SAT Practice Tests: How to Find Them

Finding sample SAT practice tests are an important first step in the test preparation process. When I begin tutoring a student, I always start with a diagnostic SAT test to clarify areas of strengths and weaknesses and make sure the New SAT is a good fit for the student (as opposed to the ACT).

Probably the most important factor in test preparation is getting copies of the actual test, or the copyrighted versions of past tests taken by real people. ´╗┐Secondly, finding non-copyrighted SAT practice tests and specifically target weak areas in math and grammar and vocabulary. So where do you start? 

Note: These recommendations are for the New SAT (March 2016 and beyond). Be careful because some websites and companies are still promoting materials for the Old SAT.

"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 is only SAT prep book that has "real" SAT practice tests, ones actually copyrighted by the College Board. It contains four "real" exams (which means students may need to supplement with non-copyrighted practice tests). 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 can only afford one book ($18), buy this one. It is the most important of the bunch.

Online SAT Practice Tests

Recently, I found some sample SAT practice tests online at the College Board's website. These are great because they provide an extra four SAT sample tests. When I visited the website, however, I noticed that there were some problems with the link for Practice Test #1 (however the others worked fine). The downside is that you will need to print these out, which could be 100+ pages if you include the answer explanations. So, I would still start with The Official Guide to the SAT, and then supplement with these later. 

Other SAT Practice Tests Options

One advantage to working with an experienced SAT tutor (one with at least 5 years experience) is that these tutors usually have caches of older, previously taken SAT tests given to them by former students. These are like gold to any committed test prep tutor. Why? Because it allows their students to take more practice tests than the ones officially published by the College Board, which can be a real advantage. Unfortunately, since the New SAT was radically altered in March 2016,experienced tutors, like myself, do not have that option (total bummer).

What does that mean? Well, two things: 1) take advantage of the College Board's Study Guide for the New SAT (the ONLY book with copy-righted tests); 2) supplement with the online practice tests above (also published by the College Board); 3) purchase non-copyrighted practice test materials (see below).

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 SAT or Kaplan Review's SAT Premier 2017 with five SAT practice testsOne of the major drawbacks to the new Official SAT Study Guide is there are not enough SAT practice tests (the previous Old SAT had 10 tests). This book fills in the gap. It is also one of the most reasonably priced too.  

Timing Tip

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 Math Practice

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. 

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.

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 a student is still struggling to achieve 600 on the Math portion, they would be better off with a general math review book first.

Best SAT Reading Practice

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.

Best SAT Writing Practice 

For specific help with the SAT Writing portion on the New SAT, I recommend College Panda's SAT Writing: Advanced Guide and Workbook for the New SAT. The book has grammar explanations, common mistakes, drills and practice tests. The book is written by an experienced tutor, which I tend to prefer over books written by publishing houses (which tend to recycle old material).

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.