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The Best SAT Prep Books

Updated on July 29, 2014

The Best SAT Prep Books

I have compiled a growing list of SAT books that have been successful to the general student population as well as with tutors who work with students on the SAT. I have also included links for every book if you would like to purchase these books at discounted prices.

I have begun with the general SAT preparation books, and towards the end, I have provided some excellent supplementary books that provide content-specific material suitable for students of all levels as well as some potential 'hidden gem' general SAT preparation books.

If you are still unsure of what books to purchase, you can look at the poll at the bottom of the page to see what the viewers of this page claim is the best SAT book.

If you know the components of the SAT test, skip on to the next paragraph. If you want to simply get to the book reviews, they begin right under 'Barron's SAT'.

First off, the SAT test: The SAT is a 10 section exam (total of 3 hours and 45 minutes) consisting of 1 Essay, 3 Math, 3 Critical Reading, 2 Writing and 1 Experimental Section.

This exam should not be taken lightly because it is a high stakes exam for college admissions. Because of the recent competition for college admission, nothing really is a guarantee. However, securing good SAT score is still very important in order to stay competitive in the applicant pool.

Although the recent policy of Score Choice has come out, this is not a real choice because some colleges have the right to see all your scores. The ACT has real score choice. This exam does not really test if you know what you learned from school but to see if you have the ability to analyze information and questions. Except for the Reading and Writing Section, where the student would have to learn grammar and vocabulary, this is a test of how the student could apply information they learned in school in different ways (especially with the harder questions).

As this exam never changes, if student continually takes practice exams, he or she will be better prepared and have more confidence. About 40% of the time, the student should take practice exams or section and the other 60% should be about learning the exam (including vocabulary and grammar). Towards the examination period, one should spend more time with practice and less time towards review.

Since there is a pretty big chance that you have heard of any one or more of the following: Barron's, Princeton Review, and Kaplan, I am going to start with a relatively new SAT book in the market which appears to have been fairly successful with students. They also offer a book that supplements the SAT Blue Book from the College Board in order to sharpen your practice.

The Ultimate SAT Tutorial: The Easiest and Most Effective Way to Raise Your Score

This relatively new book focuses on strategy while providing the required content for the SAT.

  • This book is unique and innovative as compared to several of the more mainstream SAT preparation books as it provides a strategic approach as all the material is being covered. It seems that many of the preparation books available provide either a lot of strategy but not as much content, or will provide too much content that makes the strategies provided somewhat tedious.
  • This book is a great companion to the Official Guide to the SAT, and if you wanted a thorough review of the SAT, a great combination would be the Official Guide to the SAT with the accompanying solutions manual as well as this book.
  • As this book has not completely proliferated the market (even though I think it should be!), please let me know how the experience of working with this book has been!

The Ultimate SAT Tutorial: The Easiest and Most Effective Way to Raise Your Score

Barron's SAT

The Barron's SAT is a great book for those who are ready to push through a lot of material and expect a lot of return for their hard work.

Highlights of the Book:

  • Exams are considered to be much harder than the actual SAT
  • Mainly for students trying to push their score into the 2100-2300+ range
  • May be considered tedious because of its difficulty but provides more preparation for the harder questions in the examination as most students will be able to answer the easy-medium questions
  • Book addresses practically all of the concepts that are going to be on the exam (very detailed with several examples).
  • 3000 Word Vocabulary List with marked words that appear frequently on the SAT, prefix/suffix/root review, and much more
  • Time Frame: A good push through this book requires at least two to three months.
  • Alternative: The 'Barron's SAT 2400' is an alternate substitute for those who might have a lot less time or is looking for focusing on the difficult portions of the exam. This is mainly for students who have a strong background in the material on the SAT and should probably not be used as a 'stepping-stone' book (ie: Advanced Prep).

Barron's SAT

College Board SAT

The Official Study Guide to the SAT is probably one of the the best books, if not the best book, for students looking for practice material.

Highlights for this book:

  • Once finished studying for the exam, a great book to start practicing real-life conditions of the exam.
  • Published by the company who administers the SAT (College Board)
  • Since formatting of the SAT typically does not change, practice is essential for this exam.
  • 8 Practice Exams= 24+ Hours of Practice!
  • Solution key usually does not come with explanations. Tutor Ted's is another book that provides explanations for the solutions.
  • Should probably leave at least one month devoted to practice after a few weeks/months of review
  • Can also use this book to measure progress on a particular section
  • If this is not enough practice, using the Princeton Review's or Kaplan's Practice SAT books might be the next best step. These companies provide both review books and books solely devoted to practice exams.
  • If a student has about one or two months to prepare during the school year, only purchasing this book should suffice.

College Board SAT

The Official SAT Study Guide
The Official SAT Study Guide
This is a great book in order to get a feel for taking the real SAT examination as the book comes directly from the College Board.

Princeton Review's Cracking the SAT

The Princeton Review SAT book is a great book for those who do not have much time prior to taking the SAT.

Highlights of this book:

  • Great for students who have less than six weeks to prepare for the exam
  • This book usually gets to the point and will probably not be as extensive as the Barron's SAT book.
  • Explanations are pretty straightforward and with only twenty chapters, a student could finish the content fairly quickly (about one to two chapters a day), and leave a good amount of time to practice.
  • Also has vocabulary and roots but fewer words than Gruber's and Barron's
  • Provides a good foundation for those who are under a very limited time constraint.

If you are also preparing for SAT IIs, you can usually trust Princeton Review material.

Gruber's SAT

The Gruber's SAT is a great book for those who need to work on their mathematical, grammar and vocabulary skills.

Highlights of the book:

  • Extremely detailed for the math and grammar sections
  • This book may be very helpful for those who might be struggling with math.
  • Grammar section is so extensive that some of the material might not appear on the SAT but would be great to know in general. However, there is a lack of practice problems in the grammar section proceeding each skill.
  • Critical reading section is not as detailed, but the book gets to the point and provides key pointers when analyzing texts.
  • When looking at the critical reading steps, he tries to make us 'go into his head' to see what he is thinking about when he is attacking the questions. I really like his methods, and hopefully, if you do purchase this book, you will too.
  • One of the best vocab lists for the SAT and contains many words with which many people are unfamiliar
  • Many practice exams for a preparation book (five)
  • Gruber's also has SAT 2400 section for students who want to fine tune their SAT preparation

Kaplan's Premier and Comprehensive Program

Kaplan's SAT preparation books are great for those who might have between three to five months to prepare for the SAT.

Highlights of this book:

  • Middle ground between the Princeton Review book and the Barron's book
  • Kaplan has slightly more detail than the Princeton Review but still remains concise.
  • Kaplan appears to make sure that students are interested as they are going through the material, and the examples are not dry but sometimes rather entertaining.

What is the best SAT prep book?

What is the best SAT Prep Book?

See results

Now that you have seen the general books in the market, how do you go about studying?

Well, it is a really loaded question. I had a separate article devoted to this, but I figured that this might be on a lot of students minds as they are beginning to prepare for the onslaught of standardized examinations.

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula; everyone has different study habits and different motivations. I can begin with some general tips:

1. Don't procrastinate. This is probably one of the most important aspects towards your preparation. I know how it feels; I am always thinking to myself, "Meh, I have another few weeks before the exam", and a few weeks later, I think, "It's okay, I somehow know how to approach these questions". On the test day, I freak out because I was not preparing myself. Therefore, it is crucial that you do not let yourself be tempted to think that you have a lot of time. If you are reading this as a freshman, even though you think you might have many, many years before you begin your SAT tests, it is going to be all the more helpful (in order to avoid last-day cramming) if you begin now since you will hopefully think of the exam as second nature.

2. Begin with the content of the exam. This seems sort of obvious. Look at all the material that the SAT will cover. Make sure you have a game plan, which for the vocabulary might be memorizing a list of 10-20 words each day for a few months and 2-3 suffixes/prefixes each week or some other variation. If you don't know something, then read though the material for several days, allowing it to sink in. If you think you know something, test yourself with a question to make sure you know. It might be that you might only know a certain aspect of a question.

3. Start to master the techniques. In most good SAT preparation books, they are going to tell you that there are strategies in order to quickly work through the questions. Master these. Don't only rely on your intuition because you could be saving valuable seconds (make sure you understand the techniques as well so that you do not use the techniques the wrong way).

4. Practice, practice, practice. Keep on taking more and more practice tests. There should be at least 40-50 out there, which should more than enough. Taking about 5-15 practice tests under timed conditions is probably a good amount, depending on how much time you have.

5. Take the test. Don't stress, and don't go crazy with last minute studying. Just relax, and take the exam, making sure you are as prepared as you possibly can be the day before and the day of the exam.

Additional Resources

The following section provides additional resources in addition to preparation for the SAT. Links might include college preparation links, extra SAT practice, and much more. This is a work in development, and this section should grow with time.

College Board Website

College Board Website-This is the main site to register for your SAT examinations as well as your SAT Subject Tests. If you are not taking AP courses with a school, you will probably need to register for the exams here.

Online Test Preparation

In terms of online preparation, the best I have seen for any type of test practice is

Student Edge-They offer several SAT, some SAT II Subject Tests, ACT, and even some AP practice exams! They even offer free SAT and ACT prep, which is really a great deal. Even though this site does offer amazing preparation and practice, I would still recommend buying a prep book and using this as a supplement because you are not getting the full SAT experience when doing practice questions on the computer and there are many potential distractions. This is really the only online SAT prep that you should need. If you want the SAT Online Course from College Board, your school may have a code for free access.


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