Sorry if this is an eyesore... I have this bad habit of using 50 words to explain something that can be said in 5. xD
- Make your own lists using words found in SAT QOD, practice tests, study guides, common word lists on CC, etc. This is financially efficient and helps you learn the vocab. Killing two birds with one stone!
- Direct Hits (very focused and accurate, presents vocab that appears on the SAT all the time - hyperbole, but very true - and presents the vocab in an efficient way for people who have trouble with rote memorization)
- Princeton Review hits parade (I think that's what it's called, it's the vocab section in the regular PR
study guide - very helpful as well)
- Free vocab iPhone apps: what I do when it's 2AM and I can't go to bed. Not as accurate at predicting the vocab that will appear on the SAT but it definitely helps... you fall asleep at night.
For math, I didn't find any books that helped me, but apparently some people on CC have really liked Gruber's. If you have any algebra textbook, that would probably suffice. For the math section, I just prepped by paying attention in math class and doing the homework every night.
For writing, if you have a grammar textbook, that would work. To prepare for the writing section I studied out of my 7th grade grammar textbook, and that worked wonders for me. I didn't even read the entire book; I just read key strategies and did some exercises. Also, read the news as often as possible. You can use stuff you find in the news in your essay for the writing section, but the news is also helpful in improving reading speed, language skills and comprehension... not to mention the articles often contain several highfalutin SAT vocab words. (; You can't use your ear for every single question in the SAT writing section, but reading as much as possible will certainly help because if you think something sounds wrong, it's probably wrong. OOH AND Taking practice tests will prepare you for those tricky questions that test you on grammatically incorrect colloquialisms. so that your practice test experience will back up your ear in case it's wrong.
To improve your score, take lots of practice tests. Practice tests reveal several strategies and concepts, and so by the time you take the actual SAT, you'll already know all of collegeboard's tricks. By taking practice tests, I learned most if not all of the concepts that I didn't already know (not to mention that the insane amount of critical reading sections helped me increase my reading speed and comprehension immensely heehee).
The books I have and study out of:
- my cousin's Kaplan (12 practice tests)
- the school library's Kaplan (regular edition)
- Princeton Review (regular)
- Princeton Review's 12 practice tests for the SAT/PSAT
- Barron's (regular, not 2400)
- Direct Hits volume 1
- the big blue book
A book I borrowed for a day and hated:
- Petersons (tests don't model the SAT, the vocab isn't focused on words that frequently appear on the SAT but on obscure, esoteric words that you would probably never see in life otherwise... honestly I think Petersons just misses the key points in everything. Not just in its SAT book, but its AP books as well. o.o)
Barron's is decent if you're trying to learn tips and strategies, but the practice tests are very difficult compared to the SAT. Some people say that taking Barron's practice tests still helps, but I found it ineffective. Personal preference I guess...
Kaplan's is decent for learning vocab, but you don't need it at all if you diligently study using free online resources. The practice tests are nothing like the actual SAT/PSAT (ie I found problems requiring knowledge of trigonometry and pre-calc equations in the math section and the CR section was way too easy). If you need to drastically improve your score, you can get Barron's to read over the strategies but I would try avoiding Kaplan.
The Big Blue Book is the best because its tests model the SAT accurately, and you can use those tests to recognize collegeboard's tricks. Some people may argue with this, but I personally liked Princeton Review's prep book as well. The vocab is grouped into different "themes" and the practice tests are pretty good. I took a plethora of practice tests out of the Big Blue Book and PR
and I improved my average practice test score from a 1900 to a 2300-2400 (I solely studied strategies to get my score from a 1600 to a 1900, and then I mostly took practice tests to make the jump to a 2300+).
Honestly, I think you could probably improve your score a couple hundred points (depending on your work ethic and memorization capacity of course) just by using the Big Blue Book, Princeton Review, and free sources like the collegeconfidential forums. If you need more practice tests, you can always get the 12 SAT practice tests from PR
. I can't tell you anything about PWN the SAT math or Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar since I don't have those, but if you can borrow grammar and algebra textbooks from your school or the public library, then I doubt you would need to buy anything else.