The best SAT prep book of 2020
No matter what the upcoming school year has in store for high school juniors and seniors, one thing is for sure: at some point, they'll need to take the SAT.
The key to test-taking success is often attributed to preparation, which is why parents purchase SAT prep books for their high schoolers. Of course, there's no one-size-fits-all approach to the SAT. That's why we decided to take a look at new SAT prep books to hit the market this year.
Best SAT prep books of 2020
Here's a roundup of our favorite SAT prep books. For a deeper look into each one, jump to the bottom of the article for more information.
Kaplan returns to our top spot with this updated edition, which features a whopping 1,000 pages of content and an improved layout that students cite is much easier to navigate.
The College Board, which oversees the SAT exam, is back on our list with another useful, budget-friendly guide. Well-liked for its approachable design, this edition's content and practice exams are written by all the same authors to maintain consistency.
A test prep book in a league of its own, this strategy- and technique-driven approach helps students get into the right headspace before the SAT as well as the college application process. This one's a new entry on our list.
What you should look for in an SAT prep book in 2020
While all SAT prep books help you study for the same exam, it's safe to say that no two books offer the same preparation experience. With a variety of styles, content, and approaches among SAT prep books, some high school students choose multiple books in hopes of covering all their bases. This can be expensive, not to mention overwhelming.
Rather than accumulating a library of SAT prep materials, here's an overview of the different types of books to help you find the best one.
Many high school students go with well-rounded, subject-area-driven SAT prep books. These focus on the main sections of the exam: the reading test, the writing and language test, the math section, and the optional essay. They're best for students who need practice and preparation in all subjects, but if they struggle in one or more of them, you may need supplemental materials or tutoring.
Exam-heavy SAT prep books are those that include a plethora of quizzes, practice tests, and essay questions. These focus on subject matter and content to some degree, but more than anything, they aim to acclimate you to SAT question style and wording. They're good for those who are stronger in subject matter and content and are ready to fine-tune their test-taking skills.
Content-heavy SAT prep books are designed to cover the most commonly seen information on the SAT. Prep books in this category might not have much more than a couple practice tests, but they're nearly full-length when they do. These books are usually recommended for those who aim to bridge curriculum gaps or need to recap what they learned in school.
Strategy-driven SAT prep books focus more on mindset than anything, but they're in no way strictly philosophical in nature. Rather, they coach students to mentally prepare for the exam to develop time management and decision-making skills. Certain books in this group also include practice exams or examples. These guides are suitable for test-takers of all levels, as they offer a no-fear, empowering approach to taking the SAT.
In terms of budget, you can expect to spend anywhere between $9 and $40 on an SAT prep book this year. Generally speaking, the more content the book includes, the more it costs, especially if it comes with access to online prep platforms or supplemental materials.
Q. Should I just save money and borrow my friend's SAT prep book from last year?
A. It's not recommended, as the SAT changes year to year and an outdated edition won't cover the most recent additions. If the book is strategy-driven, it's worth reading to pick up test-taking tips, which you can apply to the SAT as well as other exams.
Q. Are SAT prep books available as ebooks?
A. Some are, but many high school students still opt for physical texts that can be highlighted, photocopied, and earmarked. Some ebook formats only include content review, which means you need to look elsewhere for print or interactive versions of practice exams.
In-depth recommendations for best SAT prep books
Best of the best: Kaplan Test Prep SAT Total Prep 2021
What we like: Provides online access to its platform for interactive prep tools. Features longer quizzes that boost comprehension and retention. Parents like its introspective approach with unique journal-driven reflection pages.
What we dislike: Guide is over 2,000 pages, which can come across as an intimidating tome to apprehensive test-takers.
Best bang for your buck: The College Board Official SAT Study Guide 2020
What we like: Excellent option for a budget-friendly yet well-rounded prep book. Emphasizes test-taking skills with 8 practice tests. Problems and essay questions are written to mirror SAT style.
What we dislike: Not as math-driven as other prep books.
Choice 3: Mike Barrett's SAT Prep Black Book
What we like: Takes a mindset approach to the SAT. Concise and accessible, it's popular among students with budget and time concerns. Introduces students to SAT wording.
What we dislike: Doesn't delve into subject matter, so it's better suited for students who need to brush up on the basics.
Sian Babish 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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