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As my dear patient readers will already know, a few months ago I started a "side gig" tutoring SAT / ACT / GRE / GMAT prep. In all modesty, I have to say, I'm a pretty kick-butt tutor! ;P
I recently was provided with a complimentary copy of Tutorverse's The New SAT workbook for my honest review. I will be comparing and contrasting it with Peterson's Master the New SAT, in my typical READ vs DON'T Read review style.
I know this isn't necessarily a standard book review for this blog, but I also know that many of you have young people in your lives who are preparing, or soon will be preparing, for that all-important college entrance exam, the SAT. Forward this review on to them, and then pat yourself on the back for giving their studies a boost!
READ: Tutorverse's The New SAT workbook.
This book has so much going for it! For one thing, they start strong right off the bat by enumerating the 13 question categories you will find on the reading section of the SAT, and then include one question from each category on their practice passages to provide more thorough review opportunities. Every other SAT practice book I've seen only does 10 or 11 questions for each passage -- while that IS the number you will find on the actual test, it means that the student is missing out on practicing from specific question categories each time they do a sample passage. Offering the additional questions to practice each category on each passage is an awesome, thoughtful approach. For the first few passages they also label each question with its appropriate category, allowing the student to grow more adept at identifying them. Fantastic!
To prepare students for the Writing and Language section of the SAT, Tutorverse provides grammar and punctuation practice by category. Similar to how the book approaches the reading section, Tutorverse identifies question category types and then provides at least twelve questions to specifically practice every single type. Let the angels sing! This by-category organization is SO VALUABLE for isolating and practicing concepts in a non-overwhelming way, and for allowing students to identify what specific concepts they will need to continue to practice as well. NONE of the "mainstream" books do this, and in my opinion, it alone would make the book completely worth the purchase price.
Other Pros of the Tutorverse's SAT Workbook:
- Tutorverse clearly lists the page where the answers can be found at the beginning of each passage / section. This might not seem like a big deal, but oh my friend, it is! Finding the answers to a given set of problems in a tome the size of a phonebook, can be a TOTAL waste of time. All that flipping around! *shakes head*
- Tutorverse includes 1,500+ practice questions -- more than 10 full length exams. Many of the mainstream books include half that many, and the most I have ever seen included in one book is 8 practice tests. This is a wealth of practice material, for quite a reasonable cost.
Cons of Tutorverse's SAT Workbook:
- The Tutorverse reading passages do not always have the typical SAT introductory "blurb". I always emphasize to my students that it's important to check the intro blurb for any clues to the context of the passage before they start reading. In addition to the title and the year of publication, sometimes additional helpful information about the characters or setting is included as well (see below, off one of the official practice tests). While many of the passages included in this workbook do include that type of introduction, a number do not, making it harder to build the necessary habit of checking it for pertinent information before reading each passage.
DON'T Read -- Peterson's Master the New SAT 2016.
I don't have any "pros" to offer for Peterson's, since the good things in this book are not unique to it... the solid tips and guidelines they offer for taking the test are pretty much the same that you will find in nearly any SAT study guide. There are a lot of "cons" for this specific book, however, so let's just jump into those.
The first oddity that jumped out at me while reviewing Peterson's was the organization of the reading passages... it actually seems like the authors are not familiar with the way the SAT is laid out. The reading passages on the SAT are organized like clockwork: Literature first, then Social Studies, then Science, followed by another Social Studies, and ending with one last Science. Literature, Social Studies, Science, Social Studies, Science. It is the order you will find on all the official practice tests, but Peterson's seems unaware of this. It might seem like a small detail, but it makes you wonder -- just how familiar with the SAT were the writers?
Another issue that shows a poor understanding of what material will be usually found on the test -- the "Literature" reading passages on official SAT practice material are a very specific kind of selection, almost always involving dialogue and usually with at least one question requiring some kind of analysis of the motivation or emotion of the characters. Rather than including selections consistent with this pattern, the nearest approximation to a "Literature" passage on one of the Peterson's practice tests was a "condensed summary" of Greek myths... which literally read like Cliff's Notes about the Trojan War: no emotion, no dialogue, simply a string of events. This kind of passage is not helpful at all in a student's preparation for SAT Literature passages.
The reading passages on the SAT also currently include what I call "puzzle piece" questions -- two linked questions that have to fit together to both be right. The first one asks you a general question about the text, and the second asks you to identify a line from the passage where you were explicitly able to find the answer to the first question. These "linked" questions reliably occur twice on every single official SAT reading passage, but a number of the Peterson's passages don't include even one. Again, another oversight indicating a lack of familiarity with the SAT, and one that cheats students out of important practice opportunities for a tricky question format.
And lastly, whoever wrote the Peterson's book really needed to brush up on their grammar and punctuation. I know, embarassing, right? But it's true -- within just ten Writing and Language questions I reviewed in a particular sitting, I found three clear errors in grammar and punctuation. Here's just one example. Peterson's maintains that this is a correct sentence: "In part, the plan is predicated on the idea that within its own various redevelopment areas, or 'natural economic zones,' people can both live and work in fields that every city has; namely, healthcare, education, government, transportation, and local businesses that meet core needs, such as grocery stores and eating places." Can you identify why that is NOT a correct sentence? If you're muttering, "the semicolon, the semicolon!" then bonus points for being a grammar nerd, and bonus points for being right! A semicolon must separate TWO COMPLETE THOUGHTS... and "namely, healthcare, education, government, transportation, and local businesses that meet core needs, such as grocery stores and eating places" is not a complete thought. It is a list, with no main verb and no subject.
To sum up -- Tutorverse's The New SAT is a great workbook, that includes many valuable opportunities for practice that you will not find in other SAT study guides on the market. It is a solid investment for any high school student preparing for the test! Peterson's Master the New SAT, on the other hand, seems to have a much vaguer understanding of the kind of material and questions you will find the SAT, and the Writing and Language practice section is riddled with errors. Save your money and your time -- opt for a better resource!
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