Best Budget Prep Course
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#1 | Kaplan’s SAT Prep Plus
One of the most robust prep books on the market, Kaplan’s SAT Prep Plus features a broad overview of the exam, how it works, and what kinds of questions you can expect to see across the three sections of the test. It also offers a broad range of practice questions and five full-length practice exams, in addition to detailed sections covering content review.
In total, there are over 1,400 practice questions in the book. I found Kaplan’s practice material to be highly realistic and particularly helpful in predicting the kinds of patterns I would see on the actual exam. Additionally, online video tutorials are included as online resources.
Kaplan is a very respected prep company that excels at being concise but comprehensive. And that’s exactly what Kaplan’s SAT Prep Plus gives you, so you’ll be able to approach the SAT with confidence.
If there is a downside, it’s that some experts find the book to be a bit lacking in its challenge level. Still, it covers just about every SAT concept and topic you’ll encounter in the exam, making it among the best SAT Math, English, and Reading prep books. In fact, the sheer coverage of this book puts it ahead of many other study guides, and it can serve as a great refresher or overview, especially when used in conjunction with other books.
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#2 | SAT Prep Black Book Second Edition
Earning its place among the best SAT prep books by being chock full of insightful advice, strategies, tips and tricks, is the SAT Prep Black Book Second Edition. It provides an in-depth look at the test, from its design to the types of questions you might encounter and why those questions are included. It also provides details on the format and structure of the test, as well as tidbits of information such as how you can watch out for trick questions and why those questions are there.
Personally, I found this to be very helpful. It helped me identify answers that were there to distract from the real answer, and explained the reasons for them and how to escape this particular trap.
Finally, it breaks down a number of online SAT practice exams, with thorough answer explanations for four of them. This can help you determine why you may have missed a question so you can do better the next time around. The SAT Prep Black Book is an outstanding guide for students of just about any level because it can help you not only learn the tricks but also change the way you look at the test overall. This aspect especially aided me in planning my own test taking strategy. If there’s a downside, it’s that there aren’t any original practice exams in the book; you’ll need to seek those out online.
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#3 | Barron’s SAT Study Guide
If you’re looking for practice exams, Barron’s SAT Study Guide will fit the bill. There are four complete practice exams between the covers, and the book gives you access to two more online. That means you’ll have plenty of opportunities and time to run through the test and practice your test-taking skills. This guide also features a diagnostic test that can help you to get familiar with how the SAT works, enable you to focus on your weak points to improve upon and get you into the right mindset to approach the exam.
The Barron’s guide does require a degree of drive and self-application to really get the most out of the book. You’ll need to be willing to dive in and take it seriously, engage at a high level with the content and keep laser-focused on your goal. No book can give you that kind of focus, however; that’s on you.
If you can engage with the text and stay focused and determined, this book can help you break down the material into manageable chunks and give you the practice you need. It also uses some of the same tricks as the real exam, so you’ll get used to tricky wording and distracting answers. I was a big fan of the textbook, and felt good about its role in my test prep. It’s certainly among the best SAT math prep books, as well as English and reading prep books.
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➟ Related: Barron’s vs Princeton Review SAT Prep Book Comparison
#4 | College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide
Why choose the College Board’s Official SAT Study Guide? The title says it all. This is the only study guide that has been written and authorized by the authors of the test itself. What this means is that the practice questions you’ll encounter are very close to those you’ll come across in the actual exam. In addition, inside you will find comprehensive breakdowns of why the right answers are correct. The book includes walk-throughs of each quiz, exam and question, as well as guidance on how to handle the essay question.
The book contains eight full exams taken from actual past SATs, so what you’ll find within isn’t just an example of what you might find on the SAT; it’s exactly what students have seen on it in the past. That makes it among the most complete and accurate resources for those looking to brush up on practice questions and exams. In my opinion, seeing real questions from actual tests was useful. Finally, the book contains a detailed overview and guide to the exam itself, why the questions are phrased and presented as they are and how you can recognize the patterns and tricks used.
If this book has a downside, it’s that it doesn’t really offer tips and tricks, but instead focuses on making sure you have the skills so you don’t need them.
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#5 | Princeton Review’s Cracking the SAT
Rounding out our top 5 is the budget-friendly but still comprehensive guide to tackling the exam, Princeton Review’s Cracking the SAT. It’s similar to the Barron’s guide in that it gives you a thorough overview of the exam with all of the concepts you need, plus strategies for how to manage time and approach the test questions. It offers four complete practice exams and gives you access to more online (how many depends on whether you get the regular or premium edition).
Each question is provided with a thorough answer and explanation so you can consider your approach to answering. This will help get you into the proper mindset on test day. An additional online component provides a useful scoring tool for the practice tests. It also includes a range of test-taking tips and tricks that are certain to improve your approach to taking the SAT, and your final score and results.
The book is a bulky one with nearly 900 pages of content. The bookworm in me loved this, but for others the page count can make it a bit intimidating. However, it’s so well organized and laid out that using it is a breeze. It’s one of the few study guides out there that can be used all on its own. It’s jam-packed with all you need to get ready to take the exam.
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These are just a few of the top SAT prep guides on the market. If you grab any of these, you’re almost certain to improve your scores. If you find yourself wanting a little more, a SAT prep course might be something to consider. Our list of the best SAT prep courses can be found here.