Self Help Recommended Books
Official SAT Study Guide
In a pretty decent move, College Board has stated its commitment to transparency and provided free online practice materials (they’re also strongly promoting their partnership with Khan Academy, which has useful video explanations to go along with the official questions).
Some students and educators were disappointed to buy The Official Study Guide book only to find that its four tests were the same exact ones offered online. Since the book doesn’t have scoring charts, you’ll need to go online anyway to score your practice tests.
So does the book offer anything beyond the practice tests? It does dedicate a bunch of pages to explaining the test structure, basic strategies, and answer explanations. Since you can find the majority of this info online, though, I wouldn’t recommend buying the book unless you really want all the material printed out for you. If you have access to a printer and a working internet connection, I’d say to take advantage of the free online material and learn about the SAT that way.
As a bonus, there are actually more official practice tests available online. The total number of tests is still limited though, so you might space out these official tests throughout your prep as a way to gauge your progress and determine what concepts you need to study most.
In between these tests, you can supplement with questions from other books on this list. Read on for the pros and cons of the best overall books, along with the best books by section.
SAT- ACT Test Taking: In The Zone Strategies That Spell Success
You have studied for your SAT or your ACT Test. You have taken a review course, bought the study guides and the vocabulary cards, and yet your score has only crept up a few points. Why are you not making the progress you thought you should be making?
Top scorer people know that it takes more than just practice and exercise to be succeed. These people know the secret ingredient that makes them go to the top. The technique that you need to learn and spend whole life time to find the secret ingredient. But here is the book that tells and teach you the secret ingredient!
Many do not know about the book. This book not only will lead to get a high score in SAT but also teach you time honor and stay calm techniques that will lead you to get succeed in life.
This book is amazing!
Kallis’ SAT Pattern
Students and educators alike have reported having great experiences with Kallis’ Redesigned SAT Pattern Strategy book. It provides six full-length practice tests, which add up to about 24 hours of practice testing. The questions are realistic and closely patterned after official College Board questions.
Kallis goes beyond College Board’s simple explanations to give step-by-step answer explanations for each question. These in-depth descriptions help you understand any mistakes and fix them for next time, a key practice for improving your scores.
Kallis discusses 101 topics that you’ll find on the new SAT and gives a clear and focused presentation of fundamental concepts in grammar, literature, and math. Beyond reviewing content, this book gives some analysis of the various question types, allowing you to take a more strategic approach as you test.
Finally, Kallis goes over the structure, format, and topics covered on the SAT in detail, so you’ll have a strong grasp of logistics before test day. This review will save you time in reading any instructions or understanding timing since you’ll know exactly what to expect when you take the SAT.
While Kallis has done a good job with realistic practice questions and content review, it’s less helpful for SAT Strategies, like time management or process of elimination. Kallis emphasizes a “learning by doing” approach, so it doesn’t spend a lot of time going over mindset or strategies.
The Kallis book is relatively expensive, and it requires a lot of independence and self-discipline from you. You’ll need to take responsibility for dividing up the material in the most effective way and for designing and sticking to a productive study plan. The practice questions are there, but it’s up to you to put in the work and make the most out of them.
While Kallis is one of the best books out there right now for SAT prep, there are some others that offer comprehensive review for the SAT. Read on for three more suggestions for instruction and practice problems.
McGraw-Hill Education SAT 2017
If you’re looking for an informative overview of the structure and content of the SAT, then McGraw-Hill Education SAT 2017 is a decent choice. It goes over the test in detail, from the number of questions to the time limits of each section, so you know exactly what to expect.
The practice questions, especially those in math, are realistic and resemble official College Board questions. For instance, the math questions feature real-world scenarios with problems about temperature and selling tickets for a performance. All the writing questions are based on passages, and the Reading questions feature tables and graphs to reflect the SAT’s emphasis on data interpretation.
While this book reviews content, it’s strongest in its presentation of math concepts. The book breaks down the topics in detail, including Heart of Algebra concepts – expressions, linear systems, inequalities, etc; Passport to Advanced Math – functions, quadratics, etc; Problem Solving and Data Analysis – rates, ratios, percentages, table, etc; and Additional Topics – geometry, basic trig, complex numbers.
Finally, this book gives you some helpful guidance when it comes to mapping out your study plan. Like PrepScholar’s program, it suggests that you begin with a diagnostic practice test and use it to shape your study plan. It also offers a few basic strategies, like improving your calculator fluency so you know when using a calculator is useful and when it might just slow you down.
This book also has four full-length practice tests.
The other major con is its weakness in reviewing Reading and Writing. While it goes over the Math section in detail, its presentation of the verbal sections is more limited and somewhat unusual. It only discusses “ten essential rules” for Reading and Writing, and its review of the verbal sections is more conceptual and experimental than it is specific to the SAT. For instance, it features chapters with titles like the “Language of Truth, Truthfulness, and Beauty” and the “Language of Dissent, Criticism, and Rebellion.”
While these sections may be interesting to book lovers, they aren’t super specific to the SAT—a feature that I consider to be critical when prepping for this unique, idiosyncratic test. Perhaps these sections reflect the rush to get published that I mentioned above. Since the Math section isn’t changing all that much, McGraw-Hill was able to adapt and produce math problems pretty well. But since the Reading and Writing sections were dramatically revamped for the new SAT, they proved a greater challenge to capture in time for the new edition.
Barron’s New SAT, 28th Edition
Barron’s New SAT is another thorough prep book that offers content review, sample questions, and practice tests. Barron’s 28th Edition has four full-length practice tests, meaning you’ll get about 16 hours of testing. It also offers a diagnostic test, a helpful tool to get you familiarized with the SAT, in a testing mindset, and aware of any weaknesses you need to address moving forward.
The verbal section of this book is its strong area. The vocab list provided in this book is the most thorough one I have ever seen on the market. The 3500 word list will help you dramatically bring up your sentence completion and analogy score (but it will only help if you have the time, patience, and will power to memorize the list). Also, each word comes with a sample sentence, as well as whether or not the word has other useful forms to know (adj, noun, verb, etc.). However, the best part about this book is in the Critical reading. Unlike any other book on the market (except for perhaps 2 or 3 that i never found), it stresses LONG TERM prep strategies for doing well on the Critical Reading. For example, it tells you that doing a lot of reading outside of school (like novels, non-fiction, ethnic, history, science, etc.) can help you better understand a reading passage on the SAT. And it does!
The College Board itself says that reading newspapers and books is the best way to prepare for Critical Reading. Reading a lot helps. Barely any other book does that. Instead, other books just give you short term “tactics” for critical reading that just are not as effective. Aside from just telling you to read “college level reading material”, it provides you with an extensive list of books that you can consider reading. I have read several of them, and about half of them are a lot like the literature seen on the SAT. Fantastic advice.
Barron’s is a very comprehensive book and it covers most of the topics you need to know. Because of its dense format, it’s typically more effective for high scorers who are able to engage quickly with the content and maintain focus throughout. If you can divide up and scaffold the material in a manageable way, then you’ll be able to gain some valuable practice with this book.
Barron’s has been criticized for recycling practice questions from its old books, rather than creating new SAT content. There are a lot more changes to the SAT than having four answer choices instead of five, so simply re-using old questions won’t give you a realistic sense of the question types and concepts on the SAT. This book appears especially guilty of this in its math sections, and it lacks a sufficient focus on algebra—a major component of the new SAT.
The practice tests are horrible. They are extremely difficult. They style of the questions in Barron’s practice tests reflect the lack of knowledge that the Barrons people actually know the real test. Do not take the practice test in this book.
In addition to not being as realistic as they should be, some of the questions are overly confusing and have complicated wording. While the SAT will feature multi-step problems that call for in-depth reasoning skills, its problems will have relatively straightforward wording—much like its counterpart, the ACT. Therefore, the questions you’ll get in Barron’s, while helpful, may be too hard and not as useful as they could be for your SAT prep.
Princeton Review’s Cracking the New SAT 2017
Like Barron’s, Princeton Review’s Cracking the New SAT prep book provides a comprehensive review of the three sections of the SAT. It has four full length practice tests, plus two additional practice tests that you can access online. Princeton Review covers concepts you need to know, like grammar rules and algebraic functions, along with strategies for approaching the questions and managing your time.
It also gives thorough answer explanations which help you think about how you can approach similar questions in the future. Along with the book, there’s an online component that helps you with scoring your practice tests. Given that this book is similar to Barron’s in many ways, does it have the same drawbacks?
Princeton Review shares some of Barron’s drawbacks, mainly that some of its questions have overly elaborate wording and don’t match the straightforward style of official SAT questions as well as they should. The practice tests, while helpful, are not the best representation of SAT sample questions.
Unlike Barron’s though, some of Princeton Review’s content review and questions err on the side of being too easy conceptually, rather than too difficult. While Barron’s might be better for especially motivated students aiming for top scores, Princeton Review is more appropriate for students scoring around 600 or below. It probably won’t help you break out of that range and score much beyond that, especially since it doesn’t break each content area down into as many subtopics as it could.
The other potential downside of Princeton Review is its style. Like Barron’s, it’s a big, traditional test prep book with a straightforward approach. Some students appreciate this; others find it boring. If you’re looking for a more personable or entertaining type of writing to keep you focused, these books are not the ones to break the mold. Unfortunately, books that used a more entertaining approach for the old SAT haven’t yet been updated for the new SAT.
All the books mentioned have strengths and weaknesses, but combined provide relatively comprehensive prep in all the important areas: practice questions, content review, and strategies. If you’re looking to focus even more on a particular section, then you would benefit from a subject-specific test prep book. Reading, and Writing.