Monday, November 28, 2016

Study materials review: PWN the SAT Math Guide, 4th edition

It has taken me far too long to review the latest update of PWN the SAT Math Guide.  Author Mike McClenathan went to a great deal of trouble to update the guide for the new SAT.  My hesitation was, in part, due to the low number of clients taking the new SAT last spring.  I just didn't have as much call to use SAT materials in general, so I didn't get to see how the book worked out with actual students.  That is gradually beginning to change, and I'm beginning to get a feel for how much I'll be using this book and with whom.

Like earlier editions, the book is designed to be used in conjunction with the practice tests that were released by the College Board.  (These were once compiled in a book that we in the test prep field referred to as The Blue Book.  The book is now teal, but the tests can also be accessed online here.)

I reviewed the 2nd edition - for the old SAT - in April 2013. At the time I said, "PWN the SAT is well-organized, comprehensive and entertaining.  It introduces a concept or technique, provides some practice problems, and then supplies a list of relevant problems in the Blue Book. You are encouraged to use the Blue Book tests for testing practice, but if nothing else the length of the list will tell you how likely you are to run into that type of problem on the SAT.  At the end of the book is a breakdown of all of the problems in the Blue Book tests with difficulty level and techniques or concepts needed along with PWN page numbers for those techniques."

These things are still true.  There are, however, a couple of things that will keep my copy of this book from becoming as well-worn as it's predecessors.  First, the problems in the former additions "felt like" SAT problems.  Many of the problems in the 4th edition don't feel like new SAT problems.  They are excellent exercises that will build skills, but their application to the test is less direct.


Second, the previous book worked well for students who had been scoring above 550, but wanted to be scoring above 600.  Many of the problems in this book are too difficult for a large portion of my students.  I would recommend it for students who



  • are strong math students who are underperforming on the SAT AND
  • are currently scoring at least 650 on the math section.

If that describes you, and you would like to order a copy, there is a link at the bottom.  The price makes this book a good value and there are additional resources available online for people who purchased a copy.

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