Here’s the good news, if you’re buying an SAT Prep Guide, you’re doing the right thing, no matter which one you get. (Disclaimer: If you purchase a hand-written SAT Prep Guide with a name like, “Larry’s SAT Prep Gide,” then you didn’t do the right thing.) Your local bookstore, or any reputable online book store will have a vast array of Guides for you to choose from. It is up to you to determine which one is the best for you and your needs.
To start, it is important to determine which test it is you’re buying a guide for. If this is your first time, chances are, you’re buying a guide for the regular SAT exam. Make sure you’re getting a guide that covers the three R’s. (That’s Reading, wRiting, and aRithmetic for those who are unfamiliar with this ridiculous mnemonic device.) If you’re taking SAT IIs, or subject specific tests, just be sure to find a book that is for that subject, and just as importantly, the level for the test you will be taking. (You don’t want a Math Level 2 book if you’re taking Math Level 1.)
While there are many publishers for you to choose from, you are most likely to be selecting from one of the following: The Official SAT Study Guide, Barron’s, Kaplan, or Sparknotes. Any one of these will be a good choice. Each one covers all topics covered on the exam in a concise, chapter by chapter format. Each also contains multiple practice exams, scoring keys (with explanations), and conversion charts to give you an idea of how well you would have done, had the practice test been the real thing. Barron’s and Kaplan are probably the most reputable of the SAT Prep Guides, but The Official SAT Study Guide does the job just as well. Sparknotes has an additional flare of its own, throwing in just a touch of humor, and a more human approach to the whole thing.
If choosing to go with another publisher not mentioned above, just be sure to look for a few key components. Make sure that the book covers the same topics covered in other similar books. One needs do no more than compare the table of contents in each. Also, ensure that there are at least two practice exams. Explanations in the scoring key can be extremely helpful. If the book includes a CD, or links for exams that can be taken on the computer, consider that a bonus.
Taking an SAT can be a scary experience, and choosing the right Prep Guide can be equally harrowing. Just remember, you’re doing the right thing no matter which one you take.