I’m a Stanford educated private tutor who’s taught SAT prep for over 15 years. I have scored perfectly on the SAT (and ACT), built a decent sized YouTube channel with free SAT/ACT tips and college advice (SupertutorTV), designed a full scale online prep course for the SAT (The Best SAT Prep Course Ever), and written two books on the ACT math section (The Best ACT Prep Books Ever). In short, test prep is my jam.
If you want to prep for the SAT and get the best results possible, working with authentic practice exams is a MUST. This book is your best source, in book form, of such tests. That said, a couple caveats:
1) This book is NOT a wholly new book, but rather is an updated edition of the previous one(s). To 2018-2019’s book with 8 exams, this takes away two exams (tests 2 & 4) and adds in two new ones (tests 10 & 9, October 2018 and October 2017 US tests respectively). Just to clarify, the College Board has KEPT the naming system of the old exams for consistency (thank-you, College Board!), so when you flip open the book, the first test you’re given is labelled test #10, the second test #9, third test #8, etc. Had they renamed everything in this edition, chaos might have ensued! The parts of the book before the exams, on first glance, appears similar to the other editions. I will update as I work with the text if I see anything different.
2) 6/8 of the exams (tests 8, 7, 6, 5, 3, 1) in this book are available online free, as is most of the rest of the book from the College Board. If you’re looking for the non-test parts of the book, google SupertutorTV free SAT resources for links (I know they’re a bit hard to Google, though the tests are easily findable). In all likelihood, College Board will release tests 9 & 10 free online at some point in the near future. As of now (May 10, 2019), though, tests 10 and 9 are likely only available to those who took these exams and ordered a copy of the QAS (question & answer service) or as unauthorized copies floating around on the internet.
Still, I recommend most students have a hard copy of the book. As others have pointed at, at .02 a page, it would cost you more to print the whole book than to buy it in most instances. But I realize a few things: 1. Not all students are going to use the first half of the book, and many want the tests only. If you’re just using this for the tests, each is 64 pages, plus the essay, so then your printing costs are around $10 if your cost per page is .02 a page. 2. Not all students have time for 8 tests, and some may turn to other sources for advice. If you’re cramming and your test is in 5 days and you don’t plan to study for it more than once, the book may not be necessary.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s inside:
1) A general overview of each section of the exam.
Here the College Board describes “what” it tests. Much of this is in the form of descriptions of the kind of information you need to know and representative questions of each question type (these are somewhat useful for practice). That doesn’t mean it describes what you need to know in order to ace the exams, or the details of “what” you need to know are. For example, it will tell you you must know how to punctuate end of sentences, but it won’t list all the punctuation rules.
I will applaud the College Board on this iteration of the test for being more transparent about what is actually tested than previous ones. Still, as with any material provided by the maker of the exam, there are limits to how much the test makers will share in terms of cracking the exam. For example, the material on the reader section includes a side note in the margin to pay attention to contrast, cause and effect, and sequence indications in passages. These are all among my lists, as a tutor, of “flags” in answer choices, or styles of reasoning that the College Board often uses to trick students. Are all of my “flags” mentioned by them? Not exactly. Do they specifically show you what it looks like when they trick you by using cause and effect in an answer choice when the passage only indicates correlation. Sort of. But the clarity of pointing out exactly how to game the test isn’t always there. This is in part just the nature of being material from the test maker. What test maker wants to make their exam seem “crackable”? Instead they want to make it seem as if it’s fairly testing true standards of comprehension. That’s fine, but it means that these overview sections will not necessarily be all a student needs to fully realize their best score on the test. I typically recommend that students also inform their understanding of the exam with materials from voices who aren’t the test makers, whether on YouTube, through a course, advice online from top tutors, a book by an independent tutor, or tutoring itself.
2) 8 “real” SAT Tests. Note that now six of these tests have been officially administered to actual students, tests 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, and 5, which the College Board has put in this order for good reason. The more recent a test, the more likely the team that wrote it and their guidelines overlap with the team that’s writing YOUR SAT. There have been subtle shifts in time to the new exam (as there are over time with any standardized test), and these are most noticeable between the four “official” practice tests that the College Board released before ever administering this flavor of the exam to anyone (tests 1-4) and the rest of the exams, which were actually given to students at some point. Thus two of the preliminary “practice” tests have been ousted in favor of more recent, actually administered exams. Kudos to the CB for ordering these according to value (putting the most similar exams first, and other exams later). Still, some students may want to do tests 1 and 3 in the middle of their prep, saving the more similar tests for right before their exam.
3) Full text explanations for each answer choice. These will explain the right answers, and in terms of value, these are more hit and miss in terms of how much you can learn from them. For simple questions they do the job. For most math problems they present an answer that works, but sometimes shortcuts or content explanation is lacking. For more complex questions they may explain why a question is right, but often don’t explain why you were so tempted by the other choice and what subtlety made one choice superior. They also don’t offer much advice in the way of process. Often in hindsight, my students fully understand why B is right and C is wrong. They don’t understand how they can get themselves to SEE that fact while taking the test— and that is the holy grail of improving on the SAT (particularly on the reading section once you are past a 680 score-wise). There are a few process tips online from Khan Academy’s official SAT videos and from College Board, and some of that advice is good, though not complete. But the answer explanations themselves are less about process than about what is “right” and what is “wrong” (often expressed in near circular seeming logic) and in this sense may only help students to a degree. Again, getting more insights, by personal assessment, evaluation of your process, and advice from sources independent of the College Board will help round out this picture.
What’s NOT inside:
--Grading scales and charts, scoring worksheets
In other words, you must go online or use the app to figure out if you scored a 1400, the book does not include a numeric translation chart for each test.
I don’t really mind this, as CB has an awesome app that makes grading easy, referred to in the book. Just be aware it sometimes makes mistakes and you MUST use the bubble sheets to take advantage of this (it’s good to use bubble sheets anyhow, though, as it’s similar to the experience of the test itself). But know this is not in the book.
—Serious on the ground strategy
The book isn’t going to tell you to skim the occasional passage if you’re short on time or to skip the last few multiple choice answers and head straight for open answers on the math, or the kind of cues that make a choice “likely” to be wrong based on preferences of the test. Again I wouldn’t expect this from a test creator.
—In depth content on Grammar and Math
You’re not going to get in depth skills content on grammar and math that can be crucial for score improvement. Generally I recommend most serious students supplement use the tests here as a diagnostic tool. Then, they should use what they learned from the practice test(s) to identify and then drill specific areas they struggle with. For example, if you miss a question on comma use, you should review ALL the comma rules, then drill those down. If you miss a question on exponents, you should review ALL the exponent rules and drill them down. This book doesn’t offer this kind of focused review, at least not to the extent I like to have my students doing. You will not find a list of all the exponent rules you need to know, for example, or a list of appropriate times to use commas. You’ll need to go elsewhere for such content. (See example of geometry page in pictures: it lists "what" you need to know in terms of which formulas, but fails to provide actual formulas...)
Though some elements a full prep “diet” includes aren’t here, the College Board has literally created the most massive book ever on the SAT. I wouldn’t recommend trying to pack all this into one book…
Thank-you College Board for trying to level the playing field by making a grand swath of practice tests widely available. Thank you for making so much of this awesome resource available FREE online to those who can’t afford a book. And THANK YOU for publishing all of it in an affordable book that for most students is more than worth the $20 or so price tag.
For parents and students, this book is a critical resource for the SAT. But if you’re serious about test prep, it shouldn’t be your only one.
- Paperback: 1310 pages
- Publisher: College Board; Study Guide edition (10 June 2019)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1457312190
- ISBN-13: 978-1457312199
- Product Dimensions: 20.8 x 6.2 x 27.5 cm
- Boxed-product Weight: 1.8 Kg
- Average Customer Review: Be the first to review this item
- Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 44,946 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)