Unlike most of the other SAT prep books on the market, The Princeton Review’s 11 Practice Tests for the SAT and PSAT is not about strategies and test tips—it’s simply about questions. Lots of them. So if you bought this book, you are probably wondering how accurate these questions are, and how well they will prepare you for the actual SAT.
The quick answer is the questions are pretty accurate and they will prepare you pretty well for the exam. You may think that my use of the word “pretty” doesn’t sound like a ringing endorsement for the Princeton Review book. But considering what else is out there, the Princeton Review is clearly the best book in terms of the quality of its questions.
That’s right, compared to Kaplan (pretty terrible) and Barron’s (meh), Princeton Review’s questions actually feel like someone who knows the test well put a lot of time and thought into writing them. And lots of them they wrote: 10-full length SATs and a 1 full-length PSAT at the back (hence 11 tests).
When I do these reviews, I like to get really specific, breaking down the quality of questions per each section.
The Sentence Completions don’t quite have the density and style of actual SAT questions—but they come close. You’ll definitely get a good workout on the vocabulary front, though the really tough-level vocabulary is mostly missing from the tougher questions.
Interestingly, some of the hardest questions (usually the last question in each set) are even harder than what you’ll find on the SAT. The questions are worded in a subtle way so it is difficult to figure out exactly which word best fits in the blank (the real deal is easier in this case; it’s the vocab that’s tougher). In general, the questions do a good job of not making the word that fits in the blank too obvious.
For reading passages, Princeton Review has done a great job of picking passages that mirror the style and type found on the SAT. You’ll get the 19th century British literature passage; you’ll get the personal narrative written by someone of an ethnic minority (what I call “ethnic passages”); you’ll get the thoughtful passage by a scientist writing about some dilemma or issue. All in all, much of Princeton Review’s passages feel like the real deal.
However, none of these passages are as difficult and dense as a few of the passages you’ll get on an actual SAT. There are also very few, if any, level ‘5’ SAT questions. Sure there are some SAT-level distractors sprinkled in the answer choices, but the questions just aren’t quite as subtle and tricky as the ones that the SAT writes. So if you are looking to get 700+ on the Critical Reading section this book may not be that helpful.
The math is great. There is a trove of coordinate geometry questions, especially parabolas, a concept that flummoxes many a student. Basically, the variety of math questions that the SAT throws at you is captured here.
That is not to say there won’t be any surprises test day. For one, the hard questions aren’t as hard as the ones the SAT creates. In fact, sometimes they are easier than some of the medium-level questions. So as you get to the end of the math section in the Princeton Review book you won’t be sweating quite as much.
It’s important that you not only use this book for quant, or you’ll be in for a surprise test day, when you get an actual level 5 SAT math question. To avoid such a shock test day, I’d supplement the test with questions from the “Blue Book”, or previous SATs. John Chung’s math is another option, especially for those looking for a perfect score.
So though your quant score on the PR tests may be a tad inflated, the bank of questions still makes for good practice.
Out of all the books that I’ve reviewed, only Princeton Review truly knows how to write an SAT-quality writing question. This is truer in the case of Identifying the Error questions—so if you need practice with these question types you’ve got the best book to hone your grammar and SAT skills.
The Improving the Sentence and Improving the Paragraph question types aren’t as complex and difficult as the ones the College Board writes. Much of the complexity is and nuance of the actual test is missing. Still, you’ll get a lot of useful practice over the 11 tests. Just make sure that, if you use this book, that you periodically do real SAT questions, in order to get the “real feel” of these question types.
Indeed, this goes for all three sections of this book: Don’t only use this book, but make sure to supplement it with practice tests from the SAT “Blue Book”.
Overall Grade: B
If you’re in the market for SAT books, make sure that you also take a look at Magoosh’s full list of SAT book reviews. 🙂