Thank you for visiting Sexton Test Prep & Tutoring L.L.C. I want to give you some pointers about picking out preparation books for the SAT/ACT. There are so many different books to choose from, it can be difficult for an untrained observer to figure out the difference. I am here to help.
First and foremost, always buy the official guide for the test you are preparing for. The most important thing in any preparation guide is the practice questions, and not, as you may expect, the strategies. You must practice with real test questions before you take your test. Sat and ACT questions are made according to very strict specifications, specifications that major companies can only guess at. So while all practice questions may look alike, they certainly are not. The official guide should be the backbone of your preparation materials.
Now I will provide you with a few notes about some other major preparation manuals. Please remember that all of these recommendations are merely my opinions
Kaplan is probably the most well-known test preparation company. Unfortunately, their materials for the SAT and ACT are not very good. The strategies are generic, the tutorials lack depth, and the practice questions tend to be too easy. I would stay away from these books.
The Princeton Review makes some of the best materials out there. Their books are very readable, their strategies are solid, and their practice questions are among the best in the industry. Their book “1296 ACT Practice Questions” is a must-have for any aspiring ACT student, as the ACT provides only a limited number of official practice tests to the public.
Barron’s materials are good for the advanced student. Their practice problems are significantly harder than real test problems in many cases, but it is this heavy lifting that often pushes high-scoring students to the next level. Barron’s is not well-suited for the average student, as the difficulty of the problems will quickly become discouraging.
Materials from Peterson’s, Arco, and McGraw-Hill are not strong. The practice tests simply do not reflect real test questions. I advise against buying these books.
Gruber’s Guide to the SAT is far too large to be of practical use. There are some good strategies within this book, but the book is so unreadable that few students would be able to find them. Many of the practice problems test on topics that are not covered on the SAT. The book has not been meaningfully updated in years.
I will include more book reviews on this blog as I read them. Of course, I still think my test preparation manual is better than all of these, but that’s just my opinion, too.
Thanks for reading and I hope you will come back soon.