On the table before me are three SAT writing workbooks. The Barron's and Peterson's workbooks have twice as many pages as Erica Meltzer's book, and both of the former have pages offering essay practice and advice. All three books have their merits and shortcomings, but I can honestly say that, despite her choice to focus on grammar only and leave essay advice to others, Erica Meltzer's Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar is my book of choice. No, it's not perfect, but in ten years of SAT tutoring I haven't seen a better tool for an SAT Grammar tune up. Unfortunately most of the high school juniors and seniors with whom I've worked need a review of grammar principles. The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar may be just the refresher they need.
The other books I have used, including those 500 plus page colossi, are bloated with pages dealing with concepts that rarely appear on the SAT. Meltzer has done her homework, dissecting the SAT test to isolate those grammar concepts most commonly found on the writing portion of the SAT test.
This is a well organized book, clear and easy to follow, with plenty of hand holding followed by rigorous and challenging practice activities. Practice, tips, and explanations for all three types of SAT writing questions are found in Ms. Meltzer's book. Since only six "Fixing Paragraph" items appear on the SAT, it makes sense that fewest pages are devoted to this question type.
In every book I've used, including the venerable College Board book, I've disagreed with answers and answer choices. For the most part Erica Meltzer is on target, and most of the issues I have are because of personal preference.
This is an excellent book as is, one I would have no misgivings handing to an aspiring SAT student for guided or self instruction. The content and explanations are that good. If I had one wish, it would be to have more practice items written in SAT format for the students, though I realize it's not that easy to construct such items.
Finally - My favorite part of the book is the incredible Appendix A. Erica has cross referenced each Writing section test item with the grammar concepts explained in her book to the 2009 edition of the College Board Official SAT Study Guide. To find exact test questions that contain practice in specific skill areas just scan the list in the Appendix to find the exact test and item numbers. Here you'll be able to pinpoint plenty of examples for agreement, diction, idioms, parallel structure and many more of your favorite grammar topics. This appendix is an amazing piece of work that must be seen and is well worth the price of admission.
Update: The more I use this book, the more I like it. It's become an integral part of my SAT instruction.
on August 18, 2011
Erica Meltzer, whose blog at ultimatesatverbal.blogspot.com should definitely be a daily stop for you if you're prepping for the SAT (which you probably are if you're reading this), has spent years holding a microscope to the SAT writing section, and has compiled all of her findings into a book that, miraculously, is under 200 pages long.
In those pages, Erica's managed to pack advice (and a dizzying number of example sentences) to cover every single grammar rule that could conceivably appear in an SAT writing section. She provides insight into how often certain error types appear. At times, she even provides insight into roughly where in the test certain error types are most likely to appear -- did you know faulty comparison errors are most likely to appear in question #27? She writes with an authority that only someone who has spent as much time analyzing the test as she has could possibly muster. In short, she knows everything you need to know to get an 800 on the SAT writing section, and she tells it to you. All of it. I don't think one could find a question, in the Blue Book or in any recent QAS, that tests a concept that she hasn't covered.
The book's greatest strength -- its completeness -- might be seen by some as a weakness, though. Erica leaves no stone unturned, and there are many, many stones. An example: Even though the subjunctive appears, by her own admission, very infrequently on the SAT, it does appear once in a great while, so there's a page devoted to it in this book. Such minutiae is interesting to me because I spend a lot of time looking at the SAT with a critical eye, and is important to the student who seeks a perfect score, but might not be very important to the student who simply seeks a very good score. Erica does a good job of pointing out which concepts are commonly tested and which ones aren't; it would behoove a student who's not seeking perfection to gloss over the uncommon bits and spend extra time reviewing the common ones.
The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar is a very impressive book. It's accurate, insightful, and exhaustive. It's of a manageable length. It will serve students well both as a training workbook, and as a desktop reference when arcane grammar questions arise. I dare say its usefulness might even outlast the SAT -- grammar will continue to be important long after college admissions testing is a distant memory. As a weapon in your test prep arsenal, it will serve you well.
[Reprinted from PWNtheSAT.com.]
on April 26, 2012
The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar does a fine job of narrowing down which errors you need to be able to identify on the SAT. It presents these errors in a logical order, covering the most common errors first and the least common errors last. The explanations are intuitive IF you have a decent grammar foundation. I would hesitate to recommend this book to students who can't identify parts of speech on their own because there are few examples of these errors.
That being said, this book is still a great resource for most students. If you are scoring below a 600 on your practice tests, go through the book slowly and thoroughly. Read through the error descriptions carefully, focus on the tips for spotting them, and be sure to go through all the practice problems. If you are scoring above a 600, I would still read through all the error descriptions and strategies, but only do exercises for the errors you make in your own writing or have not seen before.
Above all else, be sure to work through College Board's Official SAT Study Guide to ensure you can apply the errors to actual SAT questions. Use the book's appendix for explanations of all questions from the Official Study Guide. Overall, this book is a great place to learn the grammar rules for the SAT but not a great place to practice them.
* Excellent organization, specifies which errors occur on which problem types
* Only covers what is covered on the SAT
* Good techniques for identifying errors
* Good explanations of grammar rules
* Appendices of questions by topic and questions by test are VERY helpful
* Great combination of teaching grammar and teaching to improve your SAT Writing score
* Does not have enough multiple choice questions. The SAT is known for having multiple answer choices that look correct, so the lack of multiple choice questions is under-preparing you for the real test. This is the book's biggest weakness
* Must be used in conjuction with the Official SAT Study Guide. Not so much a con in itself, but a caveat to those looking for a single, stand-alone SAT Writing book.
* Rewriting sentences is not always an effective way to test knowledge. Some errors, such as misplaced modifiers or parallelism, are hard to rewrite or have more than one correct answer. Since the SAT also asks for the most concise answer, it would have been better to offer multiple choice rather than ask students to waste time trying to write the best answer.
* Needs more examples when explaining the grammar rules. The examples given do not always cover the various ways the rule can be tested.
on August 9, 2011
Review: Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar
Throughout the world of SAT prep there is a plethora of advice, strategies, books, courses, tutors, books et cetera. So it is sometimes hard to separate the good from the bad. With this in mind, I am here to offer you a review of the Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar. Before we start, I want to be very clear, this book does not include tips on the ESSAY portion of the SAT which constitutes a part of the overall Writing section score. This book is for the Multiple Choice Writing part of the SAT, which includes Identifying Sentence Errors, Fixing Sentences & Improving Paragraphs.
A little bit of background about me, as of right now I am a rising senior who has taken the SAT two times. The second time I took it I practiced with the strategies outlined in this book and achieved an exactly 100-point increase from 650 to 750. I am going to take it for the last time in October and hopefully will achieve the very close to 800 score that I desire.
On to the review,
A lot of people who have been disappointed with the score they received on the Writing section of the SAT are in luck. This book in conjunction (no pun intended) with the 2nd edition Blue Book will be the pathway to a very high score in the writing section.
For those of you who have not heard of the author, Erica Meltzer is a Manhattan based tutor with around 5+ years of tutoring experience and is very good at what she does. She has a blog in which she posts daily tips for the Critical Reading and Writing section of the SAT.
This time around she has come up with a book of the writing section, which will become the definitive guide for all grammar related issues of the SAT. This book covers EVERYTHING that has been tested and will be tested with examples, tips, tricks, and strategies, everything you could ask for to ACE the SAT. The author does not waste one's time covering things that HAVE NOT appeared on the exam as some prep course material do.
There is no fluff in this book; it gets directly to the point. No exaggerating ennui grammar rules to memorize. The author knows all the intrinsic details that comprise the Writing portion of the SAT. She has deconstructed the Writing section of the SAT scrupulously to get to the finest detail. For example, when describing the Error-Identification questions she lists all possible type of errors in order of frequency (16 in total), then she explains each one in finest details with examples and when one is confident with the material, are some practice exercises to make sure one understands the material being tested. After that there are cumulative exercises that help one understand the overall material and lastly Specific Error ID strategies. After that, it is the same thing with Fixing Sentences. Rules, exercises, practice, et cetera. All very detailed and concise.
There is one last thing that I haven't mentioned; my favorite part of the book. This is the part that helps distinguish this book from the rest of all SAT prep materials... the last 20 pages of the book, This section is comprised of the entire 2nd edition Blue Book Writing section, practice tests (10 in total) deconstructed. In Appendix A all the multiple choice questions in the writing section are put in order of concepts tested and in Appendix B all multiple choice questions are put in order number; "Questions by Test". So depending on how you plan to practice whether it be by order of test or by order of concepts you have either way to approach and practice. Say, for example, you are having difficulties with "Dangling Modifiers" you could search in Appendix A all the questions in the Blue Book that deal in that specific category. Another example, you are doing a practice test in order from the Blue Book, say practice test #4, and you don't understand question 10 you can search in Appendix B for what that question is testing. This really comes in handy when practicing.
She has incorporated the Appendix with the book in a way that when one finishes each section and chapter you can directly go to practice with the Blue Book. This just goes to show that she stands by her methods and actually wants you to try them out with the Blue Book. Not many tutors will do that.
Throughout the book, she gives strategies and overall makes one feel confident about the SAT in general. There is no doubt if one does complete the book and practices with the Blue Book one will score very highly in this section.
Somehow the writing section has ostensibly become a "difficult" section of the SAT. Nothing can be further from the truth. This book has been made to help you dispel that notion. With certain rules, strategies and patterns under your belt the Writing section can, in a certain twisted way, be fun to tackle.
For all prospective buyers; Sophomores, Juniors, Seniors and stressed out parents this is the guide you want for the writing section of the SAT. This is the book that SAT tutors don't want you to have, as you'll be taking away their business! hehe.
If you are still not sure if this book is for you, there is a more than generous preview (20 pages) of this book in the author's website. If you like what you see, then do yourself and SAT score a favor and buy this book!
Now if we can only convince Ms. Meltzer of making a Critical Reading book...
on February 1, 2012
Both of my children worked with an earlier version of "The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar," and all I can tell you is that their writing scores improved dramatically. One started with a 570 on the PSAT and ended up with a 750 on the SAT, and the other one started with a 520 on the PSAT and improved to a 670 on the SAT. It was great to have something that really helped during their stressful junior years. In addition to doing well on the SAT writing section, they actually learned grammar. A bonus is that I actually learned a lot with them and I now find myself correcting embarrassing mistakes like "I vs. me" that I've made for years! This book does not contain any gimmicks or unnecessary information, just lots of practice tailored very specifically to the SAT. If you're willing to put in the work and do all of the exercises, I am sure you WILL get results.
on December 20, 2012
Before I had purchased this book, I had taken a practice SAT on the college board website and scored only a 470 in the writing section. I was quite disappointed, but hopeful because I knew how arbitrary grammar rules are and I knew a guide like this would help. However, I never could have guessed how easy it was! I read the entire guide word for word and learned more about grammar than I had learned in all my years of schooling prior. I got my PSAT scores back today and scored a 72 in writing (which is equivalent to a 720 on the SAT). I was truly shocked by my improvement! I went from 47th percentile in writing to the 99th after reading this guide.
Reasons why this guide is the best:
1) Plenty of practice problems which resemble actual questions one will see on the test (most guides fail to provide enough practice problems AND they are not necessarily similar to those of the SAT which is useless and DANGEROUS)
2) The explanations are excellent!
3) Very thorough! This guide does not miss any type of writing question seen on the SAT
on November 8, 2011
I don't need to reiterate everything that's already been said. No other book I've used targets the grammar structures for SAT grammar like this book. Without being able to identify complex structures consistently, doing practice tests endlessly is like shooting in the dark. Thank you Erica.
on February 2, 2013
Before I read this book, I found the Writing section of the SAT to be the hardest one in the exam.
Since I'm not american, I don't practice my english everyday, and so my ear is not a reliable source to identify the errors that appear in the test.
Thanks to Erica, I don't need to use my ear anymore, while taking the exam. The SAT writing section is full of patterns that Erica shows us, and it makes this section much easier.
I've substantially increased my score after using this book and, furthermore, I feel way more confident while taking the exam. I know exactly what to expect!!
I've already ordered the other Erica Meltzer's book, and I really wish she had written more ones! I would certainly buy them too!
In conclusion: I STRONGLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK!!!
on May 29, 2012
I am a full-time test-prep tutor, and have found that most of my students only have a rudimentary grasp of the many of the grammar rules that the SAT tests. Though many of these students are excellent readers and writers, no one has ever taught them the fundamentals of grammar or explained the building blocks of sentences. Meltzer's book is a fantastic resource since it thoroughly covers all the grammatical concepts an SAT test taker needs to know. Things I liked:
1. All error types are explained. Unlike many other SAT books, which gloss over or skip certain errors, this book covers everything with the insight that only comes from long-term scrutiny of actual SAT tests.
2. Blue Book (College Board Official SAT Study Guide) questions are categorized. This is important, since students need to be able to recognize the errors in actual SAT questions and can use this book as an index to look up and practice troublesome error types.
Things that I think could be improved:
1. The book often is dry and utilitarian. It's hard to make grammar interesting, but all but the smartest and most motivated students may find this book difficult to read and use, even though some of the writing is down-to-earth and funny. I think changing the layout, graphics, and look of the book might help.
2. Most of the practice questions and exercises do not have answer choices. It would be great if the author had written SAT-style answer choices to go along with the exercises. Of course, students should spend more time with blue book questions than with the questions in this book.
Overall, this book is the best of its kind, and is a great resource for SAT tutors and for motivated students.
on March 8, 2012
I love this book for its extensive sets of exercises testing specific grammar concepts found on the SAT. It is far better than anything else out there and I highly recommend it to students who are studying on their own as well as to tutors who haven't gotten to the point where they can identify the correct answer to any multiple choice writing question quickly and easily.
That said, there are so many reviews that detail the virtues of this book (that I largely agree with) that I will not bother to repeat all of these virtues and will instead give some advice on the few areas where this book falls a bit short and how I believe you should adjust your use of it. But I want to emphasize the fact that these are very niupicky concerns and that this is by far the best grammar guide for the SAT out there.
Those students who are using this book without the benefit of an experienced tutor shoul pay very close attention to which errors show up very frequently on the SAT and which do not. While the author does mention whether the grammar errors show up frequently on the test or not, she does not reflect this in the order in which they are presented or in the number of practice questions that she gives for them. I would use her guide in the back to find extra problems in the College Board OIfficial Guide (which is really very tedious) or else find another source to supplement the very common errors that you need more practice on.
I find that her strategies for finding errors are not very intuitive. I would recommend really studying the grammar rules and then finding your own very simple ways to identify them. This is probably just my own personal basis since I use very different strategies for finding grammar errors and just couldn't wrap my mind around hers.
I love the strategy of presenting a few errors and then giving cumulative problem sets where students must work to identify errors from all of the previously learned errors, but I would prefer a different order and feel that students do not encounter previously- learned errors often enough to truly make sure that they remember them. This is where a supplemental book can help - you can revisit errors a week or more after you first learn them to get them more firmly embedded in your mind.
But please note that, for all my recommendations of using a second reference book, I have not yet found a book with exercises as closely matched to the level of difficulty of actual SAT questions as this book. So if you use other books, be aware that the questions are not quite as good.
So I highly recommend this book as the best guide to SAT grammar that is available. I have no idea what another reviewer was referring to when they mentioned two other superior grammar books for the SAT. I've bought every other book that I could find on SAT grammar and have only found one other one that even comes close and it just doesn't have the same level of questions for practice and doesn't provide any cumulative reviews at all along the way.
ind the best way to make it work for you.