The SAT Prep Black Book

Read This First!

“Give me six hours to chop down a tree, and I will spend the first four hours sharpening the axe.”
- Abraham Lincoln

The approach you’re about to learn from the SAT Prep Black Book has helped many, many people score much higher on the SAT than they thought they could. I’m confident it can help you, too, if you make a sincere effort to implement what I’m going to teach you.

If you have any previous experience with SAT prep, you’ll probably find that this book is different from the ‘traditional’ advice you’ll get from most other sources. That traditional advice is mostly based on memorizing things like vocabulary lists, math formulas, and essay examples. And if you’ve tried that stuff, or if you know somebody who has, then you know it doesn’t work very well for most people.

My approach is different because it’s based on understanding the design of the test, which allows you to take the vocabulary and math you already know and turn them into a great score—even a perfect 2400, if you’re diligent enough in your preparation.

I’ve designed this approach to be as easy to learn as possible. You’ll need to read this book carefully and be thorough in applying what I teach you, but I think you’ll find it much less time-consuming and much more productive than the traditional approach.

But that doesn’t mean you’ll get the full benefit of this book just from flipping through it!

If you want me to be on your team for the SAT, then you have to give us both a fighting chance. That means reading this book with an open mind, looking carefully at the many example solutions to get an idea of how the principles apply to real College Board questions, going to watch the free video demonstrations, and—above all—sticking with it when you run into difficulties. I’ve done my part to help you beat the test by laying bare exactly how the SAT works and exactly where it’s vulnerable. Now it’s up to you to read the battle plan and mount your attack.

Stick With It

I can guarantee you that you will encounter real test questions that seem to violate the rules and patterns I talk about in this book. This is a normal part of the process—everyone, including myself, occasionally runs into a question that seems to break the rules.

When this happens, it’s always because the test-taker has made a mistake.

So it’s crucial that we remember the design of the SAT can’t change, no matter how much it might seem to have changed on a particular question. It will be tempting to think, “Oh, I guess this one math question requires me to know trig, even though Mike said that would never happen,” or “Well, I guess this passage question requires me to think about symbolism, even though that’s supposed to be impossible on the SAT.” As soon as you go down that road—as soon as you stop playing by the rules of the test and start treating the SAT like something it’s not—your score will suffer.

So don’t do that :)

How To Read This Book

The Black Book is designed so that a person who didn’t know anything about the SAT could read it straight through and learn everything he needed to know. I’ve organized it this way based on over a decade of experience working with tens of thousands of people through a variety of formats.

So if you don’t know anything about the SAT, or if you’ve had a rough time using other SAT books and you want to clear your mind and start from scratch, the best thing to do is to read this book straight through, just as it’s written.

If you don’t have the time for that, or if you know that you only need help with a particular section or question type, then you’re free to skip just to those sections, of course. But I would still recommend that you read the following chapters as well:

oSetting (The Right) Goals

oHow To Train For The SAT—Mastering The Ideas In This Book

oOnly Work With Questions From The College Board!

oThe Importance Of Details: Avoiding “Careless Errors”

oWhere To Find “Missing Points”

oTime Management

If you’re reading this the night before the test, or if you only need a few general pointers,  then you might choose just to read the sections on the hidden rules and patterns of each question type, or even just follow along with some of the sample solutions in each section to get the hang of things.

But this book doesn’t just address the mechanics of answering each type of question on the SAT. It also covers issues relating to planning, performance, time management, perseverance, and the other mental aspects surrounding the SAT. I strongly advise you to read those as well.

Using The Blue Book

The “Blue Book” that goes along with this Black Book is the second edition of the College Board publication The Official SAT Study Guide. You need a copy of the Blue Book because it’s the only printed source of real SAT questions, and real SAT questions are an essential part of SAT preparation. The SAT Prep Black Book that you’re reading right now will teach you all the rules, patterns, and design principles of real SAT questions, and will show you hundreds of solutions for real SAT questions, but you’ll only be able to practice these ideas if you have the Blue Book.

I strongly, strongly advise you to follow along with the Blue Book solutions in this book, because seeing the proper approach to the SAT in action against real questions is an indispensable part of your preparation, and will make things a lot clearer.

You can probably get a copy of the Blue Book from a library, but I recommend that you get a copy of your own from Amazon, which usually has the lowest prices. That way you can mark up the copy as you would mark up a test booklet, and you won’t have two worry about looking at other people’s notes in a used copy. At the time of this writing, a new copy of the book is selling for around $10 on Amazon. Here’s a link where I keep a page with the best deals on the Blue Book:

If you combine this Black Book with the College Board’s Blue Book, you won’t need any other resources to prepare for the SAT.

Using This Book To Prepare For The PSAT

With the changes that were made to the PSAT and SAT in 2004 and 2005, the two tests became much more similar than they were before. Every type of multiple-choice question that appears on one test now appears on the other as well. This makes it much easier for you to prepare for the PSAT and the SAT at the same time.

The only important difference between the PSAT and the SAT is that the PSAT does NOT include a handwritten essay portion like the SAT does.

The two tests also have different numbers of sections and different numbers of questions per section.

So, as a practical matter, the best way to prepare for the PSAT is simply to prepare for the SAT as you normally would—the PSAT might even seem a little easier in comparison, just because it has fewer questions overall. If you don’t have much time before the PSAT and you haven’t started preparing for the SAT yet, then you can leave out the essay portion of your SAT prep and only focus on the parts of the SAT that will appear on the PSAT.