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Hi all,

 

I can't even believe I am here to ask this question - I remember reading the high school boards when my oldest was about 7!!

 

Anyway, can you all tell me your best recommendations for SAT study guides?  And tell me WHY about your rec?

 

I've seen Barron's at the library.  When I look on Amazon, I see several different SAT study guides - how do I know which one is best to use?  We are looking at using one over the next year, so that ds can take the SAT maybe in May 2015.

 

Thanks!

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Several recommendations come to mind (DD recommendations):

 

College Board Blue Book- good for tests (save first few for the end, as they were actually administered), not for advice so much

 

Barron's books are good (some people love Gruber's if you get a chance to look at that at your library)

 

PWN the SAT is DD's number one recommendation for math (for students consistently at/above 650)

 

 

One thing my daughter noticed is that the CR passages don't match up that well with real tests, so the real tests are probably the best.  

I think part of the picture is finding books that work well for your student.  Then you need to devise a plan to work through things systematically.   This may be obvious, so I apologize if it is.... but make sure your son/daughter understands not only why they got an answer wrong but also why the answers they got right were correct.   Many people I have talked to spend far too little time examining the results. 

 

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Hey Colleen,

 

In addition to the prep books mentioned, you might want to read "The Perfect Score Project."  It's a fun read with some good tips.  In our home, we prepped as follows:  reading, writing and math as part of daily school, Bravewriter's Timed Essay course, and many practice tests on Saturday mornings with conditions simulating the test followed by analysis of errors.  After analyzing the practice tests, we addressed problem areas; i.e. Analytical Grammar helped one dc with the English score, weekly timed writing for another, algebra review, etc.  We used several different study guides.

 

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For a study guides, we used McGraw-Hill.  It's good for test tips and building skills.  We primarily used the CR and writing sections, but I understand the math is good if you are missing any concepts.  

 

The overall CR recommendations in McGraw-Hill and the recommendations for building vocabulary are helpful.  (Both my dc used them.) And you can use the practice passages for CR--just know that they are not going to be like the real thing. There are 2 sections on writing--one covers the grammar/usage multiple choice questions and the other covers the essay. Dd used the grammar portion for review. She had had an excellent grammar course, but for some reason blanked on it all a few weeks before the test--this part of the book brought it back. Ds used the essay portion and found it very helpful.  It gives lots of good advice and good exercises for brainstorming on various topics, and handling the other aspects of the essay.

 

Other books we used:  SAT Math 800 (helpful with problem solving, although practicing with real SAT's is truly the best)

                                    Barron's SAT Writing (for dd, who just didn't click with McGraw-Hill's essay section)

 

For practice tests, I recommend not using the ones in McGraw-Hill or any other prep book. As hard as the authors try, their practice tests are not at all like the real thing.

 

I recommend practicing using the real SAT tests in the College Board Official Study Guide (the big blue book).  There's a practice method called the Xiggi method (google it to find out more) which is very effective. Basically you start by taking one sub-test at a time, with no time limit, and working through the questions carefully.  Then you go back through and analyze the questions you got wrong and the questions you got right. Figure out why the answer is what it is and how they got it.  Once you've practiced each kind of test a few times this way, then start timing and figuring out how to manage that (still going back to analyze the answers to each question).  We found that this kind of practice and analysis with previously released tests is the single most helpful way to prepare--especially for the math sections, since the problems are not straightforward.  On the math questions, it's helpful not only to analyze the answer, but to figure out what the most efficient way to get the answer would have been.

 

(By the way, it's helpful to also analyze your guessing strategy and accuracy--do you tend to guess right or tend to guess wrong? Too many wrong answers will hurt your score.  I have a child who can narrow it down to 2 answers and guess wrong every time! I had to practically order this child NOT to guess on the real test!)

 

For the essay, I took the Xiggi concept one step further with dd, and I think it turned out well.  Most people would start off right away trying to write a decent essay in 25 minutes. We started that way too, and dd's first attempt was not good at all. So instead, I had her take an essay prompt--a real one from the blue book--and write the essay in one sitting, but untimed.  Then I had her go back and not only look at the samples of high scoring essays in the blue book for comparison, but also revise her essay to make it better.  I worked with her to analyze different ways she could have approached it or organized it, different theses or examples she could have used, etc. Then she'd rewrite it. Once she got the hang of it, and her initial essays were better and flowing more easily, then we added the element of timing. As she got better, we continued the analysis but dropped the rewrite.

 

Anyway, I hope these books and tips help!

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Several recommendations come to mind (DD recommendations):

 

College Board Blue Book- good for tests (save first few for the end, as they were actually administered), not for advice so much

 

Barron's books are good (some people love Gruber's if you get a chance to look at that at your library)

 

PWN the SAT is DD's number one recommendation for math (for students consistently at/above 650)

 

 

One thing my daughter noticed is that the CR passages don't match up that well with real tests, so the real tests are probably the best.  

I think part of the picture is finding books that work well for your student.  Then you need to devise a plan to work through things systematically.   This may be obvious, so I apologize if it is.... but make sure your son/daughter understands not only why they got an answer wrong but also why the answers they got right were correct.   Many people I have talked to spend far too little time examining the results. 

Ah, good point about finding a book that works well for him.  I think I will have a look at both Barron's and the blue book.

 

I briefly skimmed the physics blue book yesterday - there was mention in there of examining the results - it's a good point you make, that I might not have picked up on.  Thank you.

 

Hey Colleen,

 

In addition to the prep books mentioned, you might want to read "The Perfect Score Project."  It's a fun read with some good tips.  In our home, we prepped as follows:  reading, writing and math as part of daily school, Bravewriter's Timed Essay course, and many practice tests on Saturday mornings with conditions simulating the test followed by analysis of errors.  After analyzing the practice tests, we addressed problem areas; i.e. Analytical Grammar helped one dc with the English score, weekly timed writing for another, algebra review, etc.  We used several different study guides.

 

That does look like a fun read!  I reserved it from my library.

 

 

For a study guides, we used McGraw-Hill.  It's good for test tips and building skills.  We primarily used the CR and writing sections, but I understand the math is good if you are missing any concepts.  

 

The overall CR recommendations in McGraw-Hill and the recommendations for building vocabulary are helpful.  (Both my dc used them.) And you can use the practice passages for CR--just know that they are not going to be like the real thing. There are 2 sections on writing--one covers the grammar/usage multiple choice questions and the other covers the essay. Dd used the grammar portion for review. She had had an excellent grammar course, but for some reason blanked on it all a few weeks before the test--this part of the book brought it back. Ds used the essay portion and found it very helpful.  It gives lots of good advice and good exercises for brainstorming on various topics, and handling the other aspects of the essay.

 

Other books we used:  SAT Math 800 (helpful with problem solving, although practicing with real SAT's is truly the best)

                                    Barron's SAT Writing (for dd, who just didn't click with McGraw-Hill's essay section)

 

For practice tests, I recommend not using the ones in McGraw-Hill or any other prep book. As hard as the authors try, their practice tests are not at all like the real thing.

 

I recommend practicing using the real SAT tests in the College Board Official Study Guide (the big blue book).  There's a practice method called the Xiggi method (google it to find out more) which is very effective. Basically you start by taking one sub-test at a time, with no time limit, and working through the questions carefully.  Then you go back through and analyze the questions you got wrong and the questions you got right. Figure out why the answer is what it is and how they got it.  Once you've practiced each kind of test a few times this way, then start timing and figuring out how to manage that (still going back to analyze the answers to each question).  We found that this kind of practice and analysis with previously released tests is the single most helpful way to prepare--especially for the math sections, since the problems are not straightforward.  On the math questions, it's helpful not only to analyze the answer, but to figure out what the most efficient way to get the answer would have been.

 

(By the way, it's helpful to also analyze your guessing strategy and accuracy--do you tend to guess right or tend to guess wrong? Too many wrong answers will hurt your score.  I have a child who can narrow it down to 2 answers and guess wrong every time! I had to practically order this child NOT to guess on the real test!)

 

For the essay, I took the Xiggi concept one step further with dd, and I think it turned out well.  Most people would start off right away trying to write a decent essay in 25 minutes. We started that way too, and dd's first attempt was not good at all. So instead, I had her take an essay prompt--a real one from the blue book--and write the essay in one sitting, but untimed.  Then I had her go back and not only look at the samples of high scoring essays in the blue book for comparison, but also revise her essay to make it better.  I worked with her to analyze different ways she could have approached it or organized it, different theses or examples she could have used, etc. Then she'd rewrite it. Once she got the hang of it, and her initial essays were better and flowing more easily, then we added the element of timing. As she got better, we continued the analysis but dropped the rewrite.

 

Anyway, I hope these books and tips help!

 

Yes, thank you!  And I'll see if the McGraw-Hill book is in the library so I can have a look at it.

 

Thanks for all the tips, too.  I am starting to see a pattern - use the real tests for practice, and analyze everything afterwards. 

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Colleen,

 

To put another wrinkle in it for you.  Your DS will be taking the old version of the test, but your 13yo will be taking the new version, so you'll need to get all new practice materials for the SAT!!!  The writing will be dropped for your 13yo.  It will be back to the 1600 scale.

 

Ugh, I KNOW!!!  I just figured that out a few weeks ago.  Oh well, lol!!

 

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  • 1 month later...

I want to add my recommendation for the Blue Book (The College Board's The Official SAT Practice Guide). It is so important to study with the actual questions written by the folks who will be writing the SAT. All the other material tries to be similar - but it's not the same and sometimes can be off by miles. Stick with the real thing. And start at Test 4 - Save Tests 1-3 for full take-the-whole-test-at-once practice - those are the only tests that were previously administered so the scoring tables are most accurate (the scoring tables for the rest of the tests are just estimates)

 

Here are a couple ideas for supplementing:

 

For math whizzes, PWNthe SAT is a great addition - but only for kids 600 and above. Otherwise it's just too tough.Mike has created a great book that really pushes kids on the concepts they need to know. And it's written in a venacular that kids love. For kids in the 400-600 range, Phil Keller's book The New Math SAT Game Plan is great

 

I've found two other resources for critical reading and writing, both created by Erica Meltzer: The Critical Reader is terrific for kids 600 and above. Her Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar is great grammar practice for kids of all score ranges (though homeschoolers tend to be strong in grammar and often don't need extra help)

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We used the blue book published directly by the College Board.

http://www.amazon.com/Official-SAT-Study-Guide-2nd/dp/0874478529/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1397246564&sr=1-1&keywords=sat+college+board

mainly because it contains official SATs for practice, not similar tests written by a different publisher.

 

My older son, who just finished high school, preferred this one for the SAT.

 

He also went with the College Board books for AP subject tests. However, he felt the Barrons books prepared him better for AP tests.

 

I agree that for practice tests, going to the source is probably best. Nevertheless, using another book for prep is useful if it suits your child better. Sadly, that might mean two books. 

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I want to add my recommendation for the Blue Book (The College Board's The Official SAT Practice Guide). It is so important to study with the actual questions written by the folks who will be writing the SAT. All the other material tries to be similar - but it's not the same and sometimes can be off by miles. Stick with the real thing. And start at Test 4 - Save Tests 1-3 for full take-the-whole-test-at-once practice - those are the only tests that were previously administered so the scoring tables are most accurate (the scoring tables for the rest of the tests are just estimates)

 

 

 

My older son, who just finished high school, preferred this one for the SAT.

 

He also went with the College Board books for AP subject tests. However, he felt the Barrons books prepared him better for AP tests.

 

I agree that for practice tests, going to the source is probably best. Nevertheless, using another book for prep is useful if it suits your child better. Sadly, that might mean two books. 

 

Thank you both for these replies.  Each contains tidbits that are helpful to my thinking.

 

I did end up buying the Barron's guide because of recommendations here, though I would have alternately/also bought the blue book.  I couldn't get the blue book in time, though, as it has a four-week ship date on amazon.ca - that wasn't enough time for ds to start prepping without feeling stressed.

 

His test-prep is going pretty well, I think.  He picks up the Barron's guide often during the week, and he has been figuring out the "test-taking game" aspect of it all (as well as boning up on physics concepts/formulas he doesn't quite understand and figuring out where he went wrong in practice tests).  He has been taking practice tests, and I have been perusing the boards here (as well as researching elsewhere online) for information about test scores, percentiles, reasons for taking this particular test, etc.  I've found some very helpful information on these forums.  I've hyperventilated as I've read about how it's a small group of students who take the subject tests, therefore making what I thought were good scores seem mediocre!!  And then I've relaxed again as I've seen that others have their kids do these tests for the same reason I am - outside validation of high school science course evaluation/transcript grades. And I've gotten an idea of what scores approximately equal which goals for taking these tests. Also a friend of mine who is a physician and who said she took tons of standardized tests throughout her education (an experience I did not have - I only took the PSAT and SAT once each many moons ago) gave ds the lowdown one evening on how to prep and how to take the test.  It was helpful advice (that we found reinforced in the Barron's guide).  Today after taking another practice test he started freaking out about not getting 800.  I had to talk him down from that by re-stating what my purpose is in having him take the test. *I* thought he did pretty well, and some online research confirmed that to him.  (But yes, I understand that the actual test may be scored differently)

 

For fun I even searched online for my high school graduating year and the scores/percentiles for that year, consulted my high school transcript, and discovered that I had actually scored higher on both the verbal and math sections than the average for my class!  It made me feel good today. :D

 

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I forgot to add that the Blue Book (The Official SAT Study Guide published by the College Board) has full online explanations for every single question and answer in the book. It can be really helpful in figuring out how to solve a math problem and/ or why a certain answer in the reading or writing section is right and why the other answers are wrong.

 

I find the reading explanations the most helpful. They can show kids exactly why the wrong answers are a little off  - too broad, wrong focus, etc. The math explanations are also helpful (though they sometimes do the long-and-confusing way instead of the quick-and-dirty way of solving the problem) The writing explanations aren't helpful for most of my kids - way too grammar-Nazi for the average public school kid - but homeschoolers should have an easier time with them.

 

The College Board does a horrible job advertising that they publish these explanations. I think it's buried in the intro of the book on page 11 or 12.

 

Here's the link: www.collegeboard.com/satstudyguide

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I did end up buying the Barron's guide because of recommendations here, though I would have alternately/also bought the blue book.  I couldn't get the blue book in time, though, as it has a four-week ship date on amazon.ca - that wasn't enough time for ds to start prepping without feeling stressed.

 

 

Colleen - 

 

 

Here are four, previously-released free practice SAT tests you can download for free

2013-2014 (and the answers) (you can find full explanations at the college board's SAT website)

2012-2013 (and the answers)

2007-2008

2004-2005

 

(I have the answers for 07-08 and 04-05 buried in my computer somewhere - I can excavate them if that would be helpful.)

 

Also, the College Board has an online course available for $70. I'm not wild about the teaching part, but I do love that it has 10 more full SAT tests available to download and take. A lot of my international students like this option b/c of the delay in the Blue Book overseas.

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and just how important is test-prep anyway? 

(this from a non American ...)  Shouldn't anyone graduating high school be able to get a decent score, just by their regular studies? Wasn't that the point of the test to start with?

 

DS is taking the SAT this weekend. With no prep whatsoever. He will retake in the fall if needed, after prepping properly. 

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and just how important is test-prep anyway? 

(this from a non American ...)  Shouldn't anyone graduating high school be able to get a decent score, just by their regular studies? Wasn't that the point of the test to start with?

 

DS is taking the SAT this weekend. With no prep whatsoever. He will retake in the fall if needed, after prepping properly. 

 

There is not a one size fits all answer to this question. If you can afford to fully pay for college and if child tends to score fairly well and they aren't aiming at extremely selective schools it may not matter a ton. But, for the majority of kids test scores do matter. For students who want to be admitted to highly selective schools scores can matter a great deal because it has become the expectation that successful applicants will have higher scores. This is particularly true for homeschoolers because colleges tend not to trust parent generated grade point averages so that outside validation of test scores can weight heavily. For students who are aiming for scholarships or schools that provide better financial aid (typically more competitive school) scores can matter a great deal. It is also the case that some colleges have automatic scholarships that have specific SAT or ACT cut offs. So, students who have x score get y amount of dollars every year.

 

There are different kinds of test prep. I believe all students should have a basic familiarity with the test before they pay to take it. That familiarity can come from reading the directions carefully and taking a full length practice test at home using a timer. I often see students scores go up quite a bit the second time they take the test just because they are more comfortable and do a better job pacing themselves. Beyond that how much test prep helps will depend on the student's profile and the type of prep they do.

 

I have had students who dramatically improved scores from pretty modest amounts test prep and it made a big difference for scholarships. One of my students this year calculated that he ended up earning about $500 an hour for the time he put into test prep. He wasn't going to make that working at McDonald's!  I don't advocate making test prep a way of life by any means, but a little targeted prep, as little as ten hours, can be HUGE.

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and just how important is test-prep anyway? 

(this from a non American ...)  Shouldn't anyone graduating high school be able to get a decent score, just by their regular studies? Wasn't that the point of the test to start with?

 

DS is taking the SAT this weekend. With no prep whatsoever. He will retake in the fall if needed, after prepping properly. 

 

 

 

There are different kinds of test prep. I believe all students should have a basic familiarity with the test before they pay to take it. That familiarity can come from reading the directions carefully and taking a full length practice test at home using a timer. I often see students scores go up quite a bit the second time they take the test just because they are more comfortable and do a better job pacing themselves. Beyond that how much test prep helps will depend on the student's profile and the type of prep they do.

 

 

Yes, the SAT tests content that kids learn in school, but having familiarity with the test will pay off. I think good SAT scores are a combination of knowledge, strategy and execution. 

 

One of my students thought he should answer every question on the test - as a result he hurried and missed a lot of questions that he could have gotten right if he had taken a little more time on them. He got a 90 point jump in  his critical reading score by slowing down and answering fewer questions.

 

Another student heard that you shouldn't guess because you lose points (which is technically true - you lose 1/4 point for every wrong answer) So she was very timid and only answered questions when she was absolutely sure she was correct. She raised her math score by 110 points overnight just by becoming more strategic and taking educated guesses.

 

Make sure your son knows the questions go from easy to medium to hard by mini-section (every time there is another set of directions, the difficulty level starts over) and that he doesn't need to wrestle with the hard questions unless he's shooting for a score in the 600s. In math - the math is fairly straight forward but the *questions* can be tricky (eg - they'll ask for x+2. Kids will solve for x and then choose that as the correct answer) Scanning the question again after you've solved for the answer can help prevent those errors. And all pictures are drawn to scale unless they say "Note: not drawn to scale" underneath them. (And when they aren't drawn to scale, don't rely on your eyes "Well it looks like an equilateral triangle, so that angle is probably 60 degrees....")

 

Good luck to your son on Saturday!

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and just how important is test-prep anyway? 

(this from a non American ...)  Shouldn't anyone graduating high school be able to get a decent score, just by their regular studies? Wasn't that the point of the test to start with?

 

DS is taking the SAT this weekend. With no prep whatsoever. He will retake in the fall if needed, after prepping properly. 

 

Is he taking the regular SAT?  Or one of the subject tests?  Let me know how it goes for him!  It's hard to find other Canadian homeschool families who've gone this route, so I have no one with whom to compare notes.  I'm also curious as to why you are having him take it, as it's not as usual in Canada as in the States yet.  I'm planning for my son to take the regular SAT next spring, so I will buy a prep book for him to go through in the coming year.  Just for the test-taking aspects, not the knowledge aspects.  And yes, when I was in high school in the mid-80s, the whole point of the SAT was to test what you knew and knew how to do.  We didn't go through test prepping.  My son was saying this morning he doesn't want to do the SAT because it's so stupid to have to do so, blah blah blah.  And I told him that it's just a hoop you have to jump through on a road you want to travel on.  As for this physics subject test on Saturday, I've been telling him that I am not hoping he will get perfect or super-high scores - I only want to have an outside marking for his transcript, and this is what our family can afford to do to get that.  But he is putting pressure on himself, sigh.

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