Best PSAT prep books for 2021
The Preliminary SAT is a three-hour practice version of the SAT and a National Merit Qualifying Test. The purpose of the PSAT is to prepare for the SAT, but there’s also an incentive for doing well on the exam. Your scores are used as a qualifier to determine eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship, which is a $2,500 prize. The National Merit Scholarship Corporation selects about 50,000 students as scholarship finalists based on their exam scores.
You can take the PSAT once a year, so most sign up during their sophomore and junior years of high school. Because most students take it in the fall, the summer presents ample time to prepare adequately for the exam. A PSAT prep book is an excellent tool for developing a study plan and reviewing content to achieve a higher score on test day.
Our top pick for the best PSAT prep book 2021 is the Princeton Review PSAT/NMSQT Prep 2021, which includes multiple practice tests, subject-specific practice drills and detailed explanations of real PSAT answers.
Understanding the PSAT
The PSAT is a test designed to prepare students for the SAT. You’ll have 2 hours and 45 minutes to take the exam. PSAT scores range from 320 to 1520.
The purpose of the PSAT is to measure where you rank on various subjects and provide you with direction for where you should begin to focus your efforts on improving your understanding of different SAT concepts.
The exam can be stressful, especially given the possibility of winning a scholarship. Still, it’s intended to be a tool for your own learning and a stepping stone towards your future goals.
Do your best to be strategic in your studying, and know that this is just one step in a series of steps you’ll take as you prepare to apply to colleges.
What to look for in a quality PSAT prep book
Look for these essential features when selecting a PSAT prep book to help you begin studying for the PSAT exam.
An introduction to the PSAT’s format and scoring
Read the opening of your PSAT prep book to learn more about the exam format and how your answers will be scored.
The PSAT consists of four timed sections: Evidence-based Reading, Writing and Language, and two math sections (one with a calculator, one without).
Every question answered correctly scores one point, and there’s no penalty for wrong answers. Your raw score is then converted to your scaled score, which will range from 320 to 1520.
Test-taking strategy tips
Your PSAT prep book should offer advice on answering PSAT questions strategically and efficiently and how to tackle questions to which you don’t know the answer.
Rather than simply reviewing content, understanding the logic behind the questions on the PSAT allows you to make intelligent guesses towards correct answers.
That’s why reviewing test-taking strategies is an indispensable part of a holistic approach to getting the highest possible PSAT score.
A good PSAT prep book will include at least two practice tests. Be sure to take these practice tests as if you were taking the actual exam. Meaning, you should be in a quiet room, with #2 pencils and using a timer.
Taking your PSAT practice test under these conditions better prepares you for when you sit for the actual exam because you’ll have experience with what it feels like to undergo this type of testing.
PSAT practice tests also allow you to check your progress as you study for the PSAT. Your practice test exam scores indicate how well your study plan is working and how far you have to go.
It’s always a good idea to focus on your weakest areas first, so your PSAT practice score will also give you an idea of where to point your efforts.
Answers and explanations
Your PSAT prep book should provide the answers to practice questions alongside in-depth explanations of why the correct answer is correct and why the other options are wrong.
You must read through these in-depth explanations to ensure that you understand the logic the PSAT uses and gain greater knowledge of the subject material on the PSAT and SAT.
How much you can expect to spend on a PSAT prep book
PSAT books are relatively inexpensive, with the most budget-friendly versions available for around $10 and the most expensive versions costing up to $50.
We don’t recommend selecting the cheapest possible option, as it likely won’t include much content.
A prep book that costs between $17-$40 should provide ample content, example questions, drills and practice tests.
What’s the best 2021 PSAT prep book to buy?
Top PSAT prep book 2021
Princeton Review PSAT/NMSQT Prep, 2021
What you need to know: This is an in-depth guide with everything you need to prepare for the PSAT with three practice tests and information on the National Merit Scholarships.
What you’ll love: It includes subject-specific drills, advice on test-taking strategies, tips for how to get to the correct answer for multiple-choice questions and practice tests with detailed explanations of the right answers.
What you should consider: This isn’t a good book for cramming because it’s packed with information. This book is best when worked through systematically and in conjunction with a long-term study plan.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top PSAT prep book 2021 for the money
Barron’s Test Prep PSAT/NMSQT Study Guide
What you need to know: Barron’s manuals are popular for their straightforward and high-value content, and this book delivers a breadth of materials for PSAT test prep.
What you’ll love: Many users find this test prep manual much less overwhelming than others. The manual includes four practice tests and is primarily known for its excellent test-taking strategies and techniques for guessing, allowing students to quickly and confidently answer challenging PSAT questions.
What you should consider: It may be less comprehensive than other test prep guides when it comes to subject-specific key concept reviews.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
Kaplan TestPrep PSAT/NMSQT Prep 2021
What you need to know: This is a comprehensive test prep guide from a trusted brand in test prep at a budget price.
What you’ll love: It includes over 1,000 practice questions, drills, test-taking strategies and detailed answer explanations, plus full practice tests and access to supplementary online materials.
What you should consider: Some users have noted that the test questions should be updated and that the content is somewhat limited compared to other comparable PSAT test prep guides.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
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Evelyn Waugh writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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