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Best SAT prep book 2021

The best SAT prep book

A determining factor in college admissions, the SATs are a crucial and potentially stressful event in the lives of high school students with their eyes on the future. It’s a multiple-choice exam that takes 3 hours and 50 minutes. The SAT is a 3 hour and 50 standardized test used to measure students’ writing, critical reading and mathematics skills.

For those preparing to take the SAT, select SAT courses and prep books that promote subject expertise, test-taking strategies, and practice questions to give your best chance at a high score.

Our top pick for the best SAT prep book 2021 is the Kaplan SAT Total Prep 2021, which includes diagnostic and practice tests, subject-specific learning tools and ample real SAT examples. 

What to look for in a quality SAT prep book 

Skill diagnostics

Skill diagnostics determine how ready you are to take the SAT, and not all SAT prep books include them. Look for an SAT prep book with a skill or subject diagnostic test, allowing you to take a diagnostic test as early as possible to determine where you stand before beginning your studies. This way, you will know how far you have to score at your target and focus on your weakest areas first.

Remember, nobody scores at their target when they’re starting, so there’s no need to be discouraged by whatever score you receive. You have time to improve your weak spots and improve before the SAT. 

Practice tests

Seek out an SAT prep book offering at least three SAT practice tests with answer keys included. You’ll want to take at least two during your SAT prep to ensure you’re fully ready for the exam. 

When used correctly, SAT practice tests reproduce the actual conditions of taking the test, thereby providing you an accurate picture of your current state of preparedness. Plus, it’ll be far less daunting going into the actual SAT if you’ve already been through it before, even if only artificially.

Subject review practice questions and strategies 

The SAT consists of three main sections: an Evidence-based Reading Test, a Writing and Language Test, a math section and an essay

Choose an SAT prep book that reviews each of these sections and provides practice questions with detailed explanations alongside study and test-taking tips for each type of question in the given section. 

Supplemental materials

Gone are the days of studying with a pen and paper alone. SAT prep books now include various supplementary materials to allow you to prep for the SAT in the most effective and efficient ways for you. 

Look for a 2021 SAT prep book that provides access to online materials like videos and additional online practice tests. Some books also include access to smartphone apps with SAT vocabulary, practice questions and quizzes for convenient learning on the go. 

How much you can expect to spend on an SAT prep book 

SAT prep books are relatively inexpensive, especially compared to the cost of SAT courses. Expect to spend $10-$30 on a 2021 SAT prep book. Options on the lower end typically include a few practice tests and some strategic guides. Higher-end SAT prep books typically feature five to eight practice exams, a comprehensive overview of the SAT subject sections and strategies for nailing the questions and supplemental online SAT prep tools. 

Step-by-step SAT prep 

Register for the SAT at least three months in advance to give yourself time to study. 

  1. Read the introduction in your SAT prep book for an overview on SAT scoring.
  2. Take a diagnostic test to see how ready you are. Be sure to take this test under the actual exam-like conditions of the SAT. This means you should be in a quiet room and use a timer. Use the scoring guide included in your 2021 SAT test prep book to determine your baseline score. 
  3. Set a goal score by checking the 75th percentile score for each school to which you’re considering applying. By placing your goal score to the 75th percentile score, you’ll still be a competitive candidate even if you don’t quite meet your goal.
  4. Determine how much you need to increase your score by subtracting your diagnostic score from your target score.  For example, if your target score is 1200 and your diagnostic score is 1100, you’ll need to improve by 100 points. 
  5. Figure out how many hours you’ll need to study. As a general rule, you should dedicate at least 20 hours to learning to improve up to 70 points. If you need to improve your score by 100 points, you’ll need to dedicate at least 40 hours to study. 
  6. Make a study schedule by dividing how many hours you’ll need to study by the number of weeks you have until the exam. Use a planner to record when you’ll dedicate time to study sessions and when you’ll take downtime.
  7. Start reviewing content. Follow the instructions for using your SAT prep book included in the introduction. Always target your weakest areas first to maximize your score improvement. 
  8. Take a break from studying the night before the test to ensure you rest your mind and that you go into the exam relaxed and confident. Studying up until the last minute will only leave you stressed and anxious.
  9. On the morning of the exam, eat a healthy breakfast and be sure you’ve gathered all of your supplies. You’ll need pencils, a calculator, your photo ID and printed SAT registration.  

What’s the best 2021 SAT prep book to buy?

Top SAT prep book 2021 

Kaplan SAT Total Prep 2021

What you need to know: This comprehensive SAT prep book is consistently considered the best choice for increasing your score in preparation for the SAT. 

What you’ll love: The Kaplan SAT Total Prep 2021 is an in-depth and well-rounded 2021 SAT prep book that includes five practice tests and supplementary online materials. Includes actionable strategies for efficient test-taking to help you score higher, new practice questions and quizzes. 

What you should consider: If you’re looking for a fast improvement in a very condensed period, you may find this book overwhelming. This book is best if used starting multiple months before the exam as it’s comprehensive and includes a lot of content for each section, so it requires time for digestion.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Top SAT prep book 2021 for the money

Test Prep Books SAT Prep 2021 & 2022 

What you need to know: This is a budget-friendly and extensive resource for people preparing to take the SAT. 

What you’ll love: Includes a comprehensive overview of the exam, multiple study plans, subject-specific practice questions with explanations and practice tests. Available in book or kindle versions. 

What you should consider: Some users have expressed concerns about whether this covers all SAT materials as thoroughly as more expensive alternative 2021 SAT prep books.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 

Worth checking out

Mike and Patrick Barrett SAT Prep Black Book 

What you need to know: A concise, strategy-focused book with detailed walkthroughs and actionable, systematic advice for each type of question on the SAT. 

What you’ll love: This option was written by an expert SAT tutor with an emphasis on substantial score improvement and it includes four practice exams. Especially useful if used in conjunction with other SAT study tools and as a part of a larger study plan as a supplement. 

What you should consider: This book is written to be not overwhelming for SAT prep students, which may make it less comprehensive than other SAT prep 2021 options. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon 


Evelyn Waugh is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money.

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