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The Princeton Review has finally achieved a remarkable goal: A radically new cover design around zero changes from last year's text!
Since 2005 when they revamped their textbook for the new SAT, they have annually produced a new edition. Every year a shiny new cover with a new student of different ethnicity. And every year they managed to adjust the layout a wee bit: change a word or two here or there, but keep essentially the EXACT SAME TEXT from year to year! As a test prep tutor who uses this otherwise helpful book for her students, it is infuriating to be forced to buy a new book every year - rewriting all my notes - just to match the new page numbers.
In 2010, they added another practice test into the book, the only real, if small, improvement, since the rest of the text either stayed the same or lost some of its punch. It is well known that as one edits something repeatedly, it tends to lose energy, as any student working on his or her college application essay is aware. This certainly happened to The Princeton Review SAT text: The Critical Reading section in particular lost a lot when they chose, in 2007, to merge the Long and Short Reading Passages techniques, resulting in a confused and less effective approach to these passage types which require very different techniques and focus.
But this year -or rather, next year, since the 2012 model arrives with almost a half year to go- they gave up all pretense at creating new value. Shamelessly, they radically changed the cover to a dull black and white with a single student smiling in the void. (At least I'll be able to differentiate it from the army of their 2005-2011 editions on my bookshelves!) But the interior of the book is absolutely identical to 2011!Read more ›
Note: This is an abridged version of a review on CEEAE dot org.
Princeton Review's Cracking the SAT is the Anti-SAT book. This book, 2007 edition appears to be the preeminent strategy book for SAT preparation. Indeed, the entire book appears to be designed in order to demystify the SAT and it is strategy or "trick" focused. Many efficient test-taking strategies are presented for each subject area and question type.
However, one of the strategies has had its share of issues. Many students have reported that they were flummoxed by the pervasive "Joe Bloggs" method. While the method is not being called into question, we do question Princeton Review's constant usage of the method throughout the text. The "Joe Bloggs" method has been endemic to Princeton Review preparation books since the mid-90s, if not earlier, but we have seen many students who have improved their scores, sometimes dramatically, by relinquishing this method and focusing only on how to complete the questions efficiently. Hence, while we appreciate this method, we remain dubious of Princeton Review's recommendation of pervasive usage.
This book also features 3, extremely accurate, practice SATs. Moreover, each test has an Equating section (no other book does), and explanations are provided to every question on the exams. There are 7 tests, but only 3 of them are in the book. Although The Official SAT Study Guide has 8 exams and they are made by the College Board, this book features accurate practice exams that have full explanations and Equating sections. Hence, some have concluded that the tests in this book are preferable to those in The Official SAT Study Guide.
Finally, this book as well as more than 20 other SAT prep books are reviewed and ranked on CEEAE dot org. Every book review has a direct link to its page on Amazon, so you can read the reviews, view the rankings and then purchase your selections from Amazon.
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This book is definitely worth reading and studying. Princeton Review challenges College Board's party line that there are only minimal benefits (in the range of 50 points improvement for CR and for Math) from pre-test prepping and coaching for the SAT, and that there is no "trick" to doing well on the SAT because it is essentially an aptitude test that measures verbal and mathematical skills acquired over a long period of time. While not denying the benefit of basic skills acquired through conscientious schoolwork over time, Princeton Review maintains that is not the only way to improve your score, possibly dramatically. By studying patterns in the ETS answer choices and question sequences, Princeton Review has come up with what it calls the Joe Blog approach, which is a very clever strategy for making educated guesses when you are not 100% sure of an answer to a multiple-choice question. At its core, Joe Blog says that on easier questions (the earlier questions in a section), go for the obvious answer that Joe Blog (a hypothetical Joe-Average) would guess; on the harder ones (the later questions in a section), avoid the "obvious answers, because they are "tricks" to fool Joe Blog, who will jump on superficially correct, but profoundly wrong answers. Beyond the Joe Blog approach, the Princeton Review writers do provide excellent practice exercises on basic reading and mathematical content. They seem to have studied the content of the test better than most authors. If there is one flaw, it is that the explanations to the practice questions don't always explain the correct answer very well. However, along with the "official" books and online study resources put out by the College Board, using this book from Princeton Review will help you do the best you can -- -- which what test taking process is and should be all about.
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