Most helpful critical review
27 of 29 people found the following review helpful
Decent but poorly written
on January 15, 2010
I used this book and passed my spanish CLEP exam, so I can't complain too much. I agree closely with the reviewer who said "Fair But Full of Errors." The most useful part of the book are the practice tests and the quizzes for different grammar review areas. It was easy and quick to run through all the review sections and do all the review problems in between taking the practice tests. My practice test scores went up a little (but not a lot) after going through all the review material. The scoring of the practice tests seemed a bit strange to me--you could loose 30 of 130 points and still get a "perfect" 80, which doesn't seem realistic to me (and my actual test score was lower than my practice test scores). It was frustrating, however, to find quite blatant errors in the book and really misleading or poorly worded explanations. Of course this is written as review for people who should already know spanish, but nonetheless, quite a few times it had me shaking my head in confusion or anger, only to look it up in a normal spanish book and find it clearly and simply explained.
For example, one practice question went something like: "El ladron fue (muerto/matado) por el policía." After having paragraphs of useless information explaining all the other questions whose answers were obvious, the answer key only says something like: "The correct answer is "muerto" because muerto is the past participle for matar in the passive." Confused, I looked up matar and morir in every dictionary that I have, and it's always matar-matado, morir-muerto. What gives? Well, I finally went onto a couple online grammar forums, and this is apparently a subtle grammar exception for this particular word, and even native speakers have trouble explaining it except to say that they agree that either you use muerto for matar in the passive and only in the passive, or you avoid the whole issue by using asesinado. Digging deeper, I found that the real answer possibly has to do with an antiquated use of the word morir as a transitive verb, which happens to have its vestiges left in the passive tense only. Mabye every dope already knows this, but I think the the book should have used a couple more sentences to explain this, or it should not have used such an unusual exception in their quiz. In a book where there are so many mistakes, I initially took this bad explanation as a flat-out error.
The practice tests for the reading part were very similar to the actual test, if not slightly harder, which is the way to err on a practice test. The listening portion, however, was WAY harder than the actual test. In fact, I personally found the listening portion of the practice test very disheartening because it went so fast and used such advanced topcics that I simply could not keep the topics and all their details straight in my head (you only get to listen once). The real test, however, stuck to very simple subjects and had relatively easy-to-remember questions and quick answers. The only thing difficult about the real CLEP test is that the volume was much too low and the quality was really scratchy, so it was difficult in that regard. Luckily, I brought my own earphones to the test because if I hadn't, the cheap, test-supplied earphones would have been insufficient to hear anything.
I found out, much too late, that Peterson's offers practice tests online--you can even get them free through some library websites. The Peterson's reading comprehension tests were ever so slightly simpler than the CLEP exam tests, which is a slight disadvantage, but the listening portion was right on target! After I did a couple practice tests on the Peterson's website, I was feeling much more better about myself and more confident about the test. And it left me praying that the real test would be more like Peterson's than the REA book. And it was, in the listening portion anyway.