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Bigb14's SAT FAQ v1.0

Bigb14Bigb14 1970 replies74 threads Senior Member
edited July 2011 in SAT Preparation
After the pages upon pages of n00b questions that I've been seeing lately, I decided to write a SAT FAQ. Some parts of the FAQ are based on personal opinion, but the large majority is based on general consensus from these forums (special thanks to Xiggi's thread). If you have a problem with what I've written (i.e. PR IS SO 1337 OMG!!!!!!!11!11one1!! ), remember that nobody's forcing you to take this advice.

Also, as this is my first version, there may be obvious questions that I have missed. If you see anything that should be added, please do not hesitate to let me know. Also, if you see any typos/errors/incorrect information, a correction is only a post away. Thanks to everyone here for getting me a great score, and without further ado, my SAT FAQ.

Q: Should I take a prep course?
A: Depending on your score, you may or may not need a SAT course. However, STAY AWAY FROM LARGE PREP COMPANIES AT ALL COST. THESE PEOPLE ARE ONLY OUT FOR YOUR MONEY!!! Generally, if you are motivated and are scoring above a 1600-1700, you will be able to get the score you want by self studying. If you are less motivated and/or scoring relatively low, the I would recommend getting a tutor or taking a local prep course. You should start by looking for high scorers in your area; these people know the test and know the secrets to doing well on the test. As I said before, you can also look for local companies, but make sure to talk to some people who took the course to make sure that it is useful. The bottom line is that if your family does not have $1000+ to spend for an SAT course, it is perfectly ok. You can buy all/most of these books for $100 (and they can be resold).

Q: What's are the best prep books?
A: The general consensus is to use the Official CB Study Guide for practice tests (affectionately dubbed the BB), Rocket Review Revolution (RR) for Writing, Gruber's for Math, and Grammatix for Critical Reading. I personally also recommend Maximum SAT as a generally good guide, it's really very well written (and helped me a lot).

Q: Are these books the 2400 version?
A: No, unless otherwise noted, do not assume that we are referring to the 2400 versions of these books.

Q: I can't find Grammatix on Amazon...
A: The book has been discontinued. However, if you look around on the internet, you can find yourself a copy. Don't ask for a link, as I believe that's illegal.

Q: Should I use Kaplan?
A: No.

Q: What about Princeton Review/ Barron's/ Sparknots/ Every other crappy prep book that I forgot to mention?
A: No. The reason is that all non-tCB test materials are not standardized according to CB standards. The point of studying is to find out what tCB is looking for, not what Kaplan/PR is looking for (the answer is money, btw). If you are looking for review materials and test strategies, look in the books I mentioned above. If you are worried that there are not enough tCB test materials, I'm here to tell you that there is.

Q: Ok... so where do I get all of these tCB test materials?
A: the BB has 8 tests, BB2 (second edition of the Official SAT Study Guide) has 10 tests (3 are new, so between the 2 books you have 11 tests). The Official Collegeboard Online Course has 10 tests (I believe it was just updated recently), and there are 2 official released practice exams (one is repeated in the OC, I believe). So after all this, you have a grand total of 21 tests. If you study all 21 tests, you will not have a bad day come test day (I promise). Not to mention that there are previously released QAS booklets, if you've taken the SAT before.

Q: Ok, I don't want to spend all this money to buy the OC... and I'm out of tests. What do I do?
A: Redo the BB. You'll be surprised how many questions you get wrong (questions that you supposedly "reviewed"). If you wrote all over your first copy, a new copy costs like $3 on Amazon. Alternatively, you can also buy old PSAT tests from tCB for a nominal fee ($5/test or something). You must email tCB for the answers.

Q: Great, so I have all these prep books... Now what?
A: First, you'll want to take a diagnostic test under timed conditions. Do everything as you would on a real SAT (bubbling, snacks, breaks, etc). Some people say it's better to have a parent time you, but I've found no problems timing myself. Take the diagnostic score to see what sections you need to improve in the most (i.e. if you have an 800 on math, do yourself a favor and don't study the math section).


After assessing your weaknesses, you'll want to do some sections untimed. This is where your handy prep books come in. When doing untimed sections, do problems until you hit something that you don't get. Then, run to your prep book to find the correct classification for the problem. If you don't mind the extra work, it also helps to classify EVERY problem in the section. This may seem tedious, but after a little work you'll get extremely good at it.

After 3-4 tests with this method, you'll find that you can pretty much get through every section without referring to your prep books. At this point, you should start doing the sections timed. If you go over the time limit, that's ok. It takes practice (especially for the writing section). Continue to review the problems you get wrong by classifying with a prep book. If you find that doing extra things (putting parentasis around prep phrases, redrawing figures, excessive note-taking in CR) is slowing you down, try to cut down and do some of these things in your head. After a while, you should be able to finish every section well under the time limit.

If your score is still not desirable, you either:
A) are making a lot of stupid mistakes (see below)
B) have not done enough problems, and still do not grasp the concepts tested. You need to go back to the beginning and do more untimed practice sections.

Q: I'm making a lot of stupid mistakes. Help!
A: You need to read more closely. It's as simple as that. You can try active reading (circling key words, underlining, drawing, etc) or just do it like most people and read slower, taking some time to absorb what you are reading.

Q: Should I memorize vocab words?
A: This one is slightly dependent on your vocabulary base. If you can consistently get no more than 2-3 vocab questions wrong per test, then you probably don't need to. Memorizing more words probably won't get you too many more points. However, if you're getting even the medium questions wrong, you might want to spend some time memorizing word roots or words. If you DO decide to go the words route, check our SAT Hit Parade or Direct Hits (more people seem to recommend Direct Hits. I did not actually study vocab, so I'm just posting what I hear other people saying.)

Q: Any tips for the math section?
A: The best one I can think of is what Mysterytutor (don't ask) called the "Grouping Standard." This means that the correct answer is usually the choice that is closest to the other choices. For example:

a) 5x+5
b) 5x-5
c) 10x+4
d) 10x-4
e) 5x+4

Here, the first coefficient will be 5 (there are 3 choices w/ coefficient 5). The sign will be + (there are 3 choices with +). The second coefficient will be 4 (3 choices with 4). Therefore, the answer is "e" 5x+4. This usually works, except when it doesn't, so don't use this method as a crutch. Rather, use it to check your answer, and if you have no clue, as a method of guessing. Just remember that it doesn't always work. Also, know the formula Average Speed = 2(R1 x R2) / (R1 + R2).

Q: How about writing?
A: Just use RR... it explains it quite nicely.

Q: How do I write a 12 essay?
A: Fill up the page. This is most important. Take a stance, and make this stance very very very very clear. Use good diction, and vary your syntax a bit. Use 2 or 3 examples, historical, literary, or personal experience. Some people say historical and literary are better. I personally don't think it matters. Just make sure you fill up both pages.

Q: Can I make up stuff for the essay?
A: Yes. SAT graders don't get paid to verify what you write. You can make up anything from personal experiences to books and authors.

Q: CR?
A: Just remember the answer has to explicitly restate something from the passage. Do not assume or jump to conclusions. Once again, the CR section in Grammatix is very well written.

A: Relax. If you studied, you'll do fine.

Q: What should I do the day of the test to maximize my scores?
A: If you studied, you should do fine either way. Get a good night's rest the day before, and eat a healthy breakfast. Just don't do anything that's not routine and you'll be good to go. Try to bring a snack with you for the test.

Q: What type of snack is best?
A: It really doesn't matter. I like to get some carbs in the first few breaks and some sugar (fruit) for the final break. It's really all based on personal preference. Just don't bring ribs or anything that'll make you sleepy, or spicy food that'll make you... well, you know.

Q: Any last words?
A: No.
edited July 2011
42 replies
Post edited by Bigb14 on
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Replies to: Bigb14's SAT FAQ v1.0

  • 12537291253729 1003 replies23 threads Senior Member
    Bigb14 wrote:
    know the formula Average Speed = (R1 x R2) / (R1 + R2).

    Its Actually Average Speed = (2 x R1 x R2) / (R1 + R2)
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  • jamesfordjamesford 3336 replies111 threads Senior Member

    I find that it takes me at most half the test time (100ish minutes) to review the test. I might look up a vocab word I don't know, or try to figure out a more efficient way to do a math problem, but it's not as if I'm redoing the entire test. I focus mostly on the problems that I had to guess on/got wrong, but I'll still reread the problems that I was sure of.

    Good FAQ overall. Hopefully it will cut down on all the "best book" threads and such.
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  • Bigb14Bigb14 1970 replies74 threads Senior Member
    ugh... I was sure that the 2 was in there when I typed it... I must have erased it for the parenthesis and then forgot to add it. Sorry about that. I can't edit it anymore, so maybe if I make a v2.0 :P

    Yeah, it depends from person to person. For me, I found myself classifying each question (even the easy ones) and this took me quite a bit of time. Point is though, you can't just take practice tests mindlessly.
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  • 12537291253729 1003 replies23 threads Senior Member
    Maybe a mod/admin can edit it for you...
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  • Bigb14Bigb14 1970 replies74 threads Senior Member
    Maybe I'll shoot gfc a PM...
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  • cjgonecjgone 1503 replies17 threads- Senior Member
    This makes me feel like I can get a good SAT score. :)
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  • jubilantjubilant 540 replies9 threads Member
    lol let's hope people actually read this
    nice thread
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  • Ruby92Ruby92 113 replies17 threads Junior Member
    Thanks a lot!

    I have started preparing for the SAT a week ago. I use both BB and the Barron's, many ppl recommended the Barron's. However, after asking for help and consultation, ppl told me to buy the BB also. Though I have no experience with the SAT, I find the Barron's much better in the way it offers tips and approaches. I have memorized few words from the Barron's flash-cards, about 99.9% of the words are unfamiliar to me.

    The RR, Gurber's and Grammatix are not found here where I live, I'm going to spend the rest of the summer in England and hopefully I'll find them there.

    I also use some free applications offered by Kaplan and other companies on FaceBook, they could be useless, but I like it when I practice and use FB at the same time :D. I'm a FB addict BTW LOL
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  • jamesfordjamesford 3336 replies111 threads Senior Member
    Point is though, you can't just take practice tests mindlessly.

    Agreed .
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  • manu101manu101 560 replies32 threads Member
    Thanks for the informative post. PSATs cost $3 per test and you can email CB for the answers i believe :)

    And just another piece of advice you might want to add next time around. If you buy the RR with the CD, you can access a program called omniproctor where you can time yourself with a computer-generated proctor reading directions.

    Thanks again for the the concise thread!
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  • 112358112358 1888 replies56 threads Senior Member
    I've been thinking we needed something like this for a long time, so thanks for putting it together.
    This usually works, except when it doesn't

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  • Bigb14Bigb14 1970 replies74 threads Senior Member

    I've found RR's online resources to be generally un-useful. The online grader is not accurate in any way, and the timer forces you to do a test in front of the computer. Remember: review books are for review, not practice.

    Yeah, I knew the cost of PSATs was something like that... just too lazy to look it up :P

    Thanks for the correction.
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  • jubilantjubilant 540 replies9 threads Member
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  • 112358112358 1888 replies56 threads Senior Member
    We should really make a compilation of the most helpful threads and sticky it. I understand the virtues of limiting the number of stickies, but there are a lot of great threads out there that have been lost in the dust of bygone eras... I think linking to all of them in one sticky would be a good idea.
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  • GameaholicGameaholic 94 replies94 threads Junior Member
    Haha this FAQ bascially reduces the SAT part of the forum to probably 2 pages
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  • Bigb14Bigb14 1970 replies74 threads Senior Member

    That's a good idea, but that alone probably wouldn't stop people from posting as soon as they make an account. What we need to do is have posting restrictions for new members where unless they make 50+ posts they are not allowed to create threads. Either this, or limit new user posts for about a week.

    The thing is, people don't realize that their question has already been answered hundreds of times. When a simple forum search is adequate, they feel the need to start yet another thread about "OMG WHAT ARE TEH BEST PREP BOOKS LOL!!!"

    I'm not disagreeing with you here. I think it's a great idea. But without some type of enforcement, we'll end up seeing the same Prep course/book questions over and over and over...
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  • jubilantjubilant 540 replies9 threads Member
    sigh. The people I link to this thread are too lazy to even READ it
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  • 112358112358 1888 replies56 threads Senior Member
    Good point. I like the idea of limitations for new users. Maybe not for posts, but definitely for making new threads. That would force them to look around a bit...
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  • Bigb14Bigb14 1970 replies74 threads Senior Member
    I also think that there should be an area under your name for your SAT score (get rid of location or Join Date?). I feel like a lot of 1800-2000 scorers are giving out advice (i.e. buy Barron's/PR) and some of it is just flat out wrong.

    And let's face it, there are many more low scorers than high scorers. So basically, if someone who just created an account posts a thread, they could be fundamentally misguided in their studying.

    I wonder if there's an area where we can post suggestions like this...
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  • 112358112358 1888 replies56 threads Senior Member
    I agree, although it would be hard to verify the scores people post. We could make it possible to rate the usefulness and accuracy of people's posts, which would give new members an idea of who they should trust. It could be easily abused, though, by people who dislike or disagree with each other.

    We could put together a list of things to PM gcf101 about. I've been planning on asking him (her?) about the thread-compilation sticky idea.
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