Best SAT Books | 2019 – 2020

In your journey towards the desired top score in SAT, books are your best companions. Apart from the official SAT Study Guide, all the major test preparation companies have their offerings too, and the short-listing of the best ends up being a confounding phenomenon. Many books provide decent overall coverage, while some are good for covering specific portions/learning.

If you’ve already taken a diagnostic test, you should ideally be “in-tune” with your strengths and weaknesses. If you’re an extraordinarily talented and/or hard-working student, buying just the Official Guide might suffice (or even just the free online SAT practice tests).

On the other extreme, if you have drifted through school and recently regained your scholarly zest, an ensemble of books might be required to get yourself battle-ready. Let us look at the major publications available in the market for SAT preparation.

 

List of the best SAT study guides

 

The Official SAT Study Guide

 
What it is: As the name suggests, it is the “official” holy grail for SAT test-takers and is the most accurate description of the kind of questions to expect on the test day. All the traps and nuances of the test can be seen through various question types, and an aspirant gets a chance to peek into the mind of the test-setter. 4 full-length practice tests with explanations is a gold-mine for SAT practice.

Advantages: Very good approximation of the question types that will be asked on the actual test.

Disadvantages: Explanations of the solutions leave a lot to be desired. They are often convoluted or vague which might make you scratch your head, or make you look for a better answer through a Google search. All-in-all, the instructional material provided in this book does not lend itself to self-learning. The exact practice content for SAT (link) is provided online for free by College Board, hence folks who just want to get the tests can skip the book.

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Barron’s New SAT (28th Edition)

 
What it is: Barron’s does a good job of replicating the structure of the test and gets the explanation of core concepts right. The book is replete with adequate strategies for tackling Mathematics questions, and it also provides help for language- reading and writing.

However, the verbal section comprises of a list of word definitions (and other myriad lists), instead of concrete advice and strategies. The attached flashcards are fun though!

Advantages: It is an excellent resource for Math practice. The concepts are lucid, not formidable for an average student, and do their job perfectly. It is also quite comprehensive: you can be pretty sure that almost no question type will be spared once you have practiced with this book.

Disadvantages: Somehow the book publishers appear to have given an equal stress to all question types: a flawed study strategy considering that not all topics are equally important for the SAT. As the book ignores the Pareto principle, it is not the best choice for students with limited time for preparation. Moreover, some questions are way too difficult and do not accurately depict the level of questions you are likely to encounter on the actual SAT.

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Other Popular SAT Preparation books

 

SAT Prep Black Book: The Most Effective SAT Strategies Ever Published

Though the book is not updated for the new SAT pattern, it is still important to have a look at its contents at-least once as it gets you thinking about SAT in the right way. For instance, it drills down on the meaning of a “standardized test”, and how the most basic concepts can be twisted to test the “attention-to-detail” and weed out the less serious candidates. It also stresses the importance of quickly eliminating wrong answer choices as a way of saving time. Notwithstanding the good strategic advice the book contains, it lacks the fundamental content to correct mistakes or explain a particular topic. Hence, it is a good supplementary material but not a standalone book to go with.

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Princeton Review 500+ Practice Questions for the new SAT

It is a good introduction for students who want to warm-up to the test without deep-diving into the details. It serves as a question bank for the folks who are just starting with their preparation. However, it maxes out at a certain “hard-level” and does not sufficiently incorporate the top quartile of the difficulty of the actual test.

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Cracking the New SAT Premium 2016 Edition

If you want to learn the SAT Math in entirety, it is a very good book. It has material to cover the topics in detail, strategies to tackle the test questions, and ample practice sets. The verbal section is also pretty good, yet some of the verbal advice is way off-the-mark. You need to separate the wheat from the chaff with this one.

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Kaplan SAT Strategies, Practice & Review with 3 Practice Tests

Mathematics is the strong point of this book, and enough care is taken to teach basic concepts and strategies. However, the verbal section is lacking and could be avoided altogether. Some buyers felt there is not enough cohesion in a typical essay, and the reader might end up learning the wrong things.

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