The "Big Blue Book" published by the Collage board is my personal choice for all my students and here is why:
1. Step-by-step practice section: A large portion of this book revolves around practice sets which walk students through every aspect of the test. There are not only practice problems but exercises to reinforce the new material along with quizzes as milestone markers. The quizzes and practice sets are short allowing students to work for less than 30 minutes a day and still progress quickly.
2. Vocabulary: There is no need to waste money on expensive flashcards, in fact it is usually much better if you create your own. My more artistically inclined students like to draw pictures to help them remember what it means. Others use color coding to help them remember if it is a positive or negative word, or what "category" it falls into. Lastly, this book not only provides a long list of words to use, but also exercises on how to break down words that you do not recognize. This is extremely useful as there is more than 800 recommended SAT vocabulary words and a strong change you will not remember EVERY word that you study.
3. Practice Tests: This is by far the best part of this book. As it is published by the Collage board, it includes real practice tests. These are tests from years passed which are made available to students. With 10 full length tests, there is definitely plenty of material for practice. Having actual tests allows students to fully prepare for their SAT's because they become comfortable with the question style and answer sheet.
4. Answers: Not all practice books come with detailed answers, even as a tutor I find this frustrating so I can only imagine what it would be like for a student practicing on their own. Even for students taking other exams such as the IB or AP tests, I always recommend getting a book with a good answer section, that way you can figure out not only the correct answer but how to arrive at the answer in the most efficient way. As more of a humanities person myself, I can usually figure out how to find the answer but sometimes it takes much longer than it should. Checking not only the answer but how you arrived at it can make a big improvement for students who struggle with time.
5. Student feedback: To me this might be the most important part of the recommendation. Many of my students have told me this was the best book for them because of the features I already discussed. If they like the book and are willing to put in time and effort then I like the book because it will help them improve... even if I am not around.
So there you have it, with SAT time approaching quickly and college applications do soon it is a busy time of the year. Remember SAT's are important to your college but only as part of a well-rounded academic and personal life.