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The Essential Guide to the SAT Test Prep and The Essential Guide to the ACT Test Prep Review by Amy M. O'Quinn

Does your student want to increase his scoring potential or improve upon previous SAT scores? Does she need help building test taking skills or just a refresher? Is he self-motivated, but not really interested in tackling the typical 200+ page SAT prep book? Then The Essential Guide to the SAT published by 'My College Options' might be just what the teacher ordered!

The Essential Guide to the SAT is a 172-page, spiral bound paperback preparation guide that is designed to boost the student's understanding of and confidence in taking college entrance exams. According to the book's description, this program provides:

  •  vital information about the nature and construction of the SAT and about test registration;
  •  tips for mastering the art of taking standardized tests in general and the SAT Reasoning Test, specifically;
  •  formal instruction and tips for tackling test prep and taking the exam;
  •  help for increasing your reading vocabulary;
  •  the student perspective on issues related to college entrance testing;
  •  a fun way--in video game format--for reviewing material and practicing test-taking skills;
  •  a brief bibliography of other resources to aid you in preparing for the SAT Reasoning Test.

The guide also includes a fun and easy-to-use interactive action SAT prep game on CD called Zero Hour Threat. It is designed to increase standardized test scores as well as enhance general mathematics and vocabulary skills. However, this state of the art video game is supposed to be used in conjunction with the manual and does not stand alone.

The book itself contains the following information:

Chapter One: Essential Facts
Chapter Two: Test-Taking Tips
Chapter Three: Verbal Skills Review
Chapter Four: Math Skills Review
Chapter Five: Practice Test
Chapter Six: Practice Test Answers (with explanations)
Chapter Seven: Additional Resources
Answer sheets for taking the practice tests are in the back of the book.

I especially liked the fact that the manual gives a brief summary about what the SAT is, why students should take it, the registration process, scoring, and how to get the most out of using the guide. This information is put into a nutshell and is easy to understand without having to wade through a bunch of lengthy descriptions. It's sort of a 'get it and go' guide! But the book is best utilized by setting aside a bit of time every day to go through the material.

There is also a similar guide for the ACT called The Essential Guide to ACT Test Prep that is set up with the exact same format as the previous book and is written by the same authors. This guide by Club Z In-Home Tutoring Services also includes the Zero Threat Hour video game on CD as well. However, the table of contents does reflect the addition of other academic areas. The ACT (American College Testing) examination measures skills in four areas: English, reading, science, and math. In addition, there is an optional writing test offered in a version called ACT Plus Writing.

According to the manual, the ACT is designed and developed by American College Testing in keeping with standards and codes set by the National Council on Measurement in Education, the American Psychological Association, The American Educational Research Association, and The Joint Committee on Testing Practices. Students are allocated 2 hours and 55 minutes to answer the two hundred and fifteen multiple choice questions on the exam. The optional writing section requires an additional 30 minutes.

The book contains the following information:

Chapter One: Essential Facts
Chapter Two: Test-Taking Tips
Chapter Three: English Skills Review
Chapter Four: Math Skills Review
Chapter Five: Science Skills Review
Chapter Six: Practice Test
Chapter Seven: Practice Test Answers (with explanations)
Chapter Eight: Additional Resources
Answer sheets for taking the practice test are at the back of the book.

As with the first book, I really like how the information about the test is easy to follow and written in summary. For a student who wants to 'get down to business', these guides are excellent.

My twin daughters used the SAT prep guide, but they never took the ACT. However, I had them look through both books and give me their opinions. They agreed that the manuals were easy to use and understand and provided a good overview of the tests, what would be included, and what they should expect on test-taking day. They also appreciated the little hints and test taking tips and strategies included in the guides.

Overall, I feel these guides for the SAT and ACT would be a useful addition to any self-motivated high school homeschooler's bookshelf!

Product Review by Amy M. O'Quinn, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, April, 2009