Monday, November 16, 2015

Study Materials Review: Kaplan New SAT Premier 2016

As soon as the College Board announced changes to the SAT, people began publishing study materials for it.  The more responsible ones waited until after the practice tests had been published.  These materials are now finding their way to book store shelves.  I recently examined Kaplan's offering.

As a general rule, I like Kaplan's stuff better than Barron's or Princeton Review so I was hopeful that this would be a viable option.  Like most of the stuff out there, it's better for some things than for others.  Here are some impressions:

First of all, this thing is HUGE.  1337 pages, PLUS a DVD, PLUS access to online materials.  The sticker price is also relatively large at $36.  (It's a lot less on Amazon.)  I haven't read the whole thing, and I haven't examined the DVD or the online materials, so keep that in mind.

About 1/3 of the book is math review.  They assume nothing about the student's preparation: they begin with PEDMAS.  In my opinion this is a waste of space.  A student who needs help with PEDMAS needs help from a human, but whatever.  I did appreciate that there are a wide variety of targeted exercises for each section.  This book is quite useful for the student who has seen the material in class, but may not have been exposed to all of the different ways he or she could be asked about the material.  For each section there is also an estimate of how likely the topic is to appear on the test. The sections on statistics are quite nice for the strong math student who just never covered those topics, and I like the fact that they included instructions on how to use the statistical features on the TI-84 graphing calculator.  That will be useful for a lot of students.

The second third of the book is reading and grammar.  I thought the passages were well-chosen, and they advised the student to mark up the passage and take notes in the margins.  However, they didn't go into enough detail about what the student should be marking.  Then they actively discouraged re-reading the text while answering the questions on the grounds that there wouldn't be enough time.  I really have done much to work with students on this test, but my impression is that only the slowest students should be pressed for time.  Maybe I'll change my mind this spring.  The practice questions didn't feel like SAT questions.  So far we only have four practice tests to go on, but still....  They were just "off."

The last third of the book consists of 2 practice tests and then answers and explanations for the tests and all of the practice questions.  I got disgusted and quit midway through the reading test.  The questions were just strange. I really haven't examined the grammar, yet.  I though the math questions were the right style, but I haven't decided if their mixture of questions and topics makes for a good practice test.  I thought the tests released by the college board were uneven, so it will take a few administrations of the real thing to really know.

Anyone wishing to start studying for the reading or grammar sections should order Erica Meltzer's books (links below.) Kaplan's New SAT Premier 2016 might work well for the math while we are waiting for Mike McClanathan's new edition to be published.  Hopefully, the math portion of this tome will be published separately - and at a cheaper price.

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