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Best SAT Prep Books

Updated October 2018
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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    We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

    Why trust BestReviews?
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.
    BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

    Shopping guide for best SAT prep books

    Last Updated October 2018

    For any high school student getting ready to apply to college, taking the SAT is often the most stressful part of the process. If you want to lessen your anxiety, preparing for the test in the right way is key, which is why it’s so important to find a good SAT prep book to help with your studying.

    But there are so many SAT preparation books on the market that choosing the right one can be almost as overwhelming as taking the exam itself. You need to know what test preparation materials to look for, as well as what supplemental studying aids will come in a handy, if you want to be sure that you’re ready to go when your test date rolls around.

    If you’re eager to start studying with an SAT prep book, please see our top recommendations. For general information about SAT prep books, keep reading.

    For the most thorough preparation, make studying for the SAT part of your daily routine. You’re better off devoting 15 minutes each day rather than two hours once a week to your preparation.

    What is the SAT?

    The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is an exam offered by the College Board that’s used for admission to undergraduate colleges and universities throughout the U.S. Academic programs vary from high school to high school, so the SAT provides common criteria that colleges can use to evaluate all of their applicants.

    The SAT is offered each year in March, May, June, August, October, November, and December.

    It takes approximately three hours and 50 minutes to complete.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    The Score Choice feature of the SAT allows you to choose which scores are sent to the colleges that you’re applying to, so you can take the exam more than once if you’re unhappy with your score. Colleges will only see your best score.

    SAT sections

    Evidence-based reading and writing

    The Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section of the SAT features two testing portions that evaluate separate but related skills.

    The Reading Test demonstrates how well you understand passages that you read. It consists of 52 multiple-choice questions related to specific passages. It must be completed within 65 minutes. In many cases, the questions direct you to specific lines in the passage so you can find the relevant portions.

    The Writing and Language Test assesses how well you’re able to edit and improve written passages that contain deliberate errors. It consists of 44 multiple-choice questions based on specific passages. It must be completed within 35 minutes.

    Make sure you practice how to fill in the grids on the Math Test where student-produced responses are required. You don’t want to be confused by the format on test day.

    Math

    The Math section of the SAT tests problem-solving, modeling, and algebraic structure knowledge, as well as the strategic use of tools.

    One section with 38 questions permits calculator use, and one section with 20 questions doesn’t permit calculator use.

    There are 45 multiple-choice questions and 13 questions that require you to generate a written response.

    SAT essay

    An optional Essay section requires you to provide a written analysis of a specific text. There is one passage that you must analyze, as well as a prompt that provides directions as to what points to consider in your analysis. You have 50 minutes to read, analyze, and write your response.

    EXPERT TIP

    Not sure whether to take the optional Essay portion of the SAT? Check with the colleges and universities you’re thinking of applying to – some require it and others don’t.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    How is the SAT scored?

    On both the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing and Math sections of the test, a score of anywhere from 200 to 800 is possible.

    Your total score is the combined sum of the two sections.

    For example, if you score 700 on the Reading and Writing section and 600 on the Math section, your total score is 1300.

    SAT Essay scores range from two to eight.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    The highest score possible on the SAT is 1600, or 800 on the Math and 800 on the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing.

    SAT prep book features to consider

    Skill diagnostics

    When you begin studying for the SAT, it’s helpful to know exactly what sections of the exam and which subjects or concepts you need help with. Focusing on your weakest areas allows you to manage your time more effectively.

    Many SAT prep books feature skill or subject diagnostic drills or quizzes that you can use to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses for the exam, as well as how close you are to reaching your score goal. You’ll know what skills or subjects require the most attention going forward, so you can focus on them more carefully.

    Practice tests

    Taking practice exams is one of the most effective ways to prepare for the SAT. Any prep book that you choose should offer at least three complete practice exams, with answers. You might find it helpful to go with a book that provides four or more exams in order to better monitor your progress as you prepare.

    An SAT prep book can help you become familiar with the exam, lessening any confusion or shock on test day.

    Subject review

    Even if there are skills that you’ve mostly mastered, we recommend that you choose an SAT prep book that reviews all of the subjects and concepts that the test covers. That means having dedicated sections for the Reading Test, the Writing and Language Test, the Math Test, and the Essay.

    • The Reading Test review should provide an effective basic approach for the reading passages and break down the types of questions that you’ll encounter.

    • The Writing and Language Test review should provide a good basic strategy for approaching the reading passages. It should also cover specific grammatical concepts such as punctuation and word choice. Furthermore, it should also break down the types of questions that you’ll encounter.

    • The Math Test review should cover all of the mathematical subjects that the test covers, including algebra, geometry, advanced arithmetic, functions and graphs, and fundamental concepts like fractions. It should also address how to utilize your calculator on the portions of the test where it’s allowed and how to handle questions that require you to provide your own response.

    • The Essay review should provide a good basic approach to reading and analyzing the provided text and writing the essay so it effectively answers the questions in the prompt.

    While calculators are permitted for certain parts of the Math portion of the SAT, they must be approved options. A calculator must be a handheld, battery-operated model with no power cord. Graphing and scientific calculators are allowed if they meet the criteria.

    Practice questions and explanations

    For the best test preparation, it’s not enough to see practice questions and their correct answers. You also need detailed explanations as to why the correct answer is right so you can understand the concept(s) behind the questions. That way, you’ll be able to answer similar questions if they turn up on the real SAT.

    Choose an SAT prep book that offers a large number of practice questions and explanations. That way, you can be sure to understand as many different concepts as possible that might appear on the test.

    Supplemental materials

    Many SAT prep books provide supplemental materials that can help you study for the exam.

    • DVDs: Some books include DVDs with expert video tutorials from qualified teachers that may help students who don’t study as well on their own.

    • Online Materials: Some books provide supplemental materials online, including video tutorials and additional practice tests.

    • Apps: Some books work in conjunction with smartphone apps that provide additional quizzes, vocabulary words, practice questions, and other study tools.

    DID YOU KNOW?

    You don’t lose any points for getting a question wrong on the SAT, so it’s best to answer all of them, even if you have to guess.

    SAT prep book prices

    SAT prep books vary in price based on the number of practice tests they include and the supplemental materials they offer. You can typically expect to spend between $10 and $30.

    • Budget-friendly

    An SAT prep book that contains two to four practice exams costs between $10 and $15.

    • Mid-range

    An SAT prep book that contains three to five practice exams and some supplemental materials costs between $15 and $20.

    • Expensive

    An SAT prep book that contains five to eight practice exams and a variety of supplemental materials costs between $20 and $30.

    EXPERT TIP

    When you take the practice exams in an SAT prep book, try to recreate exam-like conditions. Devote the full testing time to the exam in a quiet room where you won’t be disturbed.


    Staff  | BestReviews

    Tips

    • Start your SAT studying by taking the first practice exam in your prep book. It will give you an idea of what subjects you need to work on and help you track your progress as you continue to study.

    • You shouldn’t necessarily try to get through an SAT prep book in one day. Devote a specific amount of time to the book each day, and work on one section at a time.

    • When you take practice exams in your SAT prep book, don’t just mark incorrect answers. Go over your answer to figure out why you got it wrong, as well as how to arrive at the correct answer.

    • Save at least one practice exam to take at the end of your SAT prep work. That will help you see how far you’ve come and give you confidence for exam day.

    In addition to using a prep book, prepare for the SAT by challenging yourself in school with difficult courses, completing all of your homework assignments, and studying for all of your other tests.

    FAQ

    Q. How important is my SAT score?

    A. The importance of your SAT score as part of your college application varies from school to school. While you should aim to do your best, remember that other factors, such as your academic record in high school, extracurricular activities, essays, and interviews, also play an important role in how a college or university evaluates your application.

    Q. When should I start using an SAT prep book?

    A. To give yourself plenty of time to study for the exam, start working with your prep book at least five weeks before your exam date. If you find that you study best at a slower pace, you may want to begin studying with your book 12 weeks before the test. For those who are extremely concerned about their performance on the test, you may want to give yourself as long as six months with the prep book.

    Q. What’s the most important feature in an SAT prep book if I’m studying on my own?

    A. If you aren’t using your book in conjunction with an SAT review class, it’s important to choose a prep book that offers plenty of practice questions with detailed explanations of the right and wrong answers. When you’re learning on your own, it’s very important to understand the concepts behind the questions to make sure that you can easily handle a similar question on the real exam.

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