Review – Gruber’s Complete SAT Guide

Gruber’s Complete SAT Guide 2012, 15th edition, is 1088 pages long, making it one of the fattest SAT guides on the market. On Amazon, it ranks behind books by Barron’s, The Princeton Review, McGraw-Hill, and Kaplan in sales.

As I have mentioned in earlier reviews, most of the strategies for the SAT that are found in these books were first published many years ago. Although there are some differences between the guides, they are mostly similar.

Obviously, people who write or publish an SAT book would like their product to stand out from the pack. Dr. Gruber has made an effort to do that, but in this case, different clearly doesn’t mean better.

On the back cover, it says:

“The Best Book On The SAT” – CBS Radio

For real.


Introduction – basics, thinking skills and modes, study program, SAT format

Small Diagnostic Test – 90 questions

Mini Diagnostic Test – 18 questions! (7 Reading, 4 Writing, 7 Math)

Strategies – Math, Reading



Writing section

5 Practice Tests


The test is well written and easy to understand.

Helpful SAT tips are found throughout the book.

The practice tests have few errors.

The book is only $10.99 (eligible for free Super Saver Shipping) on Amazon.


The author goes out of his way to teach techniques that differ from those in other guides, and most of the ones here are inferior.

The practice tests differ more from the real SATs than the ones in the better guides.

Many strategies are not well explained and/or are insufficiently stressed.

The diagnostic tests are too short. The mini-test is laughable.

There are only 5 practice tests.


This book isn’t awful. I’m sure that many students could improve their scores with it.

I have mentioned in previous reviews that many of the comprehensive SAT study guides are very similar. The author of this one tried too hard to make it different, without substance to back it up.

I don’t want to list every example, but here are a few ways this book runs off the tracks:

I’ve already mentioned the ludicrous 18-question diagnostic.

There is a section on SAT strategies for women. Men beware!

Plugging in (perhaps the most useful strategy for the Math section) is mentioned almost as an afterthought, and is poorly explained.

Backsolving (plugging the answers into a variable in an algebra question) is also very useful. Every other guide, and every SAT teacher I’ve ever spoken to about it, tells you to start with answer (C). That’s common sense, since the answers are almost always in order, and you can usually tell if (C) is too large or small if it doesn’t work. But Dr. Gruber says to start with (E) and work backwards!

I cannot recommend this book.


7 comments on “Review – Gruber’s Complete SAT Guide

  1. Bob Gilvey says:

    Straightforward review, and right on.
    I have a book, and it is Blue.
    Bet your life it’s a good book too.

  2. David Palmer says:

    I completely disagree with you, Jon. I had used this book and increased my score by 420 points (from 1920 t0 2340). Many of my friends also used this book and had major score increases. The strategies are excellent and are “common sense” oriented. And the 18 question diagnostic which you call “ludicrous” was what gave me some great insight into what strategies should be used from the start.

  3. Thank you for your viewpoint, David. It would be great to hear from others who have used this book.

  4. Roger Saffowitz says:

    I have used Dr. Gruber’s books for years in my SAT classes, the latest being his 2012 SAT Guide, and my students have had remarkable score increases on the SAT with his books. His 18 question test always gives me a launch point on what strategies students should use and provides me with a great gauge on what the students need. I also am a consultant to the testing companies and the comment you make referring to other books about starting with Choice C is just not right. That’s not how the tests are made. Further I think you misinterpreted the Gruber Choice E strategy-that is just if the question asks you to “test ” the choices.
    It seems that the information you have brings out the fact that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.”
    Roger Saffowitz, Ph,D,

  5. Thank you for your input, Roger.

  6. Bob Gilvey says:

    Jon-I am enjoying this conversation. And your welcoming of different points of view. I am mostly on your side on this one. I have yet to see a completly logical book about SAT Prep. Good points occasionally, yes, but mostly junk. Gruber has more good points, but just as many bad.

    I am about 80% through my own eBOOK, iPAD, and Android APP.

    I expect that you will be an honest critic. And I am sure that I will appreciate it.

    Nice to know someone who is so committed to what he is doing.


  7. Great summary of this book. It has numerous flaws. It’s overwhelming for students (too big) and underwhelming in terms of tricks.

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