Taking the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) is a critically important milestone on the path to a college education. A component of the application reviewed by admissions committees at universities across the United States, the SAT can carry considerable weight in admissions and scholarship decisions and thus scoring well on the exam is a key goal of many applicants. For most students, achieving an outstanding score is no simple task but not out of reach with the proper tools, consistent preparation, and the investment of sufficient time and energy. We have outlined the best SAT prep books for high school students preparing to take the exam and also provided advice for test day. Our team may earn a small commission from purchases made through the below links at no additional cost to you.
- Official SAT Study Guide by The College Board
- SAT Prep Black Book by Mike Barrett and Patrick Barrett
- SAT Premium Prep by The Princeton Review
- SAT Total Prep by Kaplan
- The Vocabulary Builder Workbook by Chris Lele
- SAT Reading by PrepVantage
- 1600.io SAT Math Orange Book by Ernest Gotta, Daniel Kirchheimer, and George Rimakis
- PWN the SAT: Math Guide by Mike McClenathan
If you could only work with one SAT prep resource, you should choose the Official SAT Study Guide developed by The College Board, the organization that writes and scores the SAT exam. The book is written by the “same team of authors” as the SAT itself, and thus the section overviews and test-taking strategies provided in this book should not be overlooked. Allow the content of this SAT prep book to lay the foundations of your exam preparation and, if you have the time, further develop your test-day strategies and academic ability using resources developed by external companies.
In addition, the Official SAT Study Guide contains eight full-length SAT practice tests which are likely to resemble the actual SAT more closely than any others available on the market. These should be the primary practice exams that you use during your studies. If you are strapped for time, prioritize taking and learning from these practice tests instead of those developed by other companies. Note that some of these practice tests are available for free on the website of The College Board.
If there was one drawback to The College Board’s book, it is that their explanations to practice exam answers are not as clear or detailed as some test-takers would prefer. If you are looking for easy-to-understand yet sufficiently comprehensive explanations to questions from the first four official SAT practice tests, consider reading the SAT Prep Black Book by Mike Barrett and Patrick Barrett. The book contains over six hundred “easy-to-follow walkthroughs” for SAT questions developed by The College Board and is intended to develop and refine your thought process in taking the exam. It provides unique test-day strategies and exposure to key concepts from the math, critical reading, and writing sections. Check out the reviews for the book on Amazon. A lot of people have found it very helpful for improving their SAT score.
After you’ve learned from the team at The College Board, consider using one of the two gold-standard SAT test prep books: The Princeton Review SAT Premium Prep or Kaplan SAT Prep Plus. Choosing between these books should largely be based on personal preference, as they are rather similar. Both contain multiple full-length practice tests with solutions, offer insight into test-day strategies for each section of the exam, and provide access to additional online learning resources and practice questions. The Princeton Review book offers a total of 9 practice tests while the Kaplan book offers 5.
Consider reading the reviews for each book on Amazon. The Kaplan practice tests have been noted to simulate the SAT less accurately than some users would prefer. Be careful purchasing additional test prep resources from these companies, since there may be overlap between their contents. For example, the practice tests in Kaplan SAT Total Prep are identical to those in Kaplan SAT Prep Plus.
If you are aiming for a particularly high SAT score (1450+), then you may need additional, more focused SAT prep books that further hone your abilities in the sections in which you have the greatest potential for improvement.
Students looking to increase their score on the reading and writing section should consider using The Vocabulary Builder Workbook: Simple Lessons and Activities to Teach Yourself Over 1,400 Must-Know Words by Chris Lele, which provides a “ground-up” approach to teaching SAT-relevant vocabulary, providing foundations in word roots and associations between words that are intended to support long-term memory. Beyond the SAT, the vocabulary taught by the book is useful for academic writing and public speaking, skillsets that are useful in college and beyond. Visual learners should be cautious about purchasing this book as information is mostly conveyed via words.
If you are struggling to quickly read and comprehend passages on the critical reading section, consider checking out SAT Reading by PrepVantage. The book, over 200 pages long, offers additional practice in reading and interpreting passages related to literature and history, topics that the authors of the SAT often include in their exams. The questions are structured similarly to those on the SAT and are accompanied by adequately-detailed explanations. However, keep in mind that the best method for improving your critical reading skillset is by consistently reading literature from a variety of sources (e.g. fiction, historical non-fiction, news, academic papers, and so forth) over a long period of time.
Students looking to raise their SAT math score should read 1600.io SAT Math Orange Book by Ernest Gotta, Daniel Kirchheimer, and George Rimakis, which is arguably the best math prep book for the SAT. The book provides a “comprehensive, clear, and patient” account of every topic covered in the math section. Over 850 pages long, the book provides over 900 practice questions with explanations and is a useful text for “covering all of the bases” during preparation for the SAT. Praise can also be cast upon PWN the SAT: Math Guide by Mike McClenathan, a readable and sometimes humorous book that has helped students to achieve outstanding (780+) scores on the math section.
With a bit of hard work and dedication, your dream SAT score is within reach. Have a study plan for your SAT and start preparing weeks in advance of your test date. Take the practice tests offered for free by The College Board and carefully review the questions that you answer incorrectly. Approach the test with an open mind and willingness to test your own academic limits. The SAT prep books that we’ve discussed can support you along your journey to college, but in the end you alone determine your destiny.
Interested in learning about books that would be helpful in your academic career? Consider checking out our other book reviews.