Review – SAT DeMystified

There’s no mystery here – DON’T BUY THIS BOOK.

SAT DeMystified, by Alexandra Mayzler and Joseph Daniele, is published by McGraw Hill. McGraw Hill also publishes the highly regarded SAT prep book, so I was surprised at how poor the current offering is.

SAT DeMystified was published in August 2011, and is part of a series of DeMystified titles which include Robotics DeMystified and Home Networking DeMystified.

SAT DeMystified has 583 pages, but those pages aren’t as large as those found in the major prep books. Still, there’s a lot of material here; it is meant to provide a full course.

Organization

Introduction – about the book, about the SAT

Overview of content, strategies, and drill for each section, organized by question type (Verbal sections) or topic (Math)

3 practice tests

Pros

The book does tell you what material is on the SAT (but so do all of the other prep books). There are many useful strategies here (but read on).

3 practice tests are included.

The writing is serious and easy to understand.

The book is well organized, so it is easy to look up topics.

Cons

Many of the strategies are useless; some will even hurt students’ performance. For example, the authors abandon tried-and-true strategies for Sentence Completions and recommend a 6-step process instead:

Read, Find the definition, Positive/negative/neutral, Fill in the blank, Eliminate, Plug it in.

Now, there is a lot of good advice there, but some of it is only applicable to certain questions. Do the authors really think that students should memorize these 6 steps and apply them meticulously to every question? Furthermore, do the authors really believe that most students will even try? Sometimes you can read the sentence, think “the answer should mean ‘improve,’” choose “progress,” and you’re done.

I’ll give one other example. The most useful technique for algebra, plugging in, is included. However, it isn’t demonstrated separately; it is only given as the solution to certain questions. Furthermore, students aren’t told when to use it, and no instructions are given. Some values are copied from the question, and some are plugged in, but you’re not even told which is which – you have to figure it out. I’ve taught this technique to many students for many years, and I can tell you that very few will pick it up from this book.

Many excellent techniques that are found in other prep books are absent here.

The practice questions often don’t resemble the real ones, and there are quite a few errors.

Amazingly, no explanations are given for either the drills or practice tests (there are only answer keys).

Overview

Unfortunately, many students will buy this book because it looks slick on the outside.

SAT prep guides have come a long way in the past twenty years; several excellent ones are now available. There is simply no excuse for such an awful book as this one.

I could go on about what else is wrong with this book, but you get the idea. Run away!

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