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 books for 2023 for effective SAT preparation.
9 Best SAT Prep Books Review for 2023
|1. SAT Prep Black Book – Best Overall|
2. The Official SAT Study Guide – Best Study Guide
3. The Princeton Review Digital SAT Premium Prep – Best Admissions Advice
4. Kaplan Digital SAT Prep Plus 2024 – Best Practice
5. The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar – Best Grammar
6. The Complete Guide to SAT Reading – Best Reading
7. SAT Vocabulary: A New Approach – Best Vocab Review
8. College Panda SAT Essay – Best Essay
9. College Panda SAT Math – Best Math
Looking for an SAT course? Check out our favorite SAT prep courses
SAT Prep Black Book
A 600-page behemoth, this SAT prep book gets you through all the strategy you'll need to ace the SAT.
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.
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.
Final Verdict: 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.
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.
Final Verdict: 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.
SAT Premium Prep
9 full-length practice tests (4 in the book, 5 online) that includes online score reports for your online tests.
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.
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 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.
- 9 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.
Final Verdict: 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 Digital 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 best overall SAT prep books listed here for the SAT, Kaplan’s SAT Prep Plus features detailed explanations for questions (more 700). 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): one in the book and four 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’re looking to purchase a Kaplan SAT prep course, you will also get a set of their SAT books mailed to your house.
- 1,400 practice questions with detailed explanations
- Five full-length Kaplan practice tests (1 in book and four online)
- Higher score guarantee or your money back
- Pre-quizzes allow for testing out of sections
- 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, there is generally not a lot of changes made between editions, so if you are able to get an edition within the last few years, you should be ok.
Final Verdict: 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.
The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar, 6th Edition
Best SAT Prep Books for Writing & Language
This is the best guide to improving your grammar that will be tested on the Writing & Language section of the SAT.
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!
Final Verdict: For those looking for extra grammar assistance to improve their Writing & Language score.
The Critical Reader, 5th Edition
Our top pick for those who need SAT reading section-specific practice.
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!
Final Verdict: If you need to become more efficient working through reading passages, 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
Best SAT Vocab Book
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), which is why it’s one of the best SAT vocab books on the market today.
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 SAT vocabulary and helping you to think critically and contextually on test day.
Final Verdict: For additional vocabulary-in-context practice, this will provide better vocab practice for the SAT than simply memorizing vocabulary.
The College Panda’s SAT Essay
Best SAT Prep Book for Optional Essay
Work through essay templates that you can plug-and-chug on test day for any SAT essay topic.
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 is one of the best new SAT practice books, as you can spend time practicing your outlines for your essays before the test. 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.
Final Verdict: If you need a plug-and-chug method for writing your SAT on test-day, then this book will give you the perfect outlines + practice to get there.
The College Panda’s SAT Math
Best SAT Prep Book for Math
An advanced math workbook that's aimed at helping you achieve a perfect SAT math score.
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!
Some changes were made on the second edition of this SAT math prep book. If you have the first edition, please note that the following changes had been made:
- Additional chapter on minimum and maximum word problems
- Ratio questions
- Function transformations
- Many additional practice questions spread throughout
- Many revisions to fine-tune the review material to the current SAT
- Many formatting and typo fixes
Final Verdict: If you need a high math score on the SAT, then this book has the strategies to get a perfect score.
Best SAT Prep Books FAQ
Are SAT prep books worth it?
You may be able to piecemeal free SAT products together, but most SAT prep books on the market today are both affordable as well as comprehensive, making them a convenient and worthwhile expense.
What’s a good SAT score?
To get into the top 100 most selective schools, you should aim for a composite score of at least 1200 (preferably higher than 1400).
What is the best SAT prep course?
Our highest-recommended SAT prep course is Kaplan’s SAT live online class, which features 18 hours of live online instruction.
How long should I study for the SAT?
It’s recommended to study for 10-20 hours per week for 2-3 months in order to see real score increases on the SAT.
If you’ve made it through our full list of books and you still don’t know the best SAT prep book for you, then we recommend opting for the SAT Prep Black Book. In this book, you’ll get comprehensive coverage of SAT strategy and practice in writing that is easy to read and digest quickly.
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!