Review – Peterson’s Master The SAT

The 2012 edition of Master The SAT is 848 pages long, and comes with a CD.

This is Peterson’s entry in the “one book covers everything” market; Peterson’s also sells more specialized SAT guides.

Organization

Introduction – about the book, study tips

SAT Basics – content, scores, how to study

Diagnostic Test with answers, explanations, and general advice on how to use results

Strategies arranged by section and question type (includes comprehensive grammar and math review)

5 Practice Tests

Appendix: Guide for Parents

Included CD (see below)

Pros

The guide is loaded with instructional material. Where other books may provide one, or maybe two ways to solve a math problem, Master The SAT offers three. The same goes for illustrative examples – e.g. there are six run-on sentences explained.

The writing style is serious and easy to understand.

The book is well organized, so it’s easy to find a topic.

The example questions and those in the practice tests are in the same format as those found on the SAT.

Nine practice tests are offered – that’s a lot.

Cons

There is no version sold without the CD, so you’ll pay more for this guide than others of its kind. Furthermore, the CD is mostly a gimmick. When you run it, a screen appears with several choices: One offers 3 practice tests, but it’s actually a link to the Peterson’s website where you can enter an authorization code and take the tests. Two other choices (college descriptions and Word Success) allow you to download pdf files. The Vocab link just takes you to an iTunes app. Finally, the “Essay Edge” button takes you to a website where you have to pay between $29.95 and $93.95 for their services. All the while, you never leave the initial screen.

Too much information! Some students may like the plethora of techniques that are offered, but I’m sure that most will find it overwhelming. Even hard-working students will forget most of the techniques soon after reading them.

The practice SATs differ from the real thing. As I’ve mentioned in other reviews, this is true of all non-College Board practice tests, but the Peterson’s tests are different in more obvious ways. For example, the proportion of some math concepts on each section is way off. For another, the format differs from that of the real SAT – e.g. Improving Sentences where there should be Identifying Sentence Errors.

I certainly didn’t read every question carefully, but I was able to find errors in some of the math questions. There were also Sentence Completions for which multiple answers would work. There is a shortage of trap answers on all of the tests.

The explanations of the answers are woefully inadequate. This surprised me, since so many strategies were given in the instructional sections.

Alternative math strategies, such as plugging in, are only briefly mentioned, and often overlooked in the solutions. That’s inexcusable.

Overview

If you visit your local bookstore or library, or browse online for SAT guides, you’ll find the sheer number of titles to be overwhelming. Even if you narrow your search down to all-in-one SAT books that include practice tests, there are many choices.

Many years ago, these books differed greatly in quality. Now, the gap has narrowed. However, I can only recommend this book to students who are shopping for volume – as I said, there’s a ton of information, and many practice tests here. But other books will be easier to learn from, and have better practice tests with vastly superior explanations.

This guide doesn’t sell very well on Amazon (there are no reviews there either), and it’s not hard to see why.

Buy it here.

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