By this point, all the big test prep book publishers (I’m talking College Board, Princeton Review, Kaplan, and Barron’s) have released a book for the redesigned SAT. But not all New SAT prep books are created equal: some you’ll want to use in their entirety (though only a few), others you’ll want to use only parts of, and others you’ll want to steer clear of.
To help you maximize your study time (and save your hard-earned cash) I’ve reviewed the top options for SAT books on the market and broken them down into the good, the bad, and the (not so) ugly. If you see the same book in multiple sections, don’t worry—you’re not going crazy. That just means that some publishers do a good job on some things (like practice tests or a specific section of the New SAT) and a sub-par job on other things. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t buy the book, but it might mean that you won’t use the book in its entirety.
We’ll start by looking at a brief summary of the books’ quality before providing detailed rankings and reviews below.
Best SAT Books of 2016 – 2017
|1 (tie)||B+||Kallis' Redesigned SAT Pattern Strategy||Kallis Education||2015||$32.95|
|1 (tie)||B+||Cracking the SAT Premium Edition with 6 Practice Tests, 2017||Princeton Review||2016||$35.00|
|2 (tie)||B||PWN the SAT: Math Guide||Mike McClenathan through CreateSpace||2016||$29.99|
|2 (tie)||B||500+ Questions for the New SAT||Princeton Review||2015||$34.99|
|2 (tie)||B||6 Practice Tests for the SAT, 2017 Edition||Princeton Review||2016||$17.99|
|2 (tie)||B||Barron's NEW SAT||Barron's Educational Series||2015||$19.99|
|7||C+||The Official SAT Study Guide 2016||The College Board||2015||$24.99|
|8||C||Kaplan New SAT 2016 Strategies, Practice and Review with 3 Practice Tests||Kaplan Publishing||2015||$7.18 (used)|
|9||D+||Kaplan's 8 Practice Tests for the SAT 2017||Kaplan Publishing||2016||$24.99|
|10||D||Kaplan New SAT 2017 Strategies||Kaplan Publishing||2017||$19.99|
|11||D-||Barron's 6 Practice Tests for the New SAT||Barron's Educational Series||2015||$14.99|
|12||UA: Utterly Atrocious||SAT Exam Secrets: Study Guide from Mometrix||Mometrix Media LLC||2013||$21.00|
|N/A (old SAT)||N/A||SAT Prep Black Book||SAT Tutoring||2013||$19.97|
|N/A (PSAT)||B+||Barron’s New PSAT 2016||Barron's Educational Series||2015||$14.99|
*List prices given at time of publication and subject to change
For even more, scroll down for my complete book review of each SAT book, or use these links:
- The Official SAT Study Guide 2016
- Barron’s NEW SAT, 28th Edition and Barron’s New PSAT 2016
- Barron’s 6 Practice Tests for the New SAT
- Kallis’ Redesigned SAT Pattern Strategy
- Kaplan’s 8 Practice Tests for the SAT 2017
- Kaplan New SAT 2017 Strategies
- Kaplan’s New SAT 2016
- Princeton Review’s 500+ Questions for the New SAT
- Princeton Review’s Cracking the SAT Premium Edition with 6 Practice Tests, 2017
- Princeton Review’s 6 Practice Tests for the SAT, 2017 Edition
- PWN the SAT: Math Guide
- SAT Exam Secrets: Study Guide from Mometrix
- SAT Prep Black Book
Questions, comments, concerns? Leave me a comment, and let’s get the discussion started.
The Good (the Best SAT Books of 2016 – 2017)
The Official SAT Study Guide (2016 Edition)
(The Practice Tests)
The Official SAT Study Guide is the holy grail of SAT test prep, a book that contains questions by the writers of the test (The College Board). Nowhere will you get a better sense of what to expect test day. Specifically, there are four full-length practice tests with explanations (see “The Bad” for a comment on the explanations).
Kallis SAT Pattern Strategy
Kallis is definitely a lesser-known publisher than the “big three” (Barron’s, Kaplan, and the Princeton Review), but they’ve come out with a solid book that can help you raise your score. The book is at its best when it’s describing the content of the New SAT. If it had a solid book of practice questions, this would be a home run.
Princeton Review’s Cracking the SAT Premium Edition with 6 Practice Tests, 2017
One of the big challenges many students are facing on the new SAT is working with graphic stimuli in all sections. Cracking the SAT Premium Edition with 6 Practice Tests, 2017 does a great job not only of explaining the way the test uses these problems and the strategies you can use to approach them, but also of giving you a good number of test-like practice problems to master them. There’s also a huge amount of math practice!
Barron’s 6 Practice Tests for the New SAT
Awkward writing, un-test-like questions with debatable answers, bare-bones explanations…while Barron’s sometimes puts out great products, Barron’s 6 Practice Tests for the New SAT is not one of them. There are so many better books of practice questions and tests out there—why waste your time and money?
Kaplan’s New SAT 2017 Strategies
You know when your teacher asks you to revise an essay, but the revisions are really big and you don’t have a lot of time, so you just kind of move some stuff around and stick some new section titles in there? Yeah. Kaplan New SAT 2017 Strategies is basically Kaplan’s New SAT 2016. Thus, I’ll just refer you below, to…
Kaplan’s New SAT 2016
(The Verbal Section)
Kaplan does such a bad job of approximating the verbal section that I think students would be better off not using any Kaplan verbal content. The writing section questions, for instance, make the test seem overly easy. The passages are supposed to be written by a professional, but the person who wrote these sentences is anything but, laboring to string sentences together cohesively (eloquence be damned!). (Read my full review of Kaplan New SAT 2016 below.)
Kaplan’s 8 Practice Tests for the SAT 2017
Now, take any quality of the Kaplan New SAT 2016 book, make it slightly more intense, and apply it to eight practice tests. Wait, you don’t have to—Kaplan’s 8 Practice Tests for the SAT 2017 has already done this for you. The math is okay at best, but the verbal is misleading and unhelpful. The graphs, and the way the book uses them, are far simpler than what you’ll see on test day, and that’s just the start of it. Steer clear!
The Official SAT Study Guide (2016 Edition)
College Board explanations leave something to be desired. If you didn’t quite understand why you missed a question, the explanations often aren’t very helpful. The strategy/test overview section of the book, which comes at the beginning, isn’t very useful. I can imagine many students scratching their heads after reading some of the tedious, vague explanations of question types.
SAT Exam Secrets: Study Guide from Mometrix Media
This book is so bad that it actually needs its own category: “horrifically horrific” (but we will leave it here for now). Usually I don’t like to pick on the little guys, but this book had so many positive reviews on Amazon that I had to review it. This book uses old SAT question types and has questions that are in no way like the actual exam. There is not one positive thing about this book. Avoid at all costs.
The (Not So) Ugly
Barron’s New SAT
Barron’s does a decent job overall of recreating test questions and a good job of dissecting the test and offering helpful examples. Out of the main third-party publishers (Kaplan and The Princeton Review are the two others), this book and the Princeton Review’s Cracking the SAT are the ones you should get. Scroll down for a review of Barron’s Strategies and Practice for the New PSAT.
Kaplan New SAT Premier 2016
(The Math Section)
Though Kaplan’s math is mentioned in the section above, the verbal section is a different breed altogether. Kaplan’s general guide does a good job of breaking up math concepts so you can get a sense of the different areas covered. Additionally, there is a helpful practice quiz at the end of each section.
Princeton Review 500+ Questions for the New SAT (2016 Edition)
The Princeton Review has, on the whole, done an okay job. The questions aren’t totally aligned — sometimes they are completely off — but, in general, what you get is a simplified version of the SAT: good for beginners, not so good for those wanting to prepare for the rigors of the actual test. Head down below for a full review of Princeton Review’s 500+ Questions for the New SAT.
Princeton Review’s 6 Practice Tests for the SAT
6 Practice Tests for the SAT, 2017 Edition is another okay effort from the Princeton Review. Like the 500+ Questions book, some of the math problems are too easy for students aiming for the top percentiles. On the other hand, the verbal here is pretty great, reflecting the new question types you’re going to see on the actual ACT. Not bad, Princeton Review. Not bad at all.
PWN the SAT
On its own, the PWN the SAT: Math Guide isn’t enough to prepare you for test day. In combination with a few other resources, though (namely, the Official Guide), it’s a great resource for students aiming for top math scores. It may scare off students who are weaker in math, who might want to try another math-specific guide (like Barron’s 1600) for practice first. But if you want those last few points to your dream score, PWN can help you get them.
We also have all the details on the Best SAT Books of 2015.
2016 – 2017 Best SAT Book Reviews
The Official SAT Study Guide 2016
This is like reviewing the Bible. The Official SAT Study Guide is so foundational to SAT success that it seems sacrosanct to suggest otherwise. So, instead of giving my five-star stamp of approval rating, I’m going to say something that might seem heretical: this book is flawed.
Sure, the questions in this book might be indispensable, but is the book uniformly useful? No. And here’s why.
The questions in this book are Mt. Sinai level. The SAT gods part the skies and give us a taste of what to expect when the test debuts in a couple of months. All the nuances, all the traps, all the idiosyncrasies are there for us to behold, and the more you understand them, the better prepared you’ll be come test day.
However, there are a couple of ‘buts,’ some of which are big…
The practice questions in this book are available for free online, and, since the questions are by far the best thing about this book, you might rightly start to wonder whether you need to actually purchase this book. What follows might indeed make you think you don’t need the book at all.
Hi, I’m going to play pretend today. I’m going to pretend I’m the person or people who wrote the explanations for the questions.
Choice (A) is the best answer because the information in the passage best supports (A). Line 11-13, <insert quote here> show this.
(B), (C), and (D) do not specifically answer the question.
To be fair, the explanation of the right answer is often more thorough. As for why the wrong answer is wrong, forget about it. That is about as specific as it gets. In the end, you are likely to find these explanations laconic to the point of infuriation. This is problematic, since understanding your mistakes is one of the best ways to improve.
I like the way the book breaks down the test so we can see what has changed since the old test. However, there is so much terminology that I imagine students getting bogged down thinking they have to know what nonrestrictive and parenthetical elements are, or that these needlessly complicated terms are known as “conventions of punctuation.”
What we don’t get is a solid explanation of grammar concepts and how they relate to the test. Nor do we get strategies on how to approach these questions. In fact, I feel like the first few hundred pages are more for people like me — people who want to understand how the test is constructed — and less for students, who need help understanding how to solve the actual questions.
In sum, you don’t need to buy this book. For review, you are much better off going with any of the major publishers on the market. For practice questions, there is no better source than the College Board, but the fact that they have made this content available for free online makes this book unnecessary, if not unhelpful. Now let’s hope the clouds don’t part and the College Board strikes me down with lightning.
Grade: C+ (or ‘R’ for redundant)
Barron’s NEW SAT, 28th Edition and Barron’s Strategies and Practice for the New PSAT/NMSQT
How long do you think it would take you to memorize 71 pages of word definitions in teensy-tiny type? Is there enough time before test day? If not, and you’re looking for verbal help, you’d better look elsewhere. Other than those 71 pages, there’s only about 60 pages of Reading test help here, and ditto for Writing and Language. Furthermore, Writing and Language is full of lists that made even my eyes glaze over. How helpful is a list of conjugated irregular verbs when you’re studying for the SAT? Well…
…Sorry, I just fell asleep there for a moment. Those lists are not helpful at all.
On the other hand, the math is great! The strategies are solid and helpful, the concepts are broken down well, and it hits that Goldilocks sweet spot of around 200 pages—enough to help you enormously without being overwhelming.
Answer explanations are great on the practice sets, but less so on the practice tests (“A is the right answer because xyz. B is not the right answer because it is not xyz”).
Finally, flashcards! This is exciting. There are lots of these at the end of the book that you can punch out, carry around with you and, maybe, look at from time to time.
Math practice, here you come! Lists of definitions and verb conjugations, there you go!
All told, I think you might also want to consider…
Barron’s Strategies and Practice for the New PSAT/NMSQT
Sure, this is not a guide for the New SAT. But did you know that the PSAT and SAT have the same content? Sure, there are subtle differences in the way the easy and difficult questions are arranged. For instance, the PSAT tends to have more ‘easy’ questions and fewer ‘hard’ questions. But, honestly, most can’t really tell the difference.
So if you are looking for practice content for the redesigned SAT exam (debuting in March 2016), Barron’s Strategies and Practice for the New PSAT/NMSQT is a great place to find it. There are two practice tests at the end of the book, and some practice content, albeit not much, at the beginning (this is a slim volume, coming in at a mere 257 pages).
Given that there are so few great practice books out there for the New SAT (those few that are out there don’t have the best practice content) Barron’s for the PSAT is a valuable addition. So if you find that you have burned through the tests in the College Board SAT Study Guide, or if you’d like a warm up for the real test, Barron’s is a good place to start. You’ll get used to the format and the question types.
That is not to say that the book is without flaws. After all, nobody can create questions that truly mimic the actual test. But Barron’s does a decent job; prepping with this book will likely help you raise your score. Using this in conjunction with the College Board book, though, is best to really get a feel for the test, specifically the wrong answer choices the test will try to fool you with.
Also, this book is about practice questions — advice on strategies and techniques is scant. So at the very least you’ll need to supplement this book with one that provides tips on how to approach the test and a review of fundamentals and concepts covered on the test.
A good place for a couple of practice tests.
Barron’s 6 Practice Tests for the New SAT
Usually a name to trust in the SAT test prep book world, Barron’s has created a book of six tests that don’t accurately mirror the real test and will likely cause more frustration than enlightenment.
The editors seem a little tone deaf in their selections. This is surprising, since the College Board has been very clear about the types of passages it is using. It wouldn’t hurt to practice with the passages in this book. But with so much out there in the SAT prep book world, why waste your time with passages that aren’t reflective of the type of writing you’ll see on test day?
Many of these passages aren’t very well written. But that’s not my biggest carp. Too many of the questions have debatable answers or flat out unfair answers (apparently the test writers want you to know that in a medical context “ambulatory” refers to doctors/nurses who travel out, and you are not supposed to pick “itinerant”). To make matters worse, the explanations are meager at best. A typical explanation looks something like this:
(A) is not grammatical. (B) is the most grammatical. (As for (C) and (D), they don’t even mention them.)
I want to say that any practice can’t hurt. But the wrong kind of practice can hurt. Math problems at the beginning of a section that are harder than anything on the actual test are only going to hurt students’ pacing. After all, the SAT is a performance test. You want material that accurately measures the section you’ll see test day. True, Barron’s matches the content pretty well, but since the test skews difficult, most students are going to feel frustrated.
The math content is good practice for high-scoring students, though the ordering of difficulty is so far off that I’d only recommend students pick and choose questions, rather than go through an entire section. This of course defeats the purpose of a practice test.
The content doesn’t match up well with the actual test. The ordering of difficulty — how questions in the math section are ordered — is all over the place. The reading passages are more stylistic and less informative than the typical New SAT passage. And the writing passages are sloppily put together, with debatable answers.
Since this book is supposed to serve as a series of practice tests, it fails miserably. Students who work through this book might—as often happens with subpar material—hurt their score, since the logic of some of the questions is so contrived that students could end up applying screwy logic to real questions. Never a good idea!
Kallis SAT Pattern Strategy
Kallis is a bit of an enigma. I’d never heard of it before I saw its 5-star rating on Amazon. From its website, it seems that they have a grand total of three books: this book for the New SAT and two TOEFL texts. Who exactly are they?
Perhaps more important, how is it that this amorphous newcomer was able to create a text for the New SAT that far outdoes that of any other publisher to date?
Luckily, we don’t really need to be able to answer that question to reap the benefits this book offers. The content review for each section is thorough, clear, engaging, and, most important, helpful. Of course, many publishers do content review fairly well. Where most flounder is in writing the practice tests. Kallis isn’t perfect — it’s exceedingly difficult to write questions that mimic the real test — but they do a respectable job.
Here are some minor quibbles:
- The writing questions tend to be more difficult than those on the actual test and don’t quite have the feel of those questions. Hard to put my finger on, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Usually I can cite exactly how questions miss the mark — maybe because the other publishers miss it so widely.
- The reading passages are sometimes spot-on. Other times they are too stylistic and more reminiscent of the old SAT. There also might be more of a focus on trap answers than on the actual test, but not in a way that would affect your performance on the real test.
- The book does a great job in presenting the content you need to know for the new test. However, it doesn’t do the greatest job at discussing strategies. For instance, it shows you the tedious and not-necessarily intuitive way of setting up complex equations rather than the tried-and-true way of plugging in values. Likewise, the writing section recommends always reading the question first instead of reading the passage first, or at least a paragraph at a time. I advocate for a nuanced approach, one that takes into account both tactics.
- Word problems in the math section tend to contain far fewer words than those on the actual exam. The contexts used in the examples are often a little too relatable. Gone is the more esoteric fare of the actual test—bacteria in a petri dish, strength of a satellite signal, etc.
- The breakdown of the math questions doesn’t reflect the actual test that well. The last four questions in one section are geometry questions. That wouldn’t happen test day.
An all-around excellent New SAT prep book, one that is great for the motivated self-studier, especially one who aims to score in the top 20%. I intend to use it to tutor, which is a lofty compliment, given that I say this about very few prep books outside of the official materials.
(Quick update: I ended up using this book for my class, and it turns out that quite a few of the writing questions have debatable answer choices, or at least wrong answers that aren’t quite wrong enough. For that reason, I’m lowering the grade from an A- to a B+.)
Kaplan’s 8 Practice Tests for the SAT 2017
It’s an unfortunate truth that taking high-quality practice tests is vital to boosting your score on the SAT, but that finding good materials can be a challenge. 8 practice tests is a tempting offer—after all, the Princeton Review’s most recent books offer only 6! But 8 mediocre tests…? That’s a different story.
As with the Kaplan guide, the math sections here are far more reflective of the actual test than the verbal sections are. More question stems are longer, and there are more word problems than you may see on test day, but that’s still good practice. After all, word problems just make you figure out how to set up the equations for yourself, and that’s not a bad thing.
In terms of the verbal sections (Reading Comprehension and Writing), though? One word: scary. Why? Where to start…
- Kaplan hasn’t mastered how the College Board now uses graphic stimuli in verbal sections. Their charts and graphs are far less complicated than the real test.
- The verbal questions go back and forth. Either they’re all on the easy end of the spectrum (no matter how Kaplan has classified them), or they’re impossible to the point of being unfair, particularly when it comes to synonyms.
- The Reading section also suffers from Kaplan’s treatment of paired passages. The questions on these passages are both weak and scarce, particularly those asking students to consider one passage in light of the other.
- This is a common problem in SAT prep books, but it’s still a problem: Kaplan’s guide has chosen nearly all its literature passages from pre-1900 sources. This is not reflective of the actual test! It makes sense from Kaplan’s perspective — pre-1900 passages are open source and thus can be reprinted for free — but it’s really not fair to test-takers, who will see a lot more modern material on the exam.
- The new Reading passages about science on the SAT are going to challenge students in a variety of ways: terminology, concepts, use of data. Kaplan’s science passages are better suited to the old SAT than to the new one.
I don’t love anything enough about this book to call it “good.” At a stretch, the math problems are okay practice for students looking for medium-level questions. One minor but helpful aspect of the verbal section is that in Reading Comp., the answer key provides sample “Passage Maps” to show students the kinds of notes they should be taking to answer questions well.
Almost everything verbal! Unrealistic use of graphs, particularly where science passages are concerned in Reading Comp; un-test-like questions and passages; a mixed bag of unfair and unchallenging Writing questions.
One of the gravest sins here is that the book doesn’t explain wrong answers at all. It shows you the thought process of arriving at the right answer, but this won’t be enough for a lot of students (it wouldn’t be enough for me!).
The math’s okay, if on the easy side; the verbal’s atrocious.
Kaplan New SAT 2017 Strategies
As I mentioned above, this book feels like what would happen (did happen?) if the folks over at Kaplan read our review of the 2016 book and went, “Oh, maybe we should change that. But…we don’t really feel like it today.” At first glance, you might think that it’s a different book, but all they’ve done is change the order of the problems. At least 90% of problems and passages are the same as in the 2016 book and come with all the attendant problems.
The practice test is different. However, I tried to get online access (as promised by the book) to the two additional tests, and…
The Kaplan website wouldn’t accept my registration for the tests. This may have been a problem on my end, but it’s worth noting that you have to give them a TON of info in order to get to those tests, even when it does work. That way they can put you on all those sweet, sweet marketing lists.
For all I know, the new test in the book may be one of last year’s online tests—or not. The registration process was just too complicated (and annoying) to get that far.
Everything about last year’s book is still true of this year’s, so take a look below.
If you’re going to buy a Kaplan book, it might as well be the 2017 edition, as there is a tiny bit of new info here. But, honestly, the verbal still isn’t good, the math hasn’t changed, and you may find that you don’t end up getting all the practice tests you paid for.
Kaplan New SAT 2016 Strategies, Practice and Review with 3 Practice Tests
Kaplan has created a Jekyll and Hyde guide. On the one hand, there is an excellent math section. Kaplan really takes time to teach basic strategies. Students will understand many of the concepts before moving on to the practice questions—questions that reinforce many of the principles learned in the review section. I had typically avoided using Kaplan for the last SAT, since the content was too easy; students would often gain a false sense of confidence. In this book, some of the questions are actually more difficult—or at least involved—then the questions offered in the College Board book.
But it’s in the creation of the actual questions and passages where Kaplan just can’t seem to bring it together. What that means for the student is that they are getting a test that doesn’t really prepare them for the actual SAT. At best, questions and prompts are shoddy imitations of the real thing.
For instance, the essays that are part of the Writing section are supposed to be well-crafted pieces imparted in a strong, writerly voice. Instead, it feels like Kaplan had some hapless high-school student cobble together an essay. Gone is the sense of control and voice that even semi-professional writers can pull off. Sure, this sounds like a snobbish quibble on my part, but the truth is that this shoddiness affects the questions. Many are far too easy because the passage itself is too basic and doesn’t lend itself to nuanced question types or tricky trap answers that are sure to be there test day.
Reading Comprehension isn’t quite so bad. Still, the passages are taken from textbooks, not reputable journals. What that translates to is a lot of dry passages, written at a level devoid of the more sophisticated prose and ideas the College Board expects you to be able to navigate. What you’ll get—once again—is a section that looks like the New SAT Reading but is testing a comprehension level closer to that tested on the TOEFL test (that’s the test for those who learn English as a foreign language).
Use the Kaplan book for math strategies and practice; steer clear of the verbal.
Grades: Math: B+, Verbal: D-
Princeton Review 500+ Practice Questions for the New SAT
While I could easily fault this book (500+ Practice Questions for the New SAT: Created for the Redesigned 2016 Exam) for the lack of any content instruction, it would be unfair to do so, because the purpose of this book is to be a question bank. And on that level it scores a resounding meh. That is not to say it won’t be of use to lower-level students (you can probably see where my review is going). The Princeton Review has created questions that, while perfectly legitimate, aren’t quite as complex and nuanced as those found on the actual test. And you know what? That’s not necessarily a bad thing—if you are just starting off.
For many, that’s exactly what will be happening on the new test. The question types and the format will be unfamiliar. The Princeton Review is a great introduction. You won’t feel quite as challenged and will be able to focus on the new format. Once you feel confident with the Princeton Review book, you can move on to College Board material.
I should make it clear that I’m not saying, “Oh, this book is just an easy version of the test.” I’m saying it is an easier version of the real thing and it is a valid version. Unlike Kaplan’s books, for instance, which—at least for verbal—are much easier than the real test in an inaccurate way, the Princeton Review mostly stays true to the underlying subtleties of the questions and answer choices. It just doesn’t have the hard-level questions that make up 15-20% of the actual test.
Of course, you’ll have to pick up another book to help you with strategies and to review the fundamentals. Indeed, you’ll need a book that also has practice tests, since this book is made up of just one drill after another. But as a companion guide to a book of strategies and fundamentals, this book is a great place to start.
A great place to start drilling, especially if you are new to the test. But for practice tests and more difficult questions you’ll need another book.
Cracking the SAT Premium Edition with 6 Practice Tests, 2017
Hey, want to learn a lot about SAT math? Princeton Review’s Cracking the SAT Premium Edition with 6 Practice Tests is a good place to start. It has almost 300 pages of material to review, strategies to learn, and practice sets to, well, practice.
What’s that you say? Seems overwhelming? It is, a little. And if you’re looking for practice on Reading or Writing and Language, the book does offer good advice and practice sets — just not very much advice and not many practice sets (think 50-75 pages).
Yes, students do struggle with SAT math, but there’s no need to push it on them to the exclusion of the other sections. After all, you need to look at that composite score, too!
Otherwise, a pretty quality book.
If you want a total math review with lots of practice, this is a great place to start. Unlike a lot of other books, the verbal here is pretty solid as well. In particular, the Princeton Review seems to actually understand the College Board’s incorporation of graphs into the verbal section on the new SAT—a nuanced concept that few publishers get right.
Also, the six practice tests here are different than those included in the Princeton Review’s 6 Practice Tests for the SAT, so if you’ve bought both books, you’ll really get your money’s worth.
Some of the verbal advice is laughably obvious. For example, in Reading: “If you like to read novels and short stories, the literature passage may be a good place to start.” Writing: “The most important thing about Writing and Language questions is that you notice those questions and then answer those questions.” Oh, is that what I was supposed to do with those questions?
Really nothing to wince at.
A great place to overhaul your math scores if you have a lot of time before the exam. Also worth looking into for the use of graphs in the verbal sections.
6 Practice Tests for the SAT, 2017 Edition
Before we get into anything else, a quick clarification: The practice tests in this book are not the same ones that appear in the Princeton Review’s Cracking the SAT Premium 2017 Edition. All commentary here applies to the 6 practice tests book alone.
The math here verges on the easy side, but not so much so that it’s unfaithful to the test. It’s just missing those tough problems that you’ll need to answer correctly for a 700+ sectional score. If you’re looking to get your score up in the top percentiles, you’ll want to supplement the tests with practice problems from books like the College Board’s Official Guide.
The verbal sections here are also pretty strong. The science passages in the reading section are outstanding, and so is the Princeton Review’s use of graphic stimuli in these sections. These types of problems are going to be a new kind of challenge for many students on test day, and here we have difficult, test-like problems! Woohoo!
Answer explanations are also pretty good. The explanations of wrong answers are brief or even missing, but the clear explanations of why the right choice is right make this a relatively small issue.
Great test items for the new verbal passages and problem types. (Fantastic charts and excellent science passages!) Great medium- and low-level math items. Clear explanations for all problems.
Students hoping to score above 700 in math will need to supplement their practice with some truly challenging problems, which they won’t find here.
If we’re going to be really picky about it, there are only four tests here. The other two are online. If you’re going online, why not use the College Board’s official practice? Also, the actual test won’t be online, so…And the name of the book is 6 Practice Tests, when really it should really be 4 Practice Tests and Some Links. But I’m starting to quibble.
A good book for most students. If you’re hoping to score in the stratosphere (90th percentile or above), you might begin here, depending on where you are now, and move on to more challenging materials as you master these problems.
PWN the SAT: Math Guide
Many test prep books make the mistake of being dry — really dry. And that’s a problem when your subject matter is already dry to begin with. Mike McClenathan steers clear of any such aridity, injecting a “hey-we’re-in-this-together” voice as he takes you through all the important parts of the new SAT. And you never feel like he’s writing this book to meet some deadline. It’s clearly a labor of love. His affection for the material and the test comes across in nearly every page. But it isn’t that he just wants to geek out on the material — he genuinely seems to care that students improve their score.
That said, this book alone isn’t enough to improve your score — though it is a good start. You’ll want to make sure to complement it with the Official Guide (as the author encourages). Even then, I recommend a book like Barron’s 1600 Math book so you can get lots of extra practice questions. The questions in the PWN book, while okay, don’t quite impart the flavor of the current test. It seems that some of them are still steeped in the old-SAT-style of asking questions.
Another issue is there is no indication of whether a question in a practice set is ‘easy’, ‘medium’, or ‘difficult.’ This is problematic because, often, the section that introduces the topic uses clear, easy-to-follow examples. Then there’s a jump in difficulty in the problem sets, often because what you learned at the beginning of the chapter isn’t enough to answer the harder questions. For students who are just starting out, they might get easily frustrated and think, as they are wont to do, that they aren’t good at math. The problem sets would have been improved had they included easier questions and broken up the questions into discrete difficulty levels.
Luckily, the book gives us a clean breakdown of every question type in the Official Guide. That way, you can practice a concept on real SAT questions and have a rough idea of how difficult they are (the difficulty of these questions depends on where the question shows up in the section—easier questions are at the beginning; harder questions at the end).
Overall, a strong book for the self-studier who needs an accessible refresher of the math tested on the New SAT
The practice questions aren’t that representative of the new test and tend be overly difficult for those who are weaker at math.
Nothing ugly here!
SAT Exam Secrets: Study Guide from Mometrix Media
In my job as a book reviewer, I’ve never considered myself to be doing an ethical service. After all, I’m just advising which book to use and which one not to use. Apparently, this logic was turned on its head today as I read through Mometrix’s SAT Exam Secrets Study Guide.
I even decided to review this book because it was one of the highest-rated SAT books on Amazon, receiving five stars and nearly 100 reviews (it’s since dipped to 4.5 stars).
First off, I believe this is the last time I will ever trust Amazon. They’ve clearly been compromised by reviewers who get free versions of a book for an “honest review.” Rarely do I get this shrill—and I apologize if I’m coming across as abrasive—but the Mometrix book is so atrocious, so unworthy of more than a fly swatter, that I feel it is my ethical duty to warn others away from it. Especially when what is at stake is something as important as improving your SAT score. (I hope this review serves as a broadside against Amazon, i.e. a well-aimed kick in the butt).
So why is Mometrix so awful?
1. Annoying, ingratiating tone (think of the car salesman who puts his arm around your shoulder and calls you buddy).
2. Sentence Completions, which even my grandmother knows are no longer on the SAT, are included. (An aside to you Mometrix people (assuming you are not evil robots): my grandmother can write better questions than this—and she spoke broken English.)
3. Nothing about the Reading Comprehension section questions is valid. The questions ask, “What is something that the passage talks about in line 3?” And then they give you four answers (at least they got that right) followed by an answer that is lifted word for word from the passage.
How hard is it to realize that there are evidence-based reasoning questions and that they look a certain way? Or vocabulary-in-context questions? A fourth-grader could at least mold the question—and arguably write a better question than what’s in here.
4. You are teaching formulas that nobody will ever have to use on the SAT math section. (Mometrix, did you even take the SAT? Have you ever cracked open an SAT prep book?)
5. In discussing grammar, it behooves a prep book not to have glaring grammatical errors on nearly every page (sometimes every paragraph) of the book.
6. There is nothing wrong with organizing information in readily consumable chunks. Mometrix feels that it is okay to dump information into poorly organized and poorly formatted paragraphs (I’d rather read the New York City phonebook).
7. Mometrix, did you realize that the SAT contains a 44-question grammar section? You might want to include it in your next edition. Actually, do those hapless high school students whom you bamboozle with this travesty of a book by never releasing anything into the world again.
Amazon, say it ain’t so.
Grade: UA for utterly atrocious
SAT Prep Black Book: The Most Effective SAT Strategies Ever Published
An SAT student favorite. We aren’t reviewing the existing SAT Prep Black Book by Mike Barrett here because it is for the old SAT. If the publisher does revise the Black Book for the New SAT, you can count on our full book review here!!
In the meantime, for video explanations from SAT expert, Chris Lele, to questions from the Official SAT Study Guide 2016, check out our Magoosh SAT YouTube Channel!
For more information on how to put the best SAT prep books of 2016 to use in a complete study plan, check out our study schedules for the new SAT.
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