We rarely know the face behind an SAT test prep book. Big name companies will slap their name on the cover without ever giving us a sense of who exactly the contributor(s) were. Are they perfect SAT scorers? Do they have years of experience refining the techniques they trumpet between the covers?
One might argue, who cares? Do we really need to know who wrote the content? Maybe. But when you know that the person who has written an SAT guide is himself an SAT tutor, one who has diligently and lovingly crafted a book based on his experience with his students, and one who has worked to really understand the test so that he could score a perfect 2400, then, I would argue, it makes a huge difference.
See, Mike McClenathan, author of the PWN the SAT books (and blog) “gets” the SAT, and is really excited about it. He wants to share that enthusiasm and knowledge with everyone. But he’s not just an SAT cheerleader. He has sedulously created and compiled high-quality SAT questions to instill some of the most important concepts for SAT success on the math section.
The PWN the SAT Math Guide is thorough—300+ pages of concepts and questions. But don’t think this book is a slog, like, say, Barron’s. McClenathan employs a light, fun tone that makes beastly looking diagrams of triangles and rectangles embedded in a circle seem, well, far less beastly. Going through the pages of this book, will be like hanging out with a really cool tutor, which I imagine is what McClenathan intended.
That is not to say this book is perfect (though it’s close). Sometimes, McClenathan may be a little too slangy for some (dropping in “kiss ass” and the like). Often he shows only one solution, usually the long one, instead of focusing on quick solutions or at least timesaving measuring such as guestimating.
But there is just so much to like here, and there is such an appreciation for the fine points of the SAT—questions aren’t numbered sequentially but based on their difficulty and where they would likely appear on the section. Sure, I would have liked even more questions, and some of the lower-level students may have found themselves wanting easier questions; there is a bit of jump between the concepts in the lesson and the actual questions. High-scorers will be happy though, as there are some legitimately difficult questions in the mix.
Finally, some may be unhappy that much of the practice material in this book is available for free on McClenathan’s blog, PWN the SAT. Yet, the blog is a sprawling entity—good luck hunting for and arranging information the way it is presented in this book. Which is to say, you have sections broken down by problem type/concept, followed by practice questions and clear explanations, all narrated in a friendly voice.
For those frustrated because much of the prep material on the market doesn’t prepare you for the actual SAT, the PWN Math Guide is a godsend. I know I’ll be using it for my SAT classes.