The best PSAT prep book

Peter McPherson

The“ guessing penalty” is gone from the PSAT.

The PSAT, or Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test, is not only an exam to help students prepare for the SAT, but also a way for students to qualify for scholarships from the National Merit Scholarship Corporation. PSAT prep books almost always contain example sections to help students prepare for the math, reading, and writing portions of the exam. Some books may also include drills and study sections.

Our top choice by The Princeton Review includes two practice tests and several drills. To learn more about the types of PSAT prep books and their features, continue reading our buying guide.

Considerations when choosing PSAT prep books

Understanding the PSAT

The PSAT/National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test is a 2.75-hour exam with a maximum score of 1,520. It's broken into three sections: math, reading, and writing. It's available to sophomore and junior students, though only tests taken in one's junior year are considered for National Merit scholarships.

Math: The math section covers a variety of mathematical problems that students will encounter in college and beyond. This measures student understanding of basic and advanced mathematical concepts as well as their problem-solving abilities.

Reading: The reading section tests student reading-comprehension skills through several questions based on passages.

Writing and language: This section features several questions based on grammar and syntax, presenting students with sentences and passages that may contain mistakes. It tests student abilities to form coherent arguments and make grammatical corrections to sentences.

These three sections may include content and questions from other subjects, such as history and science.

PSAT prep book features

PSAT prep books should help students with test-taking strategies and should provide drills and example questions, possibly from past PSATs.

Practice tests are found in nearly all PSAT prep books. For best results, look for prep books that include multiple tests with answer guides.

Scholarship guides inform students of the requirements and benefits of specific scholarships. This can help students focus on a specific goal and treat the PSAT as more than just a practice exam.

Drills are a great way to focus on a specific area of the test and master the quick problem-solving skills required to tackle each section.

Answer keys should provide the correct answer to each question and an explanation of the reasoning behind each question and answer.

Sections on test-taking strategies are designed to help students think logically about test taking. This can be particularly useful if students struggle with multiple-choice tests.

PSAT prep book prices

Some PSAT prep books are available for $15 or less. Though they generally don't contain as much content as more expensive books. Prep books for as much as $50 may contain several practice exams as well as thorough sections on answer explanations, test-taking strategies, and studying tips.


Q. Are the individual sections of the PSAT timed?

A. Yes, and the times for each section range from 25 to 60 minutes. This allows students to focus on one section at a time, with no need to prioritize one section over the other.

Q. How many times can you take the PSAT?

A. Students are limited to taking the PSAT in October once per year. If a student took the test as a freshman, sophomore, and junior, they could take it the maximum of three times.

PSAT prep books we recommend

Best of the best: The Princeton Review Cracking the PSAT/NMSQT

Our take: This massive PSAT prep book offers a blend of test-taking strategies, study guides, and practice-exam material.

What we like: There are few prep books as thorough as this one. Plenty of content for practice and studying.

What we dislike: The size and depth of this book make it somewhat intimidating.

Best bang for your buck: Barron's Strategies and Practice for the New PSAT/NMSQT

Our take: Though this is a less expensive option, its content rivals just about any other prep book out there.

What we like: With two full practice exams, a collection of tips and tricks, and information about the available scholarships, this is a content-rich option that covers everything at least briefly.

What we dislike: Some of the information in this prep book is more cursory.

Choice 3: Test Prep Books PSAT Prep Study Guide

Our take: A popular low-priced prep book with an emphasis on test-taking strategies and thorough answer explanations.

What we like: The detailed study sections and practice guides offer excellent material for honing specific skills before the PSAT. The answer guide helps students understand their mistakes.

What we dislike: This prep book contains a few typos and errors.

Peter McPherson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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