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Chris Lele

The Princeton Review Cracking the SAT 2012 Book Review

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If I were the CEO of Princeton Review I would employ editors. Princeton Review is notorious for releasing books with thousands of questions—that have thousands of errors/typos. The sad part is the content in many of their books, like Cracking the SAT, do a decent job of approximating the given test. Read Amazon, and The Princeton Review is roundly lambasted for bungling up the answer choices (really, this much like a 2100 SAT student who mis-bubbles the answers and gets a 1200).

What most of the negative reviewers don’t realize is Princeton Review does a better job of approximating the test than does Kaplan, who, despite only sporadic typos, doesn’t really score points for an accurate rendering of the SAT.


Critical Reading

That said the questions aren’t perfect. The reading passages—while mostly similar in content to those found on the actual test—are accompanied by questions that just aren’t that SAT in nature. Indeed, I tend not to use the book in my tutoring sessions for this very reason. I want to make sure that students prep with questions written by College Board, as it has a way of creating attractive wrong answer choices.

The reality is it is very difficult to approximate College Board. Simply put, no book on the market has done a convincing job. So this isn’t a knock against TPR specifically, but against most test prep books to date.



The math is stronger than the verbal section. I like the profusion of Coordinate Geometry questions. These are great for my students, most of who need practice with these question types. In this department, TPR totally blows away Kaplan—in fact, I don’t even know if Kaplan is aware that there are parabolas on the SAT (which of course isn’t surprising since Kaplan has hardly updated its content in 15 years!).

All is not perfect—much like the Writing the difficult level of questions does not correspond well to the question number. Meaning that a question #20 (presumably a very difficult one) is oftentimes easier than a question #12 (one that is typically of medium difficulty).



The questions are good practice for the real SAT. Again, the order of difficulty of the questions is off—a #29 often feels like a number #21, and a #19 can often feel like #25. Still, plenty of questions to practice. My major gripe is that the explanations are lacking. For instance, a student who wanted to self-study would probably be frustrated by the explanations.



Princeton Review shines in its strategies. They are clearly presented and are especially helpful to those who are scoring around 1500. For those students aiming for 2100, the strategies are not as helpful as those found in the Barron’s books.



Overall, The Princeton Review offers helpful strategies and relatively realistic questions (if you are willing to forgive the typos).

Grade: B

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About Chris Lele

Chris Lele is the GRE and SAT Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh Online Test Prep. In his time at Magoosh, he has inspired countless students across the globe, turning what is otherwise a daunting experience into an opportunity for learning, growth, and fun. Some of his students have even gone on to get near perfect scores. Chris is also very popular on the internet. His GRE channel on YouTube has over 10 million views. You can read Chris's awesome blog posts on the Magoosh GRE blog and High School blog! You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook!

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