Best SAT Prep Books: Updated for 2017-2018

Looking for the best SAT prep books to help raise your score?  Be careful because some websites and companies are still promoting materials for the Old SAT. For online SAT course recommendations, click here.

Probably the most important factor in test preparation is getting copies of the actual test, the copyrighted versions of past tests taken by real people. ´╗┐Secondly, finding books that specifically target weak areas in math and grammar and vocabulary. So what are the ones that I consistently use with my students and consider to be best SAT prep books?

"Must Haves"

If you plan to take the new SAT (available March 2016 and beyond), this book is the best. Why? Because The Official SAT Study Guide (2017 Edition) is only SAT prep book that has "real" SAT exams, ones actually copyrighted by the College Board. Anyone, who knows anything about the SAT, always lists this book as one of the best SAT prep books. When picking an SAT tutor or test prep program, always ask if they use this book.

NoteMany students and parents do not realize that the SAT is copyrighted material, so test prep materials from companies, like Princeton or Kaplan, cannot publish actual SAT tests in their test prep materials, just approximations of the real ones. 

If you are willing to commit a few more dollars to your SAT test prep, consider purchasing Princeton Review's Six Practice Tests for the New SATOne of the major drawbacks to the new Official SAT Study Guide is there are not enough practice tests (the book only contains four "official" tests). This book fills in the gap. It is also one of the most reasonably priced too.  

Avoid Distractions

So many students could benefit from an inexpensive timer, a necessary test prep tool. In my office, I always have at least three timers on my desk. So many students use cell phones as timers, but the cell phone can be a big distraction when studying for the test. 

Best SAT Prep - Math Review

For students looking to score very well on the Math portion of the New SAT (700+), I recommend purchasing The College Panda's SAT Math: Advanced Guide and Workbook for the New SAT. However, if you are still struggling to achieve 600 on the Math portion, you would be better off with a more general review or simpler math workbook (see below).

What I really like about Kaplan's New SAT Math Workbook is the design. Students can complete each skill review relatively quickly and discover the differences between applying that skill to easy, medium and hard problems. Even if you are a strong math student, you still need to review this material because I find that the SAT Math is very different from "classroom" mathematics.

Most students, I find, need a generalized math review. Often the SAT exam is taken in the spring of the junior year. By that time, many students have advanced to Algebra II/Trig or Pre-Calculus, subjects that are not covered in depth on the SAT exam. For many students, a really good refresher in pre-algebra, basic algebra, plane and coordinate geometry can do wonders for the SAT score results. 

Best SAT Prep - Reading and Writing

If you are looking specifically for help raising your SAT Essay score, College Panda's SAT Essay Battle-Tested Guide is a good one (all of the College Panda books are very good). For lots of students (and tutors), the new SAT essay prompts are challenging, but this books does a GREAT job of breaking it down.

Erika Meltzer also does a great job with  SAT Grammar and SAT Grammar Workbook are the only ones geared to the New SAT.  If you have been having trouble with your Reading (which has grammar now) and Writing score, this is another great resource.

Erika Melter's second book The Complete Guide to SAT Reading  covers the Reading section of the New SAT. I find this section to be the hardest one to achieve 700+, so her book is a great resource, but may be overkill for some students. Before tackling this book, take a few practice tests first to see how difficult the section will be to increase.

SAT Vocabulary 

The good news (I guess) is that the New SAT does not directly test student's vocabulary level anymore, having eliminated the sentence completion portion in 2016 (and the analogies in 2011). So no more specialized SAT vocabulary prep needed.

Consider Taking the ACT

Don't forget that ALL colleges accept the ACT test scores as well. So if you are struggling with the SAT, consider taking the ACT test. The two main benefits of the ACT is that there is more (and better) test prep material since the test has not changed significantly in the last few years. Second, the ACT tends to be less "tricky" and closer to the subject matter in high school classes.

Don't Forget About the Subject Tests

If you are applying to "test-optional" or "test-flexible" colleges or highly selective colleges (like the Ivy League), then you might want to consider taking at least 1-2 Subjects Tests.  Not sure if you need, then read "Do I Need to Take the SAT Subject Tests?". If you know you are applying to colleges that recommend or require them, read my recommendations for best SAT prep book for for the Math 2 Subject Test.

Test Prep Updates: Stay Current

Several times each week, I post articles and test taking tips about the SAT and ACT tests as well as college admissions. These blog entries are a great way to keep current with what is happening in high school test prep and college admissions. So please bookmark this page (or subscribe to my RSS feed) and let your friends and family know about!