McGraw-Hill’s SAT, 2012 edition is 784 pages long. There is also a version that includes a CD-ROM with four extra practice tests. This book is reasonably popular with students, and even more popular with SAT teachers. That alone says something.
Note that McGraw-Hill is a major publishing house. So if you see the name on the cover of a test prep book, you have no idea of that book’s quality (as you would with The Princeton Review or Barron’s, for example). Some of the best and worst prep guides are published by McGraw-Hill.
I have reviewed several of the fat, comprehensive SAT prep books, and the good ones are very similar in quality. One may have slightly more realistic practice tests; another may be somewhat better organized. That being said, I would say that McGraw-Hill SAT is the best comprehensive guide I have reviewed thus far.
Introduction – basic information, reasoning skills (the “College Hill Method” includes advice such as “considering alternatives” and “thinking logically”)
Strategies by section type
3 Practice Tests
Smart Cards (math, vocab, essay prompts)
Very well written, and directed at its target audience
Often more than one strategy is offered.
I did find some helpful techniques that aren’t in most other guides, particularly in the Reading Section. There is even a thoughtful reading list.
Step-by-step guidance, even on grammar questions.
Explanations are given for all questions (illustrative and practice test questions)
Practice tests, while differing somewhat from the real thing, are the closest I’ve seen.
There were very few errors that I could find.
Amazon’s price of $10.54 is a crazy bargain.
Some of the best techniques (e.g. plugging in on math) were not featured prominently, so many students will undervalue them or miss them entirely.
There are only four practice tests (although you can access two others online). You can get the CD-ROM edition with 4 extra tests for over double the cost.
Some of the advice is academic and not very helpful. Many of the introductory strategies are very general and can be summed up as “think in different ways.”
I found this to be the best written, most accurate, and most useful of the large prep books. I would recommend it unless you are buying based on quantity (other books have more sample questions and practice tests). It’s not head-and-shoulders above the competition, but it does many of the little things a bit better. Clearly, a tremendous amount of effort went into writing it.
That’s it. It’s funny that, although I really liked this book, I seem to have written a rather short review of it. Perhaps that’s because there was a general impression of scholarship and usefulness that’s hard to criticize. It’s not as if any one paragraph jumped out at me. rather, I repeatedly kept thinking “they explained that very well,” or “that’s a great way to guide students through this type of problem.”
I believe that most students who want to learn from a large SAT book will find this one to be the most helpful.