You’ve decided to take the SAT – congratulations!
Now, it’s time to nail down your SAT prep journey, which includes getting the best SAT prep books to suit your needs. Whether you are looking for a comprehensive guide or just need specific recommendations on prep books for Writing & Language, Math, or the optional Essay, you’ve come to the right place!
Here in this article, we’re outlining the 9 best prep books for 2019 for effective SAT preparation.
Looking for an SAT course? Check out our favorite SAT prep courses.
In a hurry? Here are our top 3 SAT picks:
Best Overall SAT Prep Books:
The first 4 best SAT prep books on our list are for comprehensive SAT preparation and cover all SAT sections adequately. If you are struggling with just one section, keep reading, as we outline the best SAT books for Writing & Language, Math, and optional Essay!
SAT Prep Black Book
First on our list of the best SAT prep books is Mike Barrett’s SAT Prep Black Book. Mike Barrett’s “Black Books” are no stranger to Test Prep Nerds, as it has been selected as a favorite among our Best ACT Prep Books.
Mike Barrett has been a tutor for the SAT, PSAT, and ACT since high school and his book encompasses the strategies he charges hundreds of dollars per hour to instill in students. Essentially, his purpose in this book as well as in his tutoring is to help students to understand the process-driven nature of standardized test questions, essentially unlocking the secret to how to do well on the SAT with less knowledge and utilizing more strategy.
The SAT Prep Black Book makes it top of our list because of its ability to dive deep into solutions of the questions and how to effectively find them. By getting straight to the point of how to find these solutions quickly, you save time both in your studying as well as during the test when you need to quickly and effectively find a solution to the question.
This book includes step-by-step solutions to every question on all 4 of the College Board’s Official SAT Practice Tests (although these practice tests are not actually included – you will need to either access these 4 official SAT practice tests online for free or purchase them already printed in the College Board’s Book The Official SAT Study Guide. There are more than 600 detailed and easy-to-digest solutions to all the released official practice tests that help you to exploit the thought process of SAT question writers.
This book is intended to be helpful for any student, including those who intend on becoming top-scorers for admissions into elite schools. This definitely differentiates itself from other SAT prep books from major brands, who are not able to prove effectiveness in catering to top scorers, but rather seem best for those shooting for an average to good score.
This book will completely change how you viewed the SAT and give you more confidence in realizing that the SAT is not testing you on your genius but rather if you know how to answer the questions. This book will get you to answering questions in under 30 seconds after understanding that every question on the SAT only has one valid answer.
- This book is extremely empowering as it equips you with process-driven ways to answer questions without second-guessing choices
- The best 600+ explanations to questions available for 4 real SAT official practice tests
- Can be utilized for high scorers
- Reduced test anxiety due to full understanding of the SAT upon completion
The main drawback here is that this book does not actually come with the 4 Official SAT Practice Tests that are explained in-depth in this book. You’ll have to download and print these tests yourself (they are free) on the College Board site.
If you are looking to be a high scorer on the SAT or want a simpler, more fool-proof method of answering SAT questions, then this is the best SAT prep book for you!
The Official SAT Study Guide
The Official SAT Study Guide is one of the most recommended books for SAT prep and there’s a reason why it’s also appearing on our top books list. This book is extremely unique in that it is written and created by the test makers themselves, The College Board.
This book serves as a great practicing tool, as it comes with 8 official SAT practice tests in print (double what the 2017 edition provided) as well as additional instruction, guidance, and information. The 2020 edition has updated practice problems and test details to reflect all of the recent changes on the SAT.
A lot of SAT test prep books and courses do not ever use real problems to work on, which can be a huge disadvantage for the student, as working on real SAT problems is the best way to be prepared to the level of difficulty and method of questioning that you will see on the actual SAT test day.
All of the College Board’s Official SAT Practice Tests can actually be accessed online for free, it’s just that this is the only book that has them all in print as well as solutions to each of these problems. This can make life a lot easier than printing out over 68 pages and organizing additional printed solutions to pair with each test. For each section, you will receive a detailed description of the math and evidence-based reading and writing sections that you can’t get anywhere else. The test writers also drop some knowledge on the new essay with practice prompts as well as sample responses.
If you were considering using Khan Academy for your SAT prep course, then this book would be a wonderful addition to your SAT prep journey, as it seamlessly integrates on Khan Academy.
- 8 Official SAT Practice Tests and solutions from the test makers themselves
- New optional essay practice prompts and sample essays
- Can be integrated with the Khan Academy SAT course
The 8 Official SAT Practice Tests printed in this book can actually be found online for free if you are willing to print out hundreds of pages of tests to practice on.
Practicing with real SAT official questions is a key to SAT success! This book is a great addition to your SAT prep journey as an additional practice tool.
Cracking the SAT Premium 2020 Edition
Third on our list of the best SAT prep books is Princeton Review’s Cracking the SAT Premium 2020 Edition. This book was published May 7, 2019 and is good for the 2020 school year for those planning ahead.
This book is an excellent choice for a student looking for truly comprehensive SAT prep including practice, in-depth subject review, as well as techniques to avoid common SAT traps set out by test writers.
Making it as our #3 choice among SAT prep books, Cracking the SAT Premium is a bit more comprehensive in terms of strategy than you’ll find in The Official SAT Study Guide, which came in as #2 among our list of the best SAT prep books. But, compared to The Official SAT Study Guide, this book does not come with all the SAT practice tests in the physical book. 4 of the full-length practice tests are in the book and then the other 4 you must access online. These full-length SAT practice tests are different from The Official SAT Study Guide, as they are not official SAT practice tests. This means that, although the questions are very close to the real questions you will see on the SAT, they are not the real questions that have appeared on past tests and have been created by the prep company themselves.
This book does its best to share some tactics to avoid traps and outsmart the SAT as well as some examples of how to utilize these new strategies on questions.
When you purchase the Cracking the SAT Premium, you will receive access to their Premium Online. The Premium Online has a catalogue of videos to help reinforce SAT-taking strategies as well as the “SAT Insider” which assists you in finding the right college and creating essays that stand out from the others. As you are looking into which college or university you think you’d like to attend, you can utilize their college & university rankings, admissions advice, and helpful financial aid tips.
- 8 SAT practice tests to work on both online as well as in the book
- Access to Premium Online with additional test-taking strategies, college admissions tips and advice, as well as financial aid tips
- Detailed question explanations so you can learn from mistakes
The practice tests in this book are not official SAT Practice Tests, so we recommend purchasing these Official SAT Practice tests or downloading them for free online at College Board for authentic practice.
This is the most comprehensive of the SAT prep books on our list for its test prep as well as additional tips on getting into the college of your dreams and maneuvering financial aid
Kaplan SAT Prep Plus
Kaplan is a big name in the test prep industry and SAT prep is certainly no exception. We had to throw Kaplan SAT Prep Plus on this list because of the specialized strategies and precise instruction that leads to a truly confident test taker. Kaplan’s product is backed up with a higher score guarantee, which means that if you don’t score higher on the SAT, you will get a full refund on your purchase. This is an extremely rare guarantee, especially for a prep book, as it leaves a lot of responsibility on the student to be disciplined and take their prep time seriously.
Similar to the other 3 prep books listed here for the SAT, Kaplan’s SAT Prep Plus features detailed explanations for questions (more than 1,400 questions). They also offer online practice and additional study plans to help you stay on track!
In total, you will get five full-length SAT practice tests (not official SAT practice tests): two in the book and three online. All of these SAT practice tests come with detailed explanations as well as explanations for two additional Official SAT Practice tests!
Kaplan has some exclusive strategies for solving problems, dubbed The Kaplan Method, to help you solve problems in all of the sections as well as the additional writing section.
If you are a tutor and already own the 2018 or 2019 version of Kaplan SAT Prep Plus, you should understand the differences between all of these versions, which are actually quite minimal. The 2020 is pretty much identical to the 2019 edition, and what the 2020 and 2019 edition have that the 2018 edition does not are 3 additional online practice tests. If you already own the 2018 version, you may be better off just seeking out additional Kaplan practice tests instead of purchasing an entirely new replacement book. If you are a tutor or student who already owns the 2019 version, rest assured you are getting the same amount of updated prep as the 2020.
We don’t mean to confuse you or persuade you not to purchase the 2020 edition, but, for those who already own the previous two year editions, we say – “if it’s not broken, don’t fix it!”
- 1,400 practice questions with detailed explanations
- Five full-length Kaplan practice tests (two in book and three online)
- Higher score guarantee or your money back
- 12 timed quizzes
- 15 video lessons that can be accessed from any device
- 95% of students get into the top school of their choice who use Kaplan products
As we mentioned in this brief book review, the differences between the 2018, 2019, and 2020 editions are minimal with the exception of 2 new SAT practice tests in the 2019 and 2020 editions. If you already own the 2018 edition, you don’t really need to buy the 2019 or 2020 version. Also, the questions have been written by Kaplan test writers, not from actual College Board test writers. These questions are very similar to the real test, but we cannot guarantee they are authentic practice for the SAT.
For those looking for a comprehensive prep book as well as online access to practice and additional resources, then the Kaplan SAT Prep Book is a great all-in-one option for your test prep.
Best SAT Prep Books for Writing & Language
The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar, 4th Edition
Erica L. Meltzer makes all 3 top spots for the best SAT prep books for Writing & Language. For those who may be struggling with grammar or rhetoric concepts tested on the new SAT, this Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar is going to help you learn these concepts through exercises designed to apply skills you’ve learned in passage-based context.
At the end of each chapter, students will work through SAT practice questions that will help reinforce recently learned concepts and put them into practice! If you need to brush up on your grammar before taking the SAT, this is your book!
The Critical Reader, 3rd Edition
Erica L. Meltzer makes it again on our list for her Complete Guide to SAT Reading. This book specifically focuses on the reading skills that are tested on the revised SAT and offers ways to raise your scores. Each chapter is dedicated to a question type, helping to explain these types of questions and providing you plenty of examples and opportunity to practice new concepts.
This book helps to inspire confidence in students as they learn process-driven techniques to comprehending complex passages and working through them both effectively and, most importantly, efficiently. Also included in this book is a list of alternate definitions of common words as well as strategies to determine the meaning of words on the test that you don’t already know. If you truly want to increase your scores on the SAT and your weakness is Reading, then this is the book for you!
Related: SAT Test Day – What to Bring to the SAT & What to Expect
SAT Vocabulary: A New Approach
Again, another Erica L. Meltzer book that will help boost your Reading, Writing & Language, and Essay scores. Rather than going through a long list of vocabulary words to memorize, this book is focusing on vocabulary in context (as this is what the SAT is testing you on). This book notes that the SAT vocabulary has changed since 2016, where vocabulary in context is much more important than knowing all the definitions for obscure words. Erica and her co-author Larry share a series of approaches to use when learning the various ways vocab is tested on the SAT.
This book is split into 5 different sections, with each section devoted to a different way vocabulary is tested on the SAT. The last chapter of this book is devoted to the Essay. Short, but concise, this chapter provides you with 6 different ways to persuade the reader as well as a list of 25 top Essay vocabulary words. For those who don’t want to devote too much time to the Essay, this is going to be the quickest, most effective chapter to get you to writing a knockout essay. This is among the best SAT prep books for boosting vocabulary and helping you to think critically and contextually on test day. Start getting caught-up with top SAT vocab words here.
- Meltzer, Erica L. (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 134 Pages - 02/21/2017 (Publication Date) - The...
Best SAT Prep Book for Optional Essay
The College Panda’s SAT Essay
College Panda made our best ACT Essay Prep Book and is featured as our favorite SAT Essay prep book as well! Written by Nielson Phu, a perfect SAT scorer, this guide is brief but gets to the core of the SAT essay and the value of a process-driven method to answer the optional Essay on the SAT.
First, you will learn the ins and outs of the SAT Essay, including the scoring, structure, key elements, and analysis. Then, College Panda will give you a good template for answering any essay prompt that you can apply on test day regardless of the specifics of the prompt. This helps to alleviate test-day stress and anxiety, as you will have a clear outline of how you will structure and outline your words.
Best SAT Prep Book for Math
The College Panda’s SAT Math
The second book by Nielson Phu making our list of the best SAT prep books is The College Panda’s SAT Math Advanced Guide and Workbook. Created specifically for students shooting for a perfect score, this book is laid out clearly and organized, sharing explanations of all tested math concepts. There are literally hundreds of examples in this book that will help you to gain a deep understanding of the question types on the SAT and all the different ways these types of questions can manifest themselves on test day.
With over 500 questions to work through as well as lessons Nielson Phu can share on common mistakes made on the SAT Math, you can be one step closer to a perfect score. It should be mentioned, once more, that this book is created for those who are aiming for a perfect score. If you are struggling on Math altogether, this may not be the best book for you, as it has been created as a quick review and then advanced strategy guide for types of questions you will see on the SAT. If you think your Math score will benefit from strategy versus full review of every formula and concept, then this is the book for you and will get you the score you desire!
- Phu, Nielson (Author)
- English (Publication Language)
- 346 Pages - 01/19/2020 (Publication Date) -...
Regardless of which of these best SAT prep books you choose, we’re confident that you’ll be pleased with your choice! Are you currently using one of these prep books? Let us know your experience with it on your SAT prep journey!