10 Best PSAT Prep Books (2020)
PSAT stands for Preliminary Scholastic Aptitude Test or Preliminary SAT. It is also known as the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test because the National Merit Scholarship Corporation co-sponsors the examination.
The College Board administers the PSAT, which it offers nationwide.
On the other hand, it is an opportunity for test-takers to try out for the National Merit Scholarship Program’s scholarships. Given the importance of the PSAT for scholarships and SAT/ACT prep, it is essential to prepare for the PSAT.
In addition to obtaining a high score, students can also perfect their test prep skills while preparing for the PSAT so that they are ready to prepare for other crucial exams later in their careers.
We selected the 10 best PSAT prep books and assembled other vital information that you need to know as you prepare for the PSAT.
The Best Books to Prepare for the PSAT
Table of Contents
- 10 Best PSAT Prep Books
- 1. Barron’s New PSAT/NMSQT
- 2. Kaplan PSAT/NMSQT 2017 Strategies
- 3. Princeton Review Cracking the PSAT/NMSQT, 2017 Edition Review
- 4. Barron’s PSAT/NMSQT 1520
- 5. PSAT Prep 2017
- 6. PSAT/NMSQT Prep 2020
- 7. 550+ PSAT Practice Questions
- 8. PSAT 8/9 Full Study Guide 2nd Edition
- 9. PSAT Secrets Study Guide
- 10. Ivy Global 3 Practice Tests
- Frequently Asked Questions
10 Best PSAT Prep Books
1. Barron’s New PSAT/NMSQT
If you choose one PSAT prep book, this comprehensive volume should be it.
Publisher: Barron’s Educational Series
Year: August 1, 2016
Number of Pages: 648
Our Final Grade: A+
This book is one of the best PSAT prep books on the market. In the race for best PSAT prepper, it has a head start.
First of all, it has a high amount of practice questions so that you can thoroughly prepare yourself for the exam with real test topics.
One of the most important concepts to understand when you’re preparing for the PSAT exam is repetition. You want to go through as many test questions as possible, and you want those questions to be just like the ones on the test. If you can do this, it will feel like just another day of practice when you face the actual exam.
There are other great things about Barron’s, such as the diagnostic test that helps you find your strengths and weaknesses. There are also three full-length practice tests and hundreds of practice questions. All of these questions come with answers and in-depth explanations.
- Has lots of practice questions and three model tests
- Has a concept review that is in-depth and easy to understand
- All the practice questions closely mimic the ones you will find on the exam.
- The format can be confusing, and the book is very long.
- Some explanations provided by Barron’s can be more in-depth than necessary.
2. Kaplan PSAT/NMSQT 2017 Strategies
This book provides you with effective test-taking strategies that you can use throughout your academic career.
Publisher: Kaplan Publishing
Year: May 24, 2016
Number of Pages: 504
Our Final Grade: A
This book from the tutoring specialists at Kaplan is an excellent option for PSAT prep for various reasons. First, it has an in-depth review of the material that you need to know. Also, it deals extensively with the test-taking strategy.
This approach helps you figure out the tricks examiners often use to try and catch test-takers off-guard. After reading this book, you will be ready for these tricks.
The book also has many practice questions that mimic the actual ones you’re going to see in the exam.
In particular, the concept review is very in-depth in this book, and you get explanations for each answer. You can easily understand where you went wrong if your answer was incorrect.
This succinctness helps you learn what you need to know to prepare for the exam. At the same time, you don’t get more than you need, and you don’t have to deal with long-winded explanations.
The number of practice questions makes this an attractive option, but also exciting. There are over 1000 questions, each mimicking the ones you are likely to see in the main exam. There are also two full-length practice tests to help you get a sense of how the actual exam is going to go.
- The concept-review is thorough and in-depth.
- Explanations are concise and only tell you what you need to know. You won’t have to deal with long-winded explanations.
- Lots of practice questions that mimic the ones you will see in the actual exam.
- Some questions are either unclear or misprinted.
3. Princeton Review Cracking the PSAT/NMSQT, 2017 Edition Review
This book offers a quick review for those who are already confident in their test-taking skills.
Publisher: Princeton Review
Year: February 7, 2017
Number of Pages: 512
Our Final Grade: A-
The whole idea behind this prep book is to save you time while still giving you a good chance at PSAT success.
While everyone who sits for the PSAT is hoping to pass and earn a scholarship, sometimes other activities and commitments limit your study time.
People who get this book want to learn the most relevant information that you need to pass without worrying about any extras.
The most attractive attribute of this book is its effective problem-solving techniques. It takes you into problem-solving strategies step by step. By the end of this book, you will know all of the tricks that examiners throw at test-takers, and you will be able to avoid them.
The Princeton Review is also a great option if you want to focus on the PSAT’s mathematics sections. Algebra problems in the PSAT have a reputation for being difficult and tricky. This book goes into some pretty advanced strategies to tackle these algebraic challenges on test day.
There are drills for all the different test topics, two full-length model tests with answers and detailed explanations, and the latest information concerning modifications to the examination.
- The study guide is brief. You will save plenty of time while still getting useful information.
- It teaches some problem-solving tactics to help identify and handle tricks that are common on the actual test.
- The book includes mathematics strategies for the PSAT’s notorious algebra problems.
- May not be the best option for those who want an in-depth review
4. Barron’s PSAT/NMSQT 1520
This prep book is for those seeking the highest score possible.
Publisher: Barron’s Educational Series
Year: August 1, 2016
Number of Pages: 400
Our Final Grade: B+
While many of the other books on this list focus on helping you pass the PSAT, the goal of this particular one is specifically to help you get the highest score you can in the NMSQT.
If you aim to pass the PSAT and qualify for National Merit honors, this is the right book for you.
The practice questions, for one, are much more complicated than the items you are going to find in the exam, and the concept reviews go in-depth and are comprehensive enough that you will learn everything you need to learn for the exam, and then some.
While there is only one model test, it’s quite thorough and should prepare you adequately for the exam. Also, hundreds of practice questions mimic the most difficult questions you are likely to find in the final exam. There are also plenty of drills explicitly tailored for advanced students who want to cover all their bases.
- Excellent preparation for advanced students seeking the highest possible score.
- Answer explanations are in-depth, taking you through exactly why the right answer is right
- There are more difficult practice questions here than in most other books.
- Those who aren’t advanced students may need to purchase a separate guide with more in-depth reviews of the more basic content.
- If you want a quick study guide, this book is not for you.
5. PSAT Prep 2017
This book is for those who want to breeze through the review process while still giving themselves a good chance at PSAT success.
Publisher: Test Prep Books
Year: August 14, 2016
Number of Pages: 178
Our Final Grade: B
This concise PSAT guide cuts to the chase and offers a brief overview of the test. Because of how short it is, it is an excellent option for those who want to save time.
It only teaches you what you need to learn and nothing that you do not need to learn for the exam. It’s ideal as a stand-alone study guide or for a review when you are close to the exam day and want a no-frills prep book to take you over the main points and guarantee a passing grade at the least.
There is a single full-length model test in this prep book, as well as a review for each section of that test.
There are also numerous practice questions and detailed answers with explanations that help you understand if you happen to get the wrong answer.
- Very concise. This book will save you time.
- Works well as a supplement to other test-prep books
- The explanations are simple and easy to understand
- You may need to buy a separate guide for more in-depth coverage.
6. PSAT/NMSQT Prep 2020
A quality option if you want to go over every detail as you prepare for the PSAT
Publisher: Kaplan Publishing
Year: July 2, 2019
Number of Pages: 564
Our Final Grade: B-
This book is one of the most in-depth books on the market for PSAT prep. As you progress through this lengthy volume, you will see all the different topics you will encounter in the exam.
You also get useful tips for the exam and a treasure trove of practice questions and practice tests. Like all good PSAT prep books, the PSAT Prep 2020 explains each question and answer so that you can see where you went wrong if you got an answer incorrect.
- In-depth information for those who want a dive deep into specific topics
- Over 1000 practice questions with answer explanations so you can prepare thoroughly for the exam
- The questions mimic the ones you are likely to find in the main test.
- It might be too comprehensive for students who are looking to save time or want a more-concise guide.
7. 550+ PSAT Practice Questions
A book that is ideal for those who want lots of practice tests.
Publisher: Princeton Review
Year: January 30, 2018
Number of Pages: 368
Our Final Grade: B-
Sometimes you don’t necessarily want concept reviews, but rather a book with plenty of practice questions that will help you prepare for the exam.
Practice questions are like the gym for your mind. You get to do reps with questions that mimic those you are likely to meet in the main exam. With lots of practice tests, you can have an extended dress rehearsal before the PSAT.
This particular book is useful for this reason. It acts as a companion to the Cracking book, also by the Princeton Review. While most Princeton Review books have plenty of in-depth concept reviews to help you understand the necessary material for the exam, this book teaches how to tackle the different exam questions.
Every single practice question has an answer with an explanation that shows you why the right answer is right and what tricks you should look out for in the exam when you see that kind of question.
- It focuses only on practice questions, giving you a chance to encounter actual test situations.
- It covers all types of subjects, providing you all-round preparation.
- All the practice questions have in-depth answer explanations with tips on how to answer similar questions.
- Students who want in-depth concept reviews need to buy a companion book
8. PSAT 8/9 Full Study Guide 2nd Edition
This book is for those who want a multimedia approach to test prep.
Publisher: Smart Edition Media
Year: July 7, 2020
Number of Pages: 300
Our Final Grade: C+
This book takes a very bare-bones approach to PSAT prep. There are many video lessons online included as part of the package. You can supplement whatever you read in the book with these multimedia units.
There are also over 900 practice questions that mimic the ones you will meet on the actual exam. The four practice tests ensure you get a feel for the formatting and structure of the PSAT.
You also have access to online flashcards that review vital ideas.
- Over 900 practice questions to help you prepare for the main examination
- Hundreds of online flashcards and online videos to supplement the information in the book
- In-depth score reports helping you figure out where your weaknesses are and improve upon them.
- This book may not go in-depth enough for students who need something a little more comprehensive
9. PSAT Secrets Study Guide
This book puts a premium on test-taking skills.
Publisher: May 17, 2019
Year: May 17, 2019
Number of Pages: 224
Our Final Grade: C
This book may not be as popular as the other ones on this list, but don’t let that fool you. It happens to be among the most detailed prep books for the PSAT.
It offers concept reviews and realistic practice questions, but it also goes into a review of the PSAT exam itself, telling you about what to expect from it and strategies to succeed.
A lot of the focus is on mathematics, with strategies for approaching the mathematics questions. The book also covers exam-taking strategies that will help you mentally prepare for test day.
- Goes into the strategies for the PSAT exam
- The practice questions have in-depth explanations, so you understand why the right answer is right
- Goes in-depth into the PSAT’s challenging mathematics section
- The information goes in-depth and involves a lot of reading, which might not appeal to those who want a no-frills prep book.
10. Ivy Global 3 Practice Tests
This new player in the test prep game offers lots of online supplements.
Publisher: Ivy Global
Year: May 28, 2018
Number of Pages: 244
Our Final Grade: C
Ivy Global might be a new player in the test prep industry, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t add value to the industry. This book focuses on making question-and-answer explanations as easy to understand as possible.
It’s also very easy to read with a simple format and a friendly writing style. It doesn’t try to talk down to the student, but rather tries to be casual and approachable.
You will find three model tests with answers and explanations. However, if you register online with Ivy Global, then you get access to more practice tests.
- A very readable and easy to use prep guide
- The explanations are casual and approachable and very easy to understand
- Additional online resources and practice tests
- Sometimes the explanations are too simple and may not cover all the material needed
Frequently Asked Questions
The PSAT is the first major standardized test that most students face. It can be crucial to prepare well to gain confidence for future exams and have the best chance at National Merit Scholarships.
Here are some essential things to understand as you prepare for the PSAT.
How is the PSAT scored?
There are two sections, and each has a separate score. The scores range from 160 to 760 per section. The maximum score will range from 320 to 1520.
How many times can I take the PSAT?
You may take the exam in the 10th or 11th grade. The score you achieve in your junior year will determine whether you qualify for the National Merit scholarship program.
In many schools in the country, it is mandatory to take the PSAT in your junior year, though you can also sit for the test in your sophomore year.
What is the National Merit Cutoff Score?
There is a specific cutoff score for each state, and it changes from one year to the next. For places like California, which is very competitive, the cutoff score can be as high as 1470, while states like Alaska, which are less competitive, the cutoff can be 1400 or lower.
Passing the PSAT is not only a great way to prepare for the SAT and ACT, but is also an excellent opportunity to qualify for a prestigious National Merit Scholarship.
By preparing as well as possible for the PSAT, you will gain the confidence to succeed. Ideally, this confidence will carry over to the SAT or ACT and other essential tests, such as your college CLEP exams.
The books on this list should help you get the knowledge and confidence to succeed in the PSAT regardless of your study style and how much time you have to prepare for the exam.