Searching for the Best SAT Reading Guide
As an SAT tutor for over 13 years, I have seen the prep materials for the English and Math portion of the SAT improve dramatically. Unfortunately, SAT Reading has been a tougher nut to crack.
While Erica Meltzer’s Critical Reader does a good job preparing students to do well on the SAT’s reading section, it’s just too long for a student who is also preparing for Math and English.
I ran across International Tutor’s e-books on SAT reading, and saw that they were reasonably brief. I also saw that she often works with ESL students, so her understanding of reading comprehension might include some interesting insights. She has the following two books: Guide to SAT Reading: Global Conversation Passages, and Guide to SAT Reading: Literature Passages. I am glad I did.
Why I’m Reviewing
My review can be looked at from two perspectives: how these books do as comprehensive reading prep, and what they offer that other reading prep resources don’t.
As a comprehensive solution, I like them. They both cover the passage types well within a reasonable book length. One of my complaints about Erica’s book is that I think she spends too many pages on some question types and not enough on others. I think International Tester’s section length priorities are pretty good.
Do these e-books offer anything new that other reading prep resources don’t? The answer to this is “kinda”. I think these books do an exceptional job explaining strategy, which I will go into detail later. These strategies aren’t entirely new, but are discussed better than I have seen elsewhere.
Both eBooks use the first 5 or so chapters to discuss the general structure of the passages, the strategies for understanding the passages, and strategies for answering the questions. The remaining chapters are answers and explanations for the corresponding reading passage questions from the Official SAT Practice Tests 1-9. The Literature eBook is 16 chapters and Global Conversation eBook is 20 chapters.
Both have strategy sections that are well written, and clear enough for self study. They also use the Official SAT Practice Tests for practice. The questions all have explanations for every answer, not just the correct ones, so you can understand your mistakes. I do wish some of the explanations were a bit longer, but I understand the need to keep the e-book size manageable.
Since the Literature passages always come first in the SAT, the Literature Passages e-book is the one I will start with.
After the Introduction section, there is a section on how to improve. I especially liked International Tester’s discussion of decoding sentence structures, as she does a great job covering some things students almost always need help with. This section is the standout one, in my opinion. The rest of the book is good, but other SAT Reading resources rarely do much for improving one’s understanding of sentence structure to improve reading comprehension.
Next is a section on big picture concepts for understanding SAT Reading, then questions types, types of wrong answers, and finally, breakdowns of each Literature passage in the 9 Official SAT practice tests.
Global Conversation Guide
The Global Conversations e-book begins with a section discussing resources for further practice. Next, follows a discussion of the Global Conversation passages, a chapter on questions types, and a chapter on language and sentence structure. To me, this chapter is the standout, much like chapter 2 in the Literature e-book. Almost all SAT students need lots of help breaking down complex sentences so that they can understand them. This chapter accomplishes that better than other material I have seen.
Next are chapters about how prior knowledge matters. The final chapters are devoted to explaining answers for the Global Conversation Passages of Official Practice Tests 1-9
Conclusion: They’re good!
As a source for comprehensive SAT Reading prep, Both are a good balance between too short and too long. Obviously, these two e-books only explicitly cover 2 types of passages in the SAT Reading section. But they cover the two that give students the most trouble, and the breakdowns and strategies in these e-books have a lot of carryover to the other passage types. Everything regarding Literature and Global Conversation Passages is covered well. As a source for new and better reading strategies, I really liked chapter 2 in the Literature e-book and chapter 4 in the Global Conversations e-book , as they have given me ideas on how to communicate and teach active reading strategies better. Both books don’t necessarily present completely new strategies, but they do communicate them exceptionally clearly.
Overall, these are great books, and I will recommend them to my students looking to improve their SAT Reading scores. There is one thing I would love to see in future revisions: a guide or discussion of how to further practice and develop the abilities concerning breaking down and simplifying sentences. Maybe some practice sets that get progressively harder? I think some students will need significant guided practice to master those skills. I imagine that is where her personalized tutoring comes in! Anyway, I think International Tester should think about writing an eBook for the remaining social science passages!