Saturday, January 27, 2018

What SAT/ACT prep books are still on my shelf? (SAT edition)

With the transition to the “new” SAT and the somewhat less comprehensive changes to the ACT, my prep resources have undergone a change.  Some books have been culled out or replaced with updated editions, and several new titles have been added.  This is the SAT edition.  Click here for the ACT edition.

Here are the winners:

For the overall test:

The Official SAT Study Guide, 2018 edition



The only parts I ever use are the practice tests.  These are available for free online, but you would need to print them out.  Depending on your printer, it might be cheaper to buy the book.  This was not true of last year’s book, which only contained 4 tests.

For SAT reading comprehension:

The Complete Guide to SAT Reading, Third Edition by Erica Meltzer



This book, which anchored my SAT shelf in the “olden days”, has been completely overhauled for the revised SAT.  It’s really all you need.

For SAT writing and language:

The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar, Fourth Edition by Erica Meltzer



Again, this guide was a staple prior to the SAT overhaul.  Ms. Meltzer was proactive in getting an overhauled guide to the test-prep community as quickly as possible.  That haste meant that there were a number of errors.  With this edition, those problems have been dealt with.  I do supplement with the ACT version (see below) for some students.

For SAT Math:

I really haven’t settled on just one.  Which book I recommend varies from student to student, and, while I generally have students acquire just one, a given students will end up using most of these while working with me, even if it’s just one set of exercises.

Kaplan’s Math Workbook for the New SAT



This is the one I use with students who are currently scoring less than 600 on an SAT or PSAT.  I like the way it starts off with linear equations and systems, and I like the way it divides the problems into easy, medium and hard so that we can work on the problems that will appear at the beginning of the test and avoid frustrating the student with those end-of-test problems that he or she will likely guess on anyway.

The College Panda SAT Math: Advanced Guide and Workbook by Nielson Phu



This book is first off the shelf for students who are already scoring 600+ and would like to score 700+.  It has a TON of problems in it, and I really like the treatment of probability and statistics which is one of the main areas those students need to concentrate on.

PWN the SAT Math Guide, Fourth Edition by Mike McClenathan



A previous edition anchored my SAT math section prior to the SAT revision.  Mr. McClenathan  helpfully published this quickly, but subsequent released tests have added some insight that indicates this book is a little off-the-mark.  I’m hoping for an update soon.  It is designed for students who have always done really well in math class, and are then surprised and disappointed by a less-than-stellar math SAT score.  As I tell my students, the problems go from zero to sixty in under 6 seconds.  There’s not a lot of easy or medium practice in there.

A Guide to the Math SAT by Richard Corn



There are some excellent problems in here, but I don’t pull it out quite as often because the book is weakest in the areas in which my students need the most help.   That wouldn’t necessarily be true for everyone, though – my students tend to be clustered at a handful of schools, so they share a lot of characteristics.

The losers:

Top 50 Skills for a Top Score by Brian Leaf

I used this one for certain students back in the day, but the updated version for the new SAT just doesn’t cut it.

Dr. John Chung’s New SAT Math, 2016

The bulk of this book is 10 complete practice tests.  Back when this book came out, we only had 4 official practice tests and extras were appreciated even if they weren’t quite as good as the official tests.  Now that we have more official tests, I don’t use this anymore.

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