Best SAT Prep Books

*Now updated with 2013 Editions

One of the most common questions I receive from my readers and students is, “What is the best SAT Prep Book?”

The simple answer for this is, “Whichever one gets you studying.”The fact of the matter is that any book that actually gets you to sit down and prepare for the SAT is a good book.Therefore, choosing the right SAT prep book is often a matter of personal choice.If you find the material boring or too dense, it won’t matter how good it is because you’ll never read it.So my first recommendation would be to choose a book that’s written in a style appealing to you.

The second thing you should consider is what particular sections – Critical Reading, Writing, or Math – do you need the most help with.Unfortunately, I haven’t found any single source that is excellent in all three.However, some of them garner reputations for being particularly good with specific sections.I’ve written a brief review of some of the more popular books below based on these their reputations as well as my personal preferences.I hope you find it helpful.

1. The Official SAT Study Guide

The Official SAT Study Guide by the Collegeboard

The Official SAT Study Guide

You should know by now that the Official SAT Study Guide is the best source for practice tests.The practice tests in this book are developed by the CollegeBoard, the organization that makes the real SAT tests. All other companies just try to mimic their practice tests after the ones in this book. As taking practice tests is one of the most important aspects of preparing for the SAT, everyone should have a copy of this book. If you’re struggling to understand some of the concepts, or need in-depth answer explanations, you should get one of the other study guides as a supplement to this book.

2. Princeton Review’s Cracking the SAT 2013 Edition

Princeton Review's Cracking the SAT

Princeton Review’s Cracking the SAT

Princeton Review’s Cracking the SAT is a classic SAT prep book that ranks among peoples’ favorites every year. The books is fairly balanced in covering the three sections of the test and is particularly good at teaching the concepts and test taking strategies.

3. SparkNotes Guide to the New SAT & PSAT

Sparknotes Guide to the New SAT & PSAT

Sparknotes SAT Guide

Sparknotes Guide to the New SAT & PSAT does a particularly good job with the Writing Sections and a pretty good job covering all the sections overall. I personally think (and most students tend to agree) that this study guide is the most enjoyable to read as the writers regularly make reference to pop culture (with references to 50 cent and the likes) and infuse a little bit of humor to otherwise dull material. They deserve credit for the effort.

4. Barron’s SAT 2400: Aiming for the Perfect Score

Barron's SAT 2400

Barron’s SAT 2400

The Barron’s SAT prep materials are particularly good for advanced math students. If you’re scoring within the 700+ range on the math sections, this is the best book for additional practice as the questions in this book tend to be more difficult that the actual test problems. I’m not a fan of the Critical Reading chapters in the book, and the Writing chapters are OK. However, an added bonus to this book is that it comes with perhaps the most concise set of vocabulary flash cards. Rather than have you memorize thousands of words, the vocab cards in this book narrows it down to a list of 300 or so very common words; this would be my first source for SAT vocab.

5. Gruber’s Complete SAT Guide 2013

Gruber's Complet SAT Guide

Gruber’s Complete SAT Guide

Dr. Gruber’s SAT prep book has recently gained a reputation as a good alternative to some of the other brand name companies in the test prep industry. Many people praise this book, but personally, I haven’t grown very fond of it. It seems to provide basically the same conventional methods that you can find in any of the other books, just packaged slightly differently. Also, I find the layout of his chapters unnecessarily convoluted. We’ll see if it grows on me as I become more acquainted with it.

6. The Rocket Review Revolution

The RocketReview Revolution SAT guide

The RocketReview Revolution SAT guide

Aside from the cheesy name,The Rocket Review Revolution is actually a very good book. The gimmicky title is actually a bit misleading as the author of this book, Adam Robinson, is one of the most respected people in the test prep industry. He’s the one who wrote the original Cracking the SAT book for Princeton Review. Only recently did he venture off to create his own test prep company. This book is very good for Critical Reading passages; if you have difficulty with the reading passages, definitely purchase this book.

7. Kaplan SAT 2013 Edition: Strategies, Practice, and Review

Kaplan's SAT Prep Book

Kaplan’s SAT Prep Book

Kaplan is perhaps the best known company in the test prep industry. While its materials tend not be spectacular in any particular aspect, they’re usually better than average in almost all the sections of the test. Just like with the Princeton Review book, Kaplan SAT 2013 Edition: Strategies, Practive, and Review is an excellent place to start learning the concepts and test taking strategies required on the SAT. Also, Kaplans software CD, which is pretty standard these days in almost every SAT prep book, tends to be slightly better than those of the other companies.

SAT Vocabulary

If you’re looking to just focus on improving your SAT vocabulary, Direct His Core Vocabulary of the SAT is probably the single best book out there.  It’s a concise compilation of vocabulary words most frequently used in actual recent SAT tests.   Unlike most other SAT vocabulary lists that have thousands of words, Direct Hits limits it’s list to only the 200 most likely to show up on any SAT test.  It also does a great job of explaining each word and providing examples from pop culture.  This book is a must-have for any SAT student.

Direct Hits Core Vocabulary of the SAT

Direct Hits Core Vocabulary of the SAT: Volume 1 2013 Edition

SAT Practice Test Sources

Princeton Review's 11 Tests for the SAT & PSAT

Princeton Review’s 11 Tests for the SAT & PSAT

Princeton Review’s 11 Practice Tests for the SAT and PSAT, 2013 Edition

Kaplan's 12 Practice Tests for the SAT

Kaplans 12 Practice Tests for the SAT

Kaplan’s 12 Practice Tests for the SAT 2013

SAT Prep Software, etc.

Kaplan’s SAT/ACT/PSAT Gold Edition

Kaplan's SAT/ACT/PSAT Gold Edition

Kaplan’s SAT/ACT/PSAT Gold Edition

For those of you who are more interactive learners (i.e. don’t like to read books) there are a number of software programs that do a decent job of teaching the material. I personally don’t have much experience with them, but I know everyone has a different learning style, so it’s worth noting that there are a number of different options out there. Kaplan’s SAT/ACT/PSAT Gold Edition program is one of the more popular ones among students.

There are more reviews to follow. If you’ve found any resource particularly helpful please share your insights below in the comments.

Also, for more information on the Best SAT Prep Books, you can check out some of the reviews I’ve written on other sites here.

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