Posted by: Sara Carbone on: March 30, 2012
I can’t say enough good things about the Princeton Review SAT study guide Cracking the SAT.
I’ve used it for over 10 years to prep students for the SAT. It’s both accurate – their questions match the real SAT’s closely – and clearly organized so that a student can easily step her way through it. And because it’s funny and frank with the reader about certain SAT truths, it’s readable, which is key for a kid trying to get through some potentially dull material.
Below are some suggestions about how to use the book to prep for the SAT. The timing of things will vary from student to student. Some need more weeks of practice, some need less, depending on their score goals and school workload. Students with learning difficulties and/or extra time will need to adjust their approaches as well.
I would also recommend buying The Official SAT Study Guide. It’s the prep book put out by The College Board, the people who administer the SAT. She can use the 10 SATs in it for additional practice sections (she’ll need them). If she’s taking the test for the first time in the spring of her 11th grade, she should begin prep at least 6-8 weeks before the test date. She can study with or without your help, depending on her level of skill and diligence.
Basics and Vocab: She should read the first sections explaining the basics about the test. These include info about the test layout, guessing penalty and strategies when aiming for a particular score. They also lay out The Princeton Review’s philosophy about the test – particularly the idea that ETS (the company that write the test) designs some answers to questions to trip up the typical student. This is a very helpful idea that the book revisits throughout.
I would then suggest she go the vocab section called The Hit Parade – 250 words the Princeton Review has determined show up on the SAT most frequently. She can cross out all the ones she knows and begin studying the remaining words, a little at a time. She may not get every word in her head. The goal is to get as many as possible.
She should then jump to the test section she feels is the roughest for her. Her PSAT score breakdown can help determine this (or she can take a practice test). A side note: I don’t speak about the math section of the SAT book here, as I don’t tutor SAT math. If it helps, I have heard the math section of the book is comprehensive and helpful.
Grammar: When she begins the grammar sections (of what ETS calls the Writing portion of the SAT) of the book, I would suggest she takes her time. She should move carefully through the grammar review and strategies for answering questions. The book lays out all the needed grammar in short, clear chunks. It helps if she underlines and folds pages on anything she needs to remind herself about (i.e. most students struggle with subjective vs. objective pronouns). She should take all the drills and score them to see what is tripping her up. If she wants extra practice (recommended!) she can review her school grammar lessons and try drills at Internet sites like the Guide To Grammar and Writing.
Then she can begin taking the grammar sections in the 4 practice tests at the end of the book – and the 4 available on the DVD. First several ones un-timed, scoring them when she is done and reading the answer explanations if she doesn’t know why she got them wrong. Then, at least a few weeks before the SAT date, she should do grammar sections timed on the bubble sheets provided. The pacing charts in the beginning of the book will help guide her around how many to guess on and leave blank.
Essay: She should read through the essay section in the book and do all the exercises. After that I would recommend that she do at least one essay a week, for a few weeks un-timed and then timed, following the book’s suggestions about pacing. If you are not the one looking over her essays for feedback, I would recommend that she bring them in to a willing English teacher at school. The College Board book also has some good advise about essays and some strong essay samples to read through.
Things I tell my students about the essay:
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