as a starter book. That’s when you’re only beginning to study for the SAT, not for the later part when you’re refining your knowledge of the subjects.
Also, a lot of people don’t like that the five tests that the book promises have three of those tests available online, and only two of them are in the book. Online tests don’t really work all that well when you’re practicing for a written test because it’s always better to simulate the same environment as the actual SAT.
This is the kind of SAT prep book that keeps it simple, but it can also be effective. The second edition of the official SAT study guide is nothing fancy but for a prep book that goes for less than twenty dollars, who are we to complain.
It’s one of the few SAT prep books out there that contain questions and tests from the old SATs given, so it’s a good way to get an accurate idea of the level of difficulty to expect from the test. But with the new format coming up in 2020, it doesn’t provide a very realistic experience of taking the SAT. That being said, if your strategy is to immerse yourself into as many SAT practice tests as possible, this prep book should be on your list.
This prep book keeps it simple but a little too simple at times. There are corrections to some of the answers to the questions contained in the practice test. Unfortunately, there were a lot of printing errors. The good side is that you can look up the corrections to these errors online. The bad side is you’re going to have to look up the corrections online.
4 – McGraw-Hill Education SAT 2022
There are a lot of good things being said about this revamped SAT study guide edition by McGraw-Hill. First of all, it has made adjustments for the new 2022 SAT format and offered explanations for the changes in the test. But more than that, the McGraw-Hill SAT prep book doesn’t just take the traditional, comprehensive study guide approach to study for the SAT.
This prep book’s strength is the strategies that it offers for studying for the SAT, particularly the targeted instructions that provide context outside of the chapter to understand key concepts.
More than providing targeted instructions, McGraw-Hill also provides eight essential reasoning skills that include problem mapping, finding patterns in questions, and logical thinking. What these reasoning skills are meant to help you do is to gain higher-order thinking skills that are more solution-based as opposed to rote memorization.
This SAT prep book is all about taking you out of the usual study setting and into a more interactive and complex thought process to help you study. That’s why it also comes with learning analytics and games aside from its practice tests.
This is the SAT prep book you will want to buy if memorization is not your thing.
Some people found that the full-length practice tests in this prep book were harder than the actual SAT, particularly for the mathematics section. Practice tests that are more difficult can help you be more prepared but they can also take time away from studying other subjects.
If you excel in memorization and want to invest more in that method of studying, then this SAT prep book may not be for you.
5 – Barron’s NEW SAT, 28th Edition
Barron’s is an excellent go-to prep guide for SAT and is a good way to get those extra points and refine your understanding of the subjects when you’re in the latter part of studying for the SAT. While it is meant to be a comprehensive SAT prep book, it is also very thorough and explores subjects more than most all-in-one prep guides do.
This is the book for you if you are on the last leg of studying but still want to improve and gain more points.
The new edition of Barron’s SAT is not all that new. A lot of the practice test questions were borrowed from old versions. The general sentiment is that the new version of the book which was supposed to be prepared for the new 2019 SAT format is much like the old editions which may leave some students unprepared if they rely too much on this particular prep book.
Also, some of the practice tests are unrealistically difficult which could help if your goal is to overprepare but could also give you a less than realistic look at your performance. Again, difficult tests can help but they can also eat up a lot of your study time.
6 – The Official Study Guide for ALL SAT Subject Tests, 2nd Edition
Nicknamed the subject edition of the official SAT study guide, this is the only prep book that makes full use of old questions used in previous SATs. More than just giving you the answers to the tests, they also offer answer explanations and added input from the test-makers themselves.
This book is good for getting an idea of the kind of questions and the level of difficulty that you can expect from the SAT.
Because it is an old edition and isn’t formatted for the new 2016 SAT, it can’t give you a more realistic simulation of taking the SAT. It is also a more general study guide and doesn’t go in-depth for each subject. In fact, I would say that this book is all about the practice tests, not so much about studying for them.
I strongly suggest that you buy separate study guides for the subjects, using this SAT prep book only for testing yourself after you have already studied and strategized.
7 – Princeton Review SAT Premium Prep, 2021: 8 Practice Tests + Review & Techniques + Online Tools
The appeal of this SAT prep book is all about the strategies. Its goal is to help you “crack” the SAT which pretty much means that it will offer a lot of useful insight for the test, how the questions are constructed, and offer methods like process elimination to help you eliminate incorrect answers to find the right one.
This prep book is a great supplementary resource to go with the more traditional comprehensive study guides like the Kaplan Premier and the more test-oriented prep books like the Official SAT Study Guide. Its non-traditional approach helps students not just to study but to understand how the test is designed so that they can study for it better and avoid any traps. And because it uses a fictitious character named Joe Bloggs to tell readers about the SAT and to help facilitate the learning process, it makes for a good read.
Overall, the response to the updated Princeton 2021 SAT study guide has been good. If you are looking to learn more strategies that can help you master the SAT, this is the book for you.
The Princeton study guides have a reputation for having practice tests that are harder than the actual tests. This could help with preparation but could also use up more study time than most students would like.
Also, while this SAT prep book has had excellent results for helping students strategize and gaining those extra points, it has not performed as well with English. If you are looking for prep books that will help you focus more on English, then this SAT guide might not be the best investment for you.
8 – Sat Math Workbook (Barron’s Test Prep)
Barron’s Math Workbook is the best prep book that you can get if you are looking to improve your math skills and get those extra points. While other prep books offer a more comprehensive but general take on studying for the SAT, this prep book focuses all of its efforts on mastering the math section for the test, complete with practice tests and strategies.
For students who are having trouble with math, the strategies and explanations that are offered in Barron’s Math Workbook can be a gold mine, especially since it has been revamped to prepare for the new 2016 SAT format. The prep book is designed to help students from beginning to end when solving a math problem, discussing the right approach and strategies as well as finding the solution. Feedback for this prep book has been good with most users finding the workbook very effective.
This is a very specialized prep book, especially when compared to most SAT prep books out there. You only want to buy this book if you want a leg up in math or if you want to find prep books that entirely focus on individual subjects.
This is not a comprehensive study guide for the SAT and is definitely not a starter book. If you are in the last part of studying for the SAT and still feel like your math could use more work, this is the book for you.
9 – 4th Edition, The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar
Just like Barron’s Math Workbook for SAT, the Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar is another specialized SAT prep book that students should reserve for the last leg of studying. If you have already studied and strategized for SAT and are looking to prepare yourself more for the grammar and rhetoric questions of the test, then this prep book is the best solution for you.
Within its focus subjects, this SAT prep book is very in-depth and covers all relevant topics very well. The practice questions that come with the prep book are also excellent and are at the same level of difficulty as those found in actual SATs, making it easier to assess your performance. Best of all, this edition is up-to-date which means that the new SAT format coming this 2016 has been taken into account. Compared to other SAT prep books that focus on English and writing improvement, this prep book has also done fairly well with others.
If you are looking for an SAT prep book to help you improve on English and writing, then this is the book for you.
This is a specialized SAT prep book and will not be a good fit if you want a more comprehensive or all-in-one coverage. It is also probably not the best prep book for when you are only beginning your preparations and should be reserved for when you are already looking to focus more on individual subjects and want a more in-depth approach.
10 – The Critical Reader, 3rd Edition: The Complete Guide to SAT Reading
If you are looking for an SAT prep book that will help you improve your scores for the reading section of the test, your best bet would be the Critical Reader by Meltzer. The Critical Reader is a very thorough and in-depth guide that helps you break down the reading section of the SAT like a neat little puzzle. With strategies that are written with a lot of good insights, this prep book can help you approach reading with a more logical thought process as opposed to the trial and error approach that I know for a fact a lot of students take.
The practice questions found in this book are also outstanding regarding how realistic they are regarding difficulty and phrasing. A lot of prep guides that help students prepare for writing don’t offer realistic practice tests, either making them too difficult or too easy or just different.
This is an SAT prep guide that is more for the later part of studying and does not provide a comprehensive overall take on the test.
Compared to other SAT prep books for writing, the Critical Reader’s design is a little dry and could do with more engaging graphic designs and layouts to help facilitate learning for the younger audience.