11 Best SAT Prep Books Reviews 2020 | Most Effective Strategies, Study Tips and Practice Tests

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Despite the varied opinions about the role of the SAT (darn you College Board!) in a student’s university application, everyone can agree that acing them would be a good thing. While preparing for it can be a serious pain, a study tool like the best SAT prep book can help you out in a grand way.

Below are the top options as based on personal experience helping 2 of my younger brothers prep for the SAT in the past 3 years and as a private SAT tutor. It's been almost 10 years since I had personally taken it so it is different, but I continue to consistently tutor and help many students who score in the 90 and 95th percentile.

What you need really depends on you, but you really can't go wrong with any of these as long as you study and put in the work.

Editor's Rating:

4.8/5

  • Contains excellent information about the exam
  • Well-rounded and will let you address various points that are crucial to the exam
  • Highly-recommended

Editor's Rating:

4.4/5

  • All-in-one study guide that will give you a good run through of all of the concepts and topics in the SAT
  • Contains lots of practice SAT questions
  • Covers more topics than other study guides

Editor's Rating:

4.3/5

  • Concise content and straight to the point when explaining answers
  • Organized presentation of information
  • Easy to understand and follow

10 Best SAT Review Prep Books 2020

While we’re confident that the tips above will be able to help you choose a solid SAT study book, you might still need some help in narrowing down your options. With so many different options available, it would be nice if you know where to start looking for a good review guide. So to help you with that, here are 10 of my top picks that would make your search for the best SAT prep books easier.

A quick online search will tell you that the SAT Prep Black Book: The Most Effective SAT Strategies Ever Published 2nd Edition is hailed by many as the ultimate pick for a SAT math and reading study guide. Every ‘best-of’ and expert recommendation list has this title as their number one pick. And in the ones that it’s not the top suggestion, it’s most likely the second choice. Over 80% of my students decide to use this book (I have them choose their own out of a few recommendations I make).

Myself and other experts consider this book as an ‘essential’ and ‘critical’ prep book that every test-taker should have on hand if they’re after the SAT perfect score. Why? The simple answer would be because of its perfect combination of SAT strategies and content.

This means that its content is very well-rounded. It will help you address the various areas that you’ll need to work on in order to get a good score. I've had some tutees improve their score by up to 400 points and a lot of it is because of this book.

Its main feature is its 600+ detailed discussions of actual  SAT questions from previous SATs. This allows you to be more familiar with what the test is about and how it operates. In addition to these, it also has tips that will teach you how to tackle the trickiness of the exam and how to answer them on your own. It's particularly helpful in giving good answer choices when you're quite unsure about a question.

Created by a top professional SAT tutor that is regarded as one of the best in the industry, you can be guaranteed that the author knows the ins and outs of the exam. It contains a lot of information and very useful tips that are specifically useful to all test-takers, no matter what their standing is.

What really makes the Black Book stand out, however, is its approach to the exam. It’s more about helping readers have a friendlier attitude towards the SAT. It teaches readers to have a mindset that this exam is a predictable and standardized test so it’s not necessarily something to be very scared of. It helps you realize that there’s a way to conquer the exam effectively which is a very good way to fully get acquainted and prepare for it. ​

I find that the SAT math section is particularly good because of the explanations and problem sets, but it's solid in all aspects.

Some experts say that SAT Prep Black Book is the best alternative if you can’t get a private tutor or sign up for a prep course. However, it’s not a standalone book even if it’s very dense - none of them are. Like with all books, we recommend you get supplemental practice test books and study guides in order to fully cover all your bases in preparation for the exam.

Things We Liked

  • Will help you understand and create effective strategies for the SATs 
  • Well-rounded and will let you address various points that are crucial to the exam
  • Highly-recommended and liked by almost everyone
  • Excellent SAT math prep

Things We Didn't Like

  • Doesn’t contain practice questions

Editor's Rating:

4.5/5

Our next pick is the SAT Prep Plus 2019: 5 Practice Tests + Proven Strategies + Online (Kaplan Test Prep). This one is very notable for offering great value for your money as it has a comprehensive coverage that is designed to efficiently prepare you for the test day.

If you’re after a more concise study guide that will help you brush up on all of the topics and concepts that you need to know about before the exam, this would be a great choice. It has sections nearly every portion of the test so it can be a reliable study tool for many.

In addition to this, it also contains more than 1400 practice problems to help you with SAT pattern recognition. This will help you grill yourself nicely of the things you’ve learned and already touched up with while you review for the upcoming test. It will also help you gain confidence in answering the actual test questions as you will need a lot of practice if you want to get good scores on the official SAT math and English sections.

While it’s not exactly low priced, this book covers nearly everything you need to go over with if you’re going to be ready to take the SAT math, reading, and English sections. This fact makes it worth every penny as its very comprehensive. Compared to other titles by other popular publications, it’s believed to have the most topics covered and includes a nice section about grammar rules.

However, you might also want to know that some experts don’t find this book particularly challenging. This is actually one of the common issues some folks have about Kaplan titles, but I find that the practice tests are actually pretty good. The reading passages are solid and it'll definitely test your word definitions knowledge.

Things We Liked

  • All-in-one study guide that will give you a good run through of all of the concepts and topics in the SAT
  • Contains lots of practice questions and has every question type
  • Covers more topics than other study guides

Things We Didn't Like

  • Some don’t find its questions as challenging as the actual exam questions

Editor's Rating:

4.8/5

Another solid option for a comprehensive study guide is the SAT Prep 2018 & 2019: SAT Prep Book 2018 & 2019 and Practice Test Questions for the College Board of Test Prep Books. It’s considered as a solid refresher book with its wide coverage and concise discussion of topics and concepts.

While this Test Prep Books product isn’t the densest title in this list, it’s still a good choice for those who are looking to brush up on everything they’ve already learned before. Its 200 and some pages touch nearly all of the topics and subjects that will be included in the test. So don’t expect it to have detailed discussions and explanations for everything that you need to learn about the exam. However, it can still be a good reference if you need to quickly go over everything quickly.

Its size tends to make it less intimidating and easier to work with as well. Bigger and denser books can feel overwhelming that some students end up avoiding them entirely.

A lot of users also found it very useful because of its conciseness. It’s straight to the point when discussing the concepts and topics that are included in the exam. It also effectively explains answers to the practice questions so you’ll easily understand how to improve your answer choices on the exam.

It’s also a good choice for its organized manner of discussing the crucial points that should help make your SAT preps simpler. The way it presents information and covers study topics is easy to follow and will not confuse readers. This makes it even more effective for those who tend to get overwhelmed with the sheer amount of things that they need to go over in order to get ready for the said exam.

This book also contains a good amount of practice questions. Unfortunately, you might need to manually look for some of the answers as there are numbers with blank areas, so be ready to do that.

Things We Liked

  • Concise content and straight to the point when explaining answers
  • Organized presentation of information
  • Easy to understand and follow
  • Good as a refresher book

Things We Didn't Like

  • Some practice test questions don’t have answer explanations

Editor's Rating:

4.4/5

When it comes to supplemental study material, the Princeton Review 10 Practice Tests for the SAT, 2019 Edition:  is a popular pick for those who want to aim to score high on this College Board test. This item contains 10 full-length SAT practice tests, every question type, and more than 1,500 practice questions to help you comply with the universal advice that practice makes perfect.

To be clear, this Princeton Review SAT prep book is not a comprehensive study guide but an SAT practice book. This is why it might not be the only book you’ll need if you want to get the perfect SAT score. It doesn’t contain concept and topic discussions so it’s best used with a book that is solely dedicated to such.

What this book can give you, however, is a hands-on exposure to the SAT math and English sections. It might not be made by the actual folks who made the test but its practice test and practice questions are high quality. They’re challenging enough to challenge you and will assist you in answering questions that are in the same vein as the actual test questions. They can also promise to help build your confidence in tackling the official SAT exam.

It also contains great answer explanations for the SAT practice tests and 1,500 practice questions. This is one of its strongest suits as it can help you further progress in your SAT preparations since 1,500 practice questions is a TON. With its detailed discussions of the answers for its practice test, you can definitely gain a better understanding of the exam.

On top of its sample tests and questions, it also has a portion where you can learn about the actual SAT scoring system. While it’s not exactly the same as the College Board’s scoring system, this book gives you a good estimate of your score if the practice test you just took was the actual exam.

Things We Liked

  • Challenging practice tests which cover every question type
  • In-depth answer explanations
  • Lots of sample problems to work with
  • 1,500 practice questions

Things We Didn't Like

  • Contains a few similar practice problems as the 2018 version

Editor's Rating:

4.3/5

In search of a big study guide that has everything? Check out the Princeton Review Cracking the SAT Premium Edition with 8 Practice Tests, 2019: The All-in-One Solution for Your Highest Possible Score (College Test Preparation). This is a tome of a review book with nearly 900 pages of content discussion, test-taking tips, and practice tests that will really help prepare you for the test day.

With its size, it’s easy to get intimidated by this title. It’s bulky and clunky. However, it can also promise that it contains everything you need in preparation for the actual SAT. And if you’ll take our word for it, it kind of does. It’s a comprehensive book so some opt to use it as a stand-alone study guide.

If you’re planning to do the same thing, you can very much do so. It covers nearly everything that will come out of the actual SAT so it can already prepare you enough for the exam. It discusses various topics and points that are included in the SAT and it also has a lot of tips on test-taking strategies.

On top of these, you’ll also get 8 full-length SAT practice tests with this book that cover every practice question type. Four are printed inside while four more are available online. You can even take advantage of the online score reports so you can easily keep track of your progress.

Things We Liked

  • Packed with everything you need to study for  official SAT prep
  • Very informational
  • Comes with useful online content
  • Lots of practice questions over 8 tests

Things We Didn't Like

  • Some materials are similar to the 2018 version

Editor's Rating:

4.5/5

For what could be the most accurate content, get the College Board The Official SAT Study Guide, 2020 Edition (Official Study Guide for the New SAT). This is practically the official SAT study guide since it is made by the very people who made the actual exam. With this book, you can be sure to learn pretty much the exact same things that the College Board will use to come up with your test scores and should be included in your arsenal of sat prep books.

Many students use the official study guide, as it’s definitely one of the must-haves if you want to fully prepare for the exam. It’s highly recommended as a reference book for all of your SAT prep efforts. You can also effectively use it as a starter book if you don’t know how to approach the prep process.

What makes the College Board SAT book worth your time? As mentioned above, it’s made by the same folks (The College Board) who crafted the SAT so this book is bound to teach you the same data used to create the exam. This can boost your odds of scoring high and give you a lot of confidence in facing this test since it has official SAT practice questions from previous exams.

While some people find it lacking in the test-taking tips department, it does a good job of discussing content. It will help you cover the areas that you’ll need to know to crush the SAT, so it’s certainly a good addition to your SAT prep arsenal.

Inside this book are 8 full-length practice tests that are crafted and presented in the same way as the actual exam. It also contains practice questions and detailed information on all of the exam sections. A lot of users also found its SAT essay writing guide very useful.

Things We Liked

  • Made by the same folks who crafted the SAT
  • Contains lots of practice tests
  • Highly recommended by students, tutors, and teachers

Things We Didn't Like

  • Some folks find the explanations quite complicated

Editor's Rating:

4.5/5

To get more practice in answering the SAT, you should check out the Test Prep Books SAT Prep Book 2018 & 2019 Practice Tests: Three Full-Length Practice Tests. This is one of the most popular  SAT practice books that promise up-to-date content and formatting.

As its name suggests, this item is a workbook and not a study guide. This means that it’s more focused on helping you get used to the exam format and questions rather than provide content that can help you answer the exam questions. It’s more of a companion of SAT study material to review books, so you should use it like such.

It is great with SEO Pattern analysis and will help you strategize and pace yourself.

What you’ll get from this book are 3 SAT practice tests and detailed discussions of the answers. They should help you gain better understanding of the concepts and topics asked about.

There are also tons of test-taking tips included in this book. This make it a lot more useful in getting acquainted with the format and challenges of College Board's SAT.

Things We Liked

  • Great price
  • Useful for self-study sessions
  • Provides good test-taking tips

Things We Didn't Like

  • Some find the questions here are more complicated than the actual test’s

Editor's Rating:

4.3/5

#1 Pick for Best SAT Reading Review Book

If your grammar needs some work, the Critical Reader 4th Edition, The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar Workbook would be an essential addition to your study materials. This is a subject and topic-specific supplemental material that can really help you work on your grammar improvement but doesn't offer many SAT strategies. So if that’s your weak point, this book should help you out.

This book is one of the most popular and highly recommended titles for those who need some extra help in the grammar portion of the SAT. It’s also widely used by tutors and test prep course providers so you can be sure that it’s a popular pick by many. Its author has extensive experience in tutoring, grad school admissions, and test prep, making it a credible and reliable resource.

What exactly does this book contain? As it’s the recommended companion to the best-selling Erica Meltzer SAT Grammar Guide, it offers a good amount of SAT grammar practice tests and problems. It comes with six SAT practice tests and a detailed set of in-depth and effective answers explanation so it can help provide a well-rounded approach in preparing for the grammar portion of the exam with all grammar-related question types.

Aside from not having any competitor in the grammar area, this book is also unique in its way of advising its readers with great answer explanations. A lot of experts also point out that it also explains all sorts of error types so it can definitely help you cover all your bases during the prep process.

Unfortunately, this book might come off as a bit dry and boring. However, since it is a workbook, it can be expected. The practice questions are great in understanding grammar and improving your score. 

Note this isn't explicitly for the SAT essay portion of the exam, but it will help, along with helping to improve your reading and writing skills with word problems, grammar rules, and improving your writing style.

Things We Liked

  • Lots of great information
  • Effective discussion of error types

Things We Didn't Like

  • There are some typographical errors

Editor's Rating:

4.4/5

My Top Picks for the Best SAT Math Review Book

New SAT Math Problems arranged by Topic and Difficulty Level by Dr. Steve Warner first got popular in the early 2010’s when the SAT was based out of 2400. When the test changed to become out of 1600 Dr. Steve Warner updated the book appropriately to make it again the ultimate guide to use to get a perfect 800 score in the SAT math section.

This book is very different from other ones and takes a much more methodical approach. For example, rather than having to complete problems and check in the back of the book, it provides instant answers and explanations after a question so that you can rapidly get feedback and improve your understanding.

Additionally, Dr. Steve Warner’s ability to methodically break down the math problems into 5 categories is really helpful. It gives you further understanding of which problems you need to work on and helps you identify which approach to take to solve the problem in the most effective way. This in particular is quite unique in that no other choice does anything close to this.

No matter  how comprehensive the book you choose, you’ll really want to consider this to improve your math score.

It’s undoubtedly one of the best books for SAT math practice and definitely my #1 choice.

Things We Liked

  • Comprehensive breakdown of math problems into 5 types for better understanding
  • High quality practice tests with immediate answer explanation
  • Great explanations of concepts to help you solve problems

Things We Didn't Like

  • Only for math

Editor's Rating:

4.6/5

If math is your weak subject, the Princeton Review Cracking the SAT Subject Test in Math 1, 2nd Edition: Everything You Need to Help Score a Perfect 800 (College Test Preparation) is something you should look into. This SAT math study guide might just be the very thing you need to conquer the subject and boost your score.

It is designed to help you cover all your bases when preparing for the math portion of the SAT. This book provides the essential topics and points that are covered by the exam and provides SAT math problems. 

It also includes up-to-date information about this exam section as well as several tips in how to ace the portion. You can also practice what you’ve learned with its 3 full-length sample tests, helping you gauge your readiness for the upcoming exam.

With the difficulty level of SAT math, it can definitely come in handy even for those who aren’t necessarily struggling with the subject. The SAT math problems are great to take to take if you want an 800 on this section.

Things We Liked

  • Provides various information that will let you conquer the math portion of the SAT
  • Packed with useful tips and strategies that will help you work smart for the exam
  • Good price

Things We Didn't Like

  • Some sample questions are easier than what would be asked in the actual exam

Editor's Rating:

4.2/5

#1 Choice with Online Preparation and Tests

Another widely popular comprehensive prep book is the 29th edition of the Barron’s SAT with Online Tests. Like most other titles from this test prep material publisher, this title is considered one of the great SAT prep books if you need a study guide that will help you cover all your bases.

What makes the Barron's SAT a popular pick is its very comprehensive format. It’s one of the few books that do well in covering nearly everything that you need to tackle in preparation for the SAT. It’s very dense and contains brief but effective explanations of the core concepts so you can go over all of the things that will possibly come out in the exam.

Aside from its 6 full-length practice tests that will already help you keep track of your progress, it also contains a diagnostic test. This makes it an even more useful study guide as it can guarantee to assist you from the beginning to the end of your prep process. On top of these, it also contains lots of useful test-taking tips that should teach you to effectively take on the SAT during test day.

Unfortunately, there are a few concerns people have about this book. Some think that it overcomplicates some concepts and points. Others also have qualms about Barron’s habit of rehashing old sample questions and it isn't particularly great with the SAT writing section.

Things We Liked

  • Very comprehensive and packed with useful information
  • Will thoroughly practice your test-taking skills and knowledge
  • Contains a diagnostic test

Things We Didn't Like

  • Explanations can be quite complicated

Editor's Rating:

4.1/5

Honorable Mention: KALLIS' Redesigned SAT Pattern Strategy

Kallis' Redesigned SAT Pattern Strategy isn't as well known as some of the other options here, but it is worth mentioning because it has a very different approach from the other options we've reviewed. It has a practical analysis of the SAT and will help you think through problems instead of just memorizing answers.

It also comes with over 1000 questions with 6 tests that are pretty close to the real SAT. I've only had 3 students work out of this book, but they all more than 1450. It's a small sample size so it's hard to say whether it's a coincidence or not, but after going through it it does seem good overall.

Buying Guide: Things to Consider

Preparing for the official SAT can be an overwhelming task - the College Board made sure of that. It’s a huge undertaking with an outcome that has a lot of weight on your future. It can certainly be scary and intimidating but it’s not impossible to come out on top. To help you do this, here’s a quick guide that should help you find the best SAT books available today.

Finding the best SAT prep book will help you get started on the right foot. The right title can serve as a study guide that you can use in various ways. You can use it to effectively navigate the prep process. It can also help you learn the most crucial things that you need to know to crush the exam.

Note, however, that you don’t necessarily have to get just one title. In fact, a lot of experts say that even the most comprehensive ones will still need a few supplemental materials. Also, if you’re not necessarily strong in all subjects included in the test, it would be best to get a subject-specific material in that area. This is why you might be better off looking for multiple prep books than just a single one.

How do you find the best SAT study guide in any case? Here are some tips you can use on your search:

Get to know the different kinds of SAT prep books available.

As not all SAT books are made equally, you can expect them to have different contents and offerings. This is also the very reason why not all of them will work for you as not every title will match your needs, learning style, and goals. By learning their differences, you’ll be able to narrow down your options or even pinpoint a specific title that can really help you in your prep efforts.

Generally speaking, there are three types of SAT books: the comprehensive study guides, the subject-specific review books, and the practice books. You’ll also find some titles that will help you drill in concepts and information to your memory.

Understand the Nuances of the Options You are Considering 

By learning what a specific book can offer, you can pretty much tell already which one will work for you. For example, you think you need to improve your time management to effectively conquer the time crunch that comes with the SAT, you should look for titles that help with such. If you’re the type who wants to be efficient in covering study areas, you should look for titles that present concepts in a manner that is easy to digest and to do content review.

The ACT is a similar test, but don't study off of those books as they are in a very different format. If you're taking the ACT, you'll want specific prep books to prepare for it.

Look for a product with up-to-date content.

Next to the kind of content you should look for, you should also only go for the best new SAT prep books. As College Board had the exam redesigned in 2016, it’s crucial that you use a study guide that is in tune with the new changes. Otherwise, you won’t be ready enough and will waste a good amount of time doing stuff that won’t help you face the exam fully and effectively.

A lot of today’s SAT prep books are published in the last couple of years and they will indicate this information clearly. Make sure to pay attention to this detail so you won’t make the mistake of getting the wrong study guide, such as one that makes you write the SAT essay despite the fact that the SAT writing section is now optional.

Get to know what tutors, teachers, and former SAT-takers have to say about the title you’re eyeing.

Some of the most reliable information about the best SAT books are the reviews and recommendations of those who have used them before. Tutors are great sources of such as they tend to use different materials and they have met a lot of students who have used different study guides as well. Of course, teachers and students are reliable sources as well.

Just be very discerning of the information you’ll believe when reading reviews and feedbacks, however. These write-ups are very subjective so you have to weigh their merit before using them as a basis for your decision.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is 1400 a good SAT score?

1400 is a good SAT score and will land you in the top 80% percentile in most cases, which is good enough to get into most colleges except the very elite (Ivy Leagues, UC Berkeley, etc). The official SAT is out of 1600 so 1400 is very competitive.

When should you start to prepare for the SAT?

To prepare for the SAT you'll want to start 3 months ahead. From there, get 2 prep books to help you start studying. Studying along with answering practice questions will get you ready for the official SAT test as long as you are CONSISTENTLY working on it. At the end do a comprehensive content review.

How can I prepare for the SAT in a week?

To prepare for the SAT in a week you'll want to get SAT Prep Black Book which is the most comprehensive resource. Study at least 3-4 hours a night and take a practice exam each night. After each practice exam review incorrect answers so that you can improve every day. It's hard to prep in a week, but this method is the most effective.

Which SAT is the easiest?

The easiest SAT is traditionally the one in December. College board understands this is likely the last test seniors can take to submit to their colleges and, according to urban legend, make it easier. I took the official SAT when it was out of 2400 and the one in December was definitely easier for me - I scored a 2150 whereas my 2 previous attempts were 2010 and 2040. 

Is Khan Academy good for SAT?

Khan Academy is good to use for the SAT if you can't afford a proper prep book or course - aim to get another course or book as it is not comprehensive. Studying off of Khan Academy alone won't boost your score by much on the official SAT test. It helps more with the SAT math section than the others, but isn't as good as the official SAT study guide.

Conclusion

There are a lot of good resources, and the best scorers often prepare with more than one resource. However, if we had to choose a single must have the choice is fairly easy - The Black Book is the most complete prep book out there and will help you improve your score by providing detailed concept explanations and authentic practice exams.