SAT Prep – Prep Books

Using SAT Prep Books

SAT prep books can improve student performance on the 2023 SAT. However, students should first ensure that any materials they purchase are relevant to the latest version of the test. Just as importantly, test-takers should understand that SAT prep books are best used as a supplement to rather than a substitute for informed and experienced instruction.

College Board SAT Prep Books

The College Board has published several titles that help students prepare for the 2023 SAT. The most significant of these is The Official SAT Study Guide. This book includes extensive coverage of all SAT sections, a summary of changes to the test, tips for improving performance, and eight complete SAT practice tests. The Official SAT Study Guide is available for $29.99 from the College Board website or bookstores. It should be noted that the latest edition of this book was published in 2020 and contains information about the SAT Essay, which was discontinued in 2021. Other than this, the information provided about the Math and Evidence-Based Reading and Writing sections applies to the current version of the exam. There is also the possibility a newer version of the book will be released in 2023 to directly address the test transitioning from paper-and-pencil to digital format. While the scoring and overall content of the test will not be changing, the exam will be shortened from three hours down to two hours, a calculator will be permitted on the entire Math section, and reading passages will be shorter.

Among the College Board's other titles that may be of interest to SAT students are the Get it Together for College, 4th edition ($15.99), the Book of Majors 2018 ($29.99), and the International Student Handbook 2018 ($31.99).

Manhattan Review SAT Prep Books

Manhattan Review released the 2nd edition of the Turbocharge Your Prep series for the 2016 version of the SAT, the last version of the exam to undergo a comprehensive overhaul. The full series of 12 guides features individual volumes on the SAT's content areas and question banks that provide plenty of practice. These books were written by Dr. Joern Meissner, a career educator, business school professor, founder of Manhattan Review, and creator of its innovative test prep courses. They can be used as textbooks for Manhattan Review's SAT prep courses and private tutoring plans or as resources for self-study. Visit the SAT section of Manhattan Review's homepage to download a free copy of one of these titles.

Recommended Reading Lists

Several educators have compiled general reading lists for college-bound students and collections of titles helpful to SAT preparation, which can be found via general internet searches. Browsing the internet in this fashion will yield a large number of commercial websites, but students are advised to most strongly consider the lists posted by teachers. Familiarity with the books on these lists can give test-takers an advantage. Test-takers should also consult the reading lists associated with Advanced Placement courses, since these have all been approved by the College Board. AP courses in literature, mathematics, and history are most relevant to students preparing for the 2023 SAT.

Self-Study Plans

Self-study plans are completely dependent on student organizational skills, time management abilities, and proactive approaches to learning. They are therefore not recommended for most types of students, but highly motivated test-takers have been known to succeed on their own. Self-study plans should make use of The Official SAT Study Guide, sectional preparation handbooks (such as Manhattan Review's Turbocharge Your Prep series), and practice tests. Students considering self-study plans may wish to begin far in advance of the test date, which would still leave time for professional SAT instruction if self-study ends with disappointing results.

Research Relevant to Self-Study

Many older studies on the effects of SAT coaching have been criticized for failing to include control groups of un-coached students. The 21st century has seen the emergence of more precise research on the SAT. A study published in 2002 ("An SAT Coaching Program That Works," by Jack Kaplan of Quinnipiac University) compared the SAT Math scores of two groups of students in a summer prep course with a control group of students who did not take the course. The prep course groups improved their average SAT Math scores by 60 and 73 points, while the control group's scores went up by an average of only 13 points. "Signaling, SAT Coaching, and Selective College Admissions," a 2010 paper written by Jun Ishii of Amherst College and Travis Chamberlain of the London School of Economics, concludes that SAT coaching "seems to help disproportionately students who are weaker in the tested aptitudes but have academically achieved more, as measured by grades (GPA) and observable quality of attended high school." High-achieving students who struggle with standardized testing benefit the most from SAT prep courses. The effectiveness of professional SAT instruction is demonstrated by this research, but it also suggests the ineffectiveness of self-study methods.

As always, students should consider their own learning style and study habits when deciding how to prepare for the SAT. Participating in a group prep course or one-on-one tutoring creates dedicated study time in a student’s week where they can focus solely on mastering the material required to do well on the exam. Being part of a group or working with a tutor also offers a degree of accountability that may be helpful to many students, as knowing they will be asked about the work they were supposed to have completed can be motivating for getting the work done. The more regular of a study schedule a student can maintain, the easier it will be to devote time and attention to preparing for the SAT. The SAT is not an exam that can be prepared for through cramming or staying up the night before the test studying. This is an exam that benefits from a consistent approach including habitual study, focused attention, and structured progression.

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