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Is there an alternative?
Yes, there is! As one would expect, I’ll start with the importance of viewing the SAT as a game to be defeated. For all sports, dedicated practices are extremely important. Preparing for the SAT is no different from practicing for tennis or soccer: it's a game of strategy and repetition. As I noted earlier, the material that will be tested on the SAT is not that difficult, but the presentation and language is confusing for anyone who has not done much testing or competitions.
In my opinion, there are two important phases in preparing successfully for the test. The first phase includes building small blocks of confidence and the second one involves time management. That is why I recommend breaking the tests in smaller and manageable sections.
The general idea is to devote about thirty minutes to completing a test section and about the same amount of time to review the answers proposed by The College Board. While most students focus on the scores and check their wrong answers, much can be gained from checking the correct answers. It is important to TRULY understand EVERY answer and to try to understand how the SAT questions are developed. To do this, one has to be comfortable with the material tested.
It is for this reason that I recommend to start working with open books and without time limits. Open books include the precise answers to the test. During this phase, student ought to review the books that form their SAT library. On this subject, I have a simple recommendation: buy as many SAT books as you can afford. There are no clear leaders and most books share very similar strategies and tips. For math, Gruber's is the most complete and should provide answers to most problems appearing on the SAT, with the potential absence of problems specific to the post March 2005 test. The other usual suspects are Princeton Review, Barron’s, Kaplan, and McGraw Hill. The strategies and tips for math will be very similar among the books listed. The strategies for the verbal components offer a few variances, which students should evaluate on an individual basis. With the advent of the new SAT, a number of new books have appeared. Those new books such at the RocketReview of Adam Robinson, the Maximum SAT of Peter Edwards, and the solution book by TestMaster(s) have raised the bar, and are in many ways better than the books published by the former “gorillas”. However, the choice of the source books is not that critical, and I did not try to prepare an exhaustive list of books. There are a number of other books that contain advice and strategies. My recommendation stays the same: buy as many as you can and check the strategies to find a few that apply to your individual taste. As you will say later, the best strategies will be self-developed.
This is the time to introduce a caveat. Under no circumstances should a student use tests that are not published by The College Board. You may have noticed that I did not list the Official Guide among the source books. It is, however, the must-have book since it contains all the tests you'll need to prepare for the SAT. I will comment on the online tools of The College Board in a later paragraph.
Are you now ready to get your X-acto knife out and rip that Official Guide in small sections? Better stock up on manila folders ... you'll need them.