You excel at math tests, you have a knack for numbers, and maybe you’ve even briefly considered joining the math team. You got a 670 on your first test, but you felt that you could do better.
Where do you go from here?
Analyze your mistakes
The first thing to do is to analyze the errors that kept you from getting a higher score. Most errors will fall into two categories:
- making mistakes (or getting tricked) on easy questions
- not knowing how to approach the harder problems
The first type of problem is easy to rectify: get the Big Blue Book, and get more practice. In no time flat, you’ll learn how to catch almost every single trick the ETS can throw at you. Your score will steadily go up, and you’ll have fewer and fewer of those “OMG, how did I miss that?!” moments.
Unfortunately, you will still encounter problems that you won’t know how to solve consistently.
The Hardest Problems
On the SAT, the difficulty level of each problem is ranked 1 through 5, with 5 being the hardest. There are usually around 4-8 level 5 questions on the entire test, and getting these questions right closes the gap between a 700 and a perfect score. The blue book, even with it’s 10 tests, won’t have enough difficult problems for you to get good, solid practice on them.
To get enough practice conquering the hardest problems on the SAT, “solving a few challenging problems here and there” just won’t do – you need a whole book devoted exclusively to this task.
Crush The Test
In my search for books containing difficult SAT practice problems, I have found exactly one that has really, really impressed me: Crush The Test
Every problem in this book is a challenge. One the 1 to 5 scale, every question in this book rates a 5… or a 6… or maybe even a 7.
Challenging as these questions are, they are also very rewarding to solve, and they’re never boring. You may stare at them for a while, it may hurt your head, and it may take way too long to get to the answer, but when you do, you feel an acute sense of pride and accomplishment – and you’ve learned something, too!
Even the Layout is Smart
Crush The Test is extremely well organized.
Each chapter focuses on a particular type of problem that appears as a “level 5” question on the SAT, and each chapter comes with a nice warm-up section. The warm-up questions are well-thought-out and require you to have the skills necessary to work on the difficult problems up ahead. Each real problem (there are over 200 of them) has a solution in the back of the book, often offering several detailed ways to arrive at the answer.
In a bit of organizational genius, the answer section of the book is numbered by the page of the question that it refers to. For example, the answer to the question (or two) on page 45 will be found on page A45, in the back.
The author is surprisingly funny and sprinkles the pages with information, insights, and tidbits (sometimes not very flattering ones) about the history of the SAT, the ETS, and standardized testing in general.
Get that 800!
If you want that 800 and you are willing to work for it, the path to success is a no-brainer. Give yourself several months before the test, get Crush The Test and practice, practice, practice.