Update: SAT books, release of new editions

Update, 8/11: Because of a proofreading-related delay*, it’s unfortunately going to be several more weeks before the final versions are released on Amazon. The official release has now been set for September 5th. In the meantime, both books will continue to be available for purchase in beta form either through CreateSpace (see below) or through the Books page.

(Note: by “proofreading-related,” I do NOT mean that there are so many corrections to make that it will take several weeks to implement them. Rather, my second-round proofreader is currently out of the country, with the manuscripts, and I won’t have access to them until she returns. It was an unforeseen delay, but this isn’t a step I can skip. That’s the thing about book publishing: somehow, everything takes longer than you expect. My proofreader did send me some initial edits, all of which were minor and mostly stylistic. So, yes, the beta versions may have some lingering typos, but they’re not rough drafts. If you need the books asap and really want the new editions, you won’t be missing out on anything major by ordering them now.)

Update, 7/27: Pre-publication copies of The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar, 4th Edition, and The Critical Reader, 3rd Edition, are now available on CreateSpace.

Unfortunately, it’s going to be another couple of weeks before the books make it on to Amazon. I’m estimating 8/10-15 for the grammar book, and 8/15-20 for the Reading book. I realize that this is later than initially estimated (welcome to the wonderful world of book publishing!), and please know that I am working hard to get the books out as soon as possible; however, the manuscripts do need to undergo additional proofing to ensure that the copy is as clean as possible before they’re released on Amazon. No substantive content changes will be made, however, so if you need the books now, please rest assured that the CreateSpace versions are more or less the same as the Amazon versions.

P.S. This is frustrating for me. These revisions have been going on for three months now. There are so many things I want to blog about, but as I keep explaining to people, 20% of my work takes up 99% of my time. I think I might be glimpsing some light at the end of the tunnel, though. Thanks for your patience.

For those of you waiting for the new editions of my SAT books, I have some news.

Because the manuscripts still need to go through a second full round of proofing, it’s going to be another few weeks before the books get up on Amazon. I’m aiming for around the 25th for The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar, 4th Edition; The Critical Reader, 3rd Edition, should follow two or so weeks later.

I will, however, be making pre-publication copies of The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar available through CreateSpace by the end of this week (7/14-15); I will aim to do the same for The Critical Reader by the weekend of 7/21-22.

While the final versions may contain a handful of minor stylistic changes, the actual content will be effectively identical. So if you’re planning to take the new August test, you will be able to use the new editions to study. (And if you have the current versions, please rest assured that they are still extremely comprehensive and will prepare you just fine.) 

I’ll post as soon as the books are available.

The college search: 5 things parents must know

The college search: 5 things parents must know

The following post was written by a friend and colleague whose son recently went through the college admissions process. I asked her to share her insights into the experience, and she was generous enough to write this post. So for all you parents of smart B students who would rather be playing World of Warcraft than writing their college essays, know that there is hope. Spoiler alert: the writer’s son got into college, no one had a nervous breakdown, everyone is still on speaking terms and, perhaps most importantly, no one will have to go into permanent debt to fund his education.


Do you remember your own college search? Perhaps like me, your 17-year-old self probably got very little guidance from your parents. Did you take the SAT once or twice? I took it once. Did you get test prep? I didn’t. I was pretty passive about the whole thing. However, let me ask a question that is even more revealing of the difference in generations… Did you use a typewriter to do your applications? Even if your 17-year-old self would have appreciated the convenience of the online Common App, I bet he or she would look at the high school senior standing in your living room and be totally aghast at all the sturm und drang. (more…)

Preview copies of “The Critical Reader,” 3rd Edition, are now available

Preview copies of “The Critical Reader,” 3rd Edition, are now available

Pre-publication copies of “The Critical Reader,” 3rd Edition, are now available for purchase ($24.95) through CreateSpace.

This updated version includes:

-A revised chapter on paired passages, designed to reflect the focus on historical documents.

-Additional material on vocabulary-in-context, inference, and graphic/data analysis questions.

-New passages more closely aligned with the readings on the redesigned SAT.

-An index of questions covering all eight tests in the Official Guide, 2018 Edition.

Please note that the content of this book is effectively final. Any changes made to the version released on Amazon (estimated 8/15) will be minor and stylistic.

Preview copies of “The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar,” 4th Edition are now available

Preview copies of “The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar,” 4th Edition are now available

Pre-publication copies of The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar, 4th Edition, are now available through CreateSpace ($21.95).

I’m hoping to make the final version available on Amazon by the end of the month, but any changes will be minor and restricted to stylistic issues; all content updates are complete.

This new edition is aligned with The Official SAT Study Guide, 2018 edition, and includes questions from all eight exams categorized both by concept and by test.

Click here to read a preview.

I am aiming to make preview copies available for The Critical Reader, 3rd Edition, available this weekend (7/23-24) or early next week as well.

New: SAT/ACT Reading Resources Page

New: SAT/ACT Reading Resources Page

From time to time, I get emails asking me to provide suggestions for SAT/ACT reading prep materials, and it finally occurred to me that I should create a formal SAT/ACT Reading Resources Page with all of my recommendations grouped in one place.

In the past, when I’ve received these types of requests, I’ve simply pointed people to Arts & Letters Daily; however, that site contains a huge number of links, some of which go to publications well beyond the scope of college-admissions exams. As a result, I’ve identified a smaller group of (online, free) magazines whose articles I find most reflective of SAT/ACT reading, and provided links to those.

I’ve also included a list of suggested authors, both fiction and non-fiction, classic and contemporary, in case you want to do some poking around on your own. And if you’re studying for the SAT, I’ve included links to a number of key historical documents.

If you’re not much of a reader, though, I’d recommend that you start by focusing on broadening your general knowledge and read shorter pieces about a variety of topics. I strongly suggest you start by picking one of the linked periodicals (magazines) such as Smithsonian or Scientific American and spending a good 15 minutes or so a day reading a couple of articles. That’s probably a better approach than getting bored and frustrated with a 350-page book you don’t really like. Besides, two out of four ACT passages involve natural or social science, as do three out of five SAT passages, so those are the areas you stand to benefit most directly from learning about.

Moreover, the more you know about a lot, the better a chance you’ll have of encountering a familiar topic when you take the test. Studies have actually found that weak readers with strong knowledge of a subject actually outperform ones who have stronger overall reading skills but weaker subject-specific knowledge.

Despite the usual cautions against injecting your outside knowledge into the test, in my experience the issue is usually too little knowledge of a subject rather than too much.

Also, despite the College Board’s insistence that the redesigned SAT reflects “what students are learning in school” (a nonsense statement if ever there was one, given the curricular inconsistency that characterizes the American educational system), the reality is that there continue to be plenty of passages that have, quite frankly, nothing in the least to do with what gets taught in the average high school classroom. As has always been the case, students who read on their own about a lot of different subjects will be at a significant advantage over those who don’t.

New: SAT/ACT reading quizzes!

New: SAT/ACT reading quizzes!

While going through all of my quizzes to make some edits/updates, I noticed that while there were an awful lot of grammar exercises, I was sorely lacking in the reading quizzes department — and that was really a major oversight (oops!) since for a lot of students, that’s the hardest part of the test. So I’ve decided to remedy the issue. (more…)

Yes, you can end a sentence with a preposition

Yes, you can end a sentence with a preposition

There is a certain type of language enthusiast who, at the mention of English grammar, will jump to reassure you that they would never, ever dream of ending a sentence with a preposition. While their ardor for linguistic correctness is admirable, in this case I find it a little misplaced.


Well, when it comes to English, it there are two main types of grammar rules: those that came about in order to improve clarity and facilitate comprehension; and those that developed somewhat arbitrarily, more from convention than from logic. Things like period and comma usage are good examples of the former. In contrast, the infamous “don’t end a sentence preposition” rule is a stellar example of the latter. (more…)

Why the financial aid conversation should happen early

Why the financial aid conversation should happen early

If you’re just beginning the college search and application process, the number of things to consider can seem overwhelming: Big school or small? Research university or liberal arts college? Urban or rural? Close to home or far away? As costs have skyrocketed over the past few years, however, college admissions have increasingly come to revolve around one major question: is it affordable? (more…)

New: GMAT Sentence Correction cheat sheet!

For those of you looking for a condensed version of key things to know for the Sentence Correction portion of the GMAT, I’ve posted  a Cheat Sheet in the GMAT study guide.

20 simple tips to help keep you focused on the most important information and spot right/wrong answer more quickly and easily.

I’ve also posted a few additional articles in the GMAT section recently.

Parallel structure with “that” (a frequently overlooked favorite GMAT concept)
An in-depth discussion of how to use “which” along with a separate article simplifying “which vs. that”
And the ever-popular burning question of when to use “because” vs. “due to” (more…)

Beware of free practice tests offered by test-prep companies

Beware of free practice tests offered by test-prep companies

Note: I originally posted this article last summer at a colleague’s request, but I’m re-posting it again now as students and families start to look at summer test-prep options.

If you’re just beginning test-prep this summer and looking into take a class or working with a tutor affiliated with a company, please tread carefully when dealing with the free practice tests offered by these organizations.

Many of these companies do not use official material produced by either the College Board or the ACT, but rather rely on tests written in-house and used only by the company. This is always the case for national chains such as Kaplan and Princeton Review, and is common practice among other companies as well. (more…)

Previews of my updated SAT books are now available

Previews of my updated SAT books are now available

For those of you who would like an advance look at the forthcoming editions of my SAT grammar and reading books, I’m making made previews available on the relevant pages.

Click here for The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar.

And click here for The Critical Reader.

Release dates are still TBD, but will most likely be mid-late July.

Book updates, study guides & announcements

Book updates, study guides & announcements

So after about two consecutive months of non-stop book updates, I’m finally getting to do some serious work on my long-awaited, much-needed new website. (Thank you, Chuck Moran at Bald Guy Studio, for doing such a fantastic job, and for taking the time to understand what this site was really all about.)

I’m hoping to return to posting on at least a semi-regular basis — assuming that I don’t get completely swallowed up by my books again — but before I start ranting and raving about the College Board’s antics again, I have a few organizational things to cover. (more…)

“Because” vs. “due to” and the GMAT

“Because” vs. “due to” and the GMAT

When it comes to GMAT grammar, it can be helpful to distinguish between those idioms whose use is tested (that is, ones that may be presented in either correct or incorrect form) and idioms whose misuse is tested (that is, ones that are almost always used incorrectly when they appear). Due to offers an excellent case in point. (more…)

The trickiest SAT/ACT transition questions

The trickiest SAT/ACT transition questions

When transition questions are discussed in regard to SAT Writing/ACT English, they tend to be covered in two main forms. 

The first way involves a transition placed after a comma in the middle of a sentence. 

Version #1: The Spanish conquest of the Aztecs in 1519 brought the fragrant vanilla flower—and its companion, cacao—to Europe. Vanilla was cultivated in botanical gardens in France and England, but growers were unable to collect its glorious seeds.   (more…)

“SAT Vocabulary: A New Approach” is now available on Amazon!

“SAT Vocabulary: A New Approach” is now available on Amazon!

I’m happy to announce that SAT Vocabulary: A New Approach, my joint SAT vocabulary project with Larry Krieger, is now up and available on Amazon.

Based on a thorough analysis of released redesigned SATs, the book is concise but comprehensive guide to key vocabulary for both the Writing and Language test and the Reading test. We’ve also included a bonus chapter covering the Essay. 

To be clear: this book is almost certainly not what most people think of when they hear the term “SAT vocabulary book” — that is, long lists of words and definitions. All of the vocabulary on the new SAT is tested in context, and some of it is tested in very indirect ways. As a result, we’ve included numerous exercises focused on applying vocabulary in rSAT-style contexts.

We’ve also gone out of our way to include a chapter on transitional words and phrases — not exactly standard fodder for most vocabulary lists. Although teachers (and parents, and sometimes tutors) tend to take for granted that high school students know how to use these words, in our experience plenty of students aren’t quite sure just what words like subsequently and nevertheless actually mean. 

Larry and I will of course be updating the book as more exams become available, but the College Board has released sufficient material at this point that we’re confident it accurately reflects the content of the new exam.

Click here for a preview. 


Everything you need to know to ace the APUSH essays

Larry Krieger has set up an APUSH Crash Course page on Facebook, and it’s a really impressive (not to mention free) resource. 

In addition to posting full-length sample essays with paragraph-by-paragraph explanations of how to present key points, he’s made a number of videos walking students through the test as a whole, the long essay, and of course everyone’s favorite: the DBQ.

He even explains what you need to include to obtain specific scores. 

Larry is truly the APUSH guru. He knows the test inside and out, and I strongly suggest that anyone taking the exam check out the page. Even if you’re already in good shape, you’ll probably pick up a few tips.