The complete title of the 684-page book is Kaplan SAT 2012: Strategies, Practice, and Review. Kaplan also sells a 792-page book with a CD-ROM titled Kaplan SAT 2012 Premier.
This large text is sold as a comprehensive guide to the SAT.
Introduction – parents’ guide
Getting Ready – basics, general strategies
Strategies arranged by section type
Three practice tests
Vocabulary and Word Roots
There is plenty of material, including answers to sample questions and practice tests.
The writing style is serious and easy to understand.
Helpful tips are scattered throughout the strategy sections.
The Table of Contents is thorough, so it’s easy to look up topics.
Four practice tests are included.
At $11.30, the Amazon price is one of the lowest for comprehensive SAT guides (the Premier version currently sells for $18.19).
Compared with those in other SAT guides, the practice tests differ more in content and feel from the real SAT. For example, many Critical Reading questions are incomplete sentences, where students are expected to choose the answer that correctly completes the sentence. Such questions are much rarer on the real exam. Math questions are different too (e.g. one asks “what is the most likely value of x?”).
The tests are easier than the real SAT. However, the answers tend to be more ambiguous. A review on Amazon confirms both of these points.
Many, if not most of the techniques and tips are merely common sense (“Practice essays are great for honing your writing style and avoiding falling into sloppy or lazy writing habits. Don’t write your first and only essay on test day!”).
The wording is a mite off-putting. For example, the bit of fluff quoted above is given as an “Expert Tutor Tip.” Strategies that are found in nearly all of the commercial prep guides, such as plugging in and backsolving, are presented as “specific Kaplan methods.” This is ironic, since many of the techniques appeared in The Princeton Review’s guides for years before Kaplan co-opted them.
The order of difficulty is looser than that of the real SAT. For example, a Sentence Completion of middling difficulty can come first. I also found several errors in this book.
Kaplan has come a long way with their guides over the years. The company was teaching test prep long before the content of the SATs was disclosed to the public, so they were largely “in the dark” when formulating their prep courses. After the tests were disclosed, other companies (notably The Princeton Review, followed by others) developed more effective strategies. Over the years, Kaplan has closed this gap and adapted many of these strategies, and this is reflected in this book.
Nevertheless, the overall scholarship and accuracy falls somewhat behind that of some of the other guides, such as The Princeton Review’s or Barron’s. Since it is unlikely that many students would want more than one of the “fat SAT books,” I cannot recommend this. Perhaps Kaplan will offer an improved edition soon.