Barron's SAT, 26th edition (2012)


In writing this edition of Barron’s SAT, we have aimed to give you the advantages on the SAT that the students we tutor and teach in classes have enjoyed for decades. Therefore, we’d like you to think of this study guide as your personal SAT tutor, because that’s precisely what it is. Like any good tutor, it will work closely with you, prompting you and giving you pointers to improve your testing skills. It will help you pinpoint your trouble spots and show you how to work on them, and it will point out your strengths as well. After working with your tutor, you should see marked improvement in your performance.

Your personal tutor will be available to work with you whenever you like, for as long or short a time as you like. Working with your tutor, you can go as ­quickly or as slowly as you like, repeating sections as often as you need, skipping over sections you already know well. Your tutor will give you ­explanations, not just correct answers, when you make mistakes, and will be infinitely patient and adaptable.

Here are just a few of the things your tutor offers you:

•   It takes you step by step through thousands of critical reading, writing, and mathematical questions, showing you how to solve them and how to avoid going wrong.

•   It offers you dozens of clear-cut Testing Tactics and shows you how to use them to attack every question type you will find on the new SAT.

•   It enables you to simulate actual testing conditions, providing you with a diagnostic test and five model tests—all with answers fully explained—each of which follows the format of the SAT exactly.

•   It provides comprehensive mathematics review in arithmetic, algebra, and geometry—the three math areas you need to know to do well on the SAT.

•   It gives you the 365-word High-Frequency Word List, 365 words from abridge to zealot that have been shown by computer analysis to occur and reoccur on actual published SATs, plus Barron’s 3,500 Basic Word List, your best chance to acquaint yourself with the whole range of college-level vocabulary you will face on the SAT.

•   It even gives you your own set of high-frequency word list flash cards in a convenient tear-out section at the back of the book. More than 200 words that have appeared regularly on previous SAT exams are presented, each with its part of speech, pronunciation, definition, and illustrative sentence. Separate the cards and carry some with you to study in spare moments. Or devise a competitive game, and use them with a partner.

No other book offers you as much. Your personal tutor embodies Barron’s ongoing commitment to provide you with the best possible coaching for the SAT and every other important test you take. It has benefited from the dedicated labors of Linda Turner and other members of the editorial staff of Barron’s, all of whom wish you the best as you settle down with your tutor to work on the SAT.

*   This e-Book contains hyperlinks that will help you navigate through content, questions and answer explanations, and helpful resources.

*   Please Note: This e-Book will appear differently depending on which device or software you are using to view it. Please adjust accordingly.

SAT Format and Test Dates



Note: As stated above, the “experimental” section can be an extra 25-minute Critical Reading, Mathematics, or Writing Skills section. This section, which permits the test-makers to try out new questions, does not count in your score; but because there is no way to know which section is the experimental one, you must do your best on every section.

Section 1 is always the essay. Sections 2–7, which are each 25-minutes long, can come in any order. In particular, the experimenal section is not necessarily Section 5—it can be any of Sections 2–7. Sections 8 and 9 are always a 20-minute Mathematics section and a 20-minute Critical Reading section—in either order. Section 10 is always the 10-minute Writing Skills section.

The above format is used in all the tests in this book, except that the tests don’t have an experimental section. Therefore, the tests in the book take 25 minutes less than an actual SAT.


*As of this writing, the College Board has not provided test dates or registration deadlines. Dates are approximate. The SAT is generally given on the first Saturday of the month, except for January and March, and regular registration is about one month before the exam date. Please check the College Board’s website ( periodically for the complete schedule.

Countdown to the SAT


The day before you take the test, don’t do practice tests.
Do look over all the tactics listed below so they will be 
fresh in your mind.


If the test location is unfamiliar to you, drive there before the test day so that you will know exactly where you’re going on the day you take the test.

Set out your test kit the night before. You will need your admission ticket, a photo ID (a driver’s license or a non-driver picture ID, a passport, or a school ID), your calculator, four or five sharp No. 2 pencils (with erasers), plus a map or directions showing how to get to the test center.

Get a good night’s sleep so you are well rested and alert.

Wear comfortable clothes. Dress in layers. Bring a sweater in case the room is cold.

Bring an accurate watch—not one that beeps—in case the room has no clock. You’ll want to use the same watch or small clock that you’ve been using during your practice sessions.

Bring a small snack for quick energy.

Don’t be late. Allow plenty of time for getting to the test site. You want to be in your seat, relaxed, before the test begins.


First answer all the easy questions; then tackle the hard ones if you have time.

Remember which sorts of questions you do well on. Aim for them.

Pace yourself. Don’t work so fast that you start making careless errors. On the other hand, don’t get bogged down on any one question.

Feel free to skip back and forth between questions within a section.

Play the percentages: guess whenever you can eliminate one or more of the answers.

Make educated guesses, not random ones. As a rule, don’t fill in answers when you haven’t even looked at the questions.

Watch out for eye-catchers, answer choices that are designed to tempt you into guessing wrong.

Change answers only if you have a reason for doing so; don’t change them on a last-minute hunch or whim.

Check your assumptions. Make sure you are answering the question asked and not the one you thought was going to be asked.

Remember that you are allowed to write anything you want in your test booklet.

Make full use of it.

• Do math calculations and draw diagrams.

• Underline key words in reading passages and sentence completions.

• Cross out answer choices you are sure are wrong.

• Circle questions you want to come back to.

Be careful not to make any stray marks on your answer sheet. The test is graded by a machine, and a machine cannot always tell the difference between an accidental mark and an intentionally filled-in answer.

Check frequently to make sure you are answering the questions in the right spots.

Remember that you don’t have to answer every question to do well.


Read all the answer choices before you decide which is best.

Think of a context for an unfamiliar word; the context may help you come up with the word’s meaning.

Break down unfamiliar words into recognizable parts—prefixes, suffixes, roots.

Consider secondary meanings of words. If none of the answer choices seems right to you, take another look. A word may have more than one meaning.

Sentence Completion Questions

First, read the sentence carefully to get a feel for its meaning.

Before you look at the choices, think of a word that makes sense.

Watch for words that signal a contrast ( but, although, however ) or indicate the continuation of a thought ( also, additionally, besides, furthermore ). These signal words are clues that can help you figure out what a sentence actually means.

Look for words that signal the unexpected, such as abnormal, illogical, and ironic. These words indicate that something unexpected, possibly even unwanted, exists or has occurred.

In double-blank sentences, test one blank at a time, not two.

Passage-Based Reading Questions

When you have a choice, tackle reading passages with familiar subjects before passages with unfamiliar ones.

Make use of the introductions to acquaint yourself with the text.

Read as rapidly as you can with understanding, but do not force yourself.

As you read the opening sentence, try to predict what the passage is about.

When you tackle the questions, use any line references given to help in the passage.

Base your answer only on what is written in the passage, not on what you know from other books or courses.

In answering questions on the long paired reading ­passages, first read one passage and answer the questions based on it; then read the second ­passage and tackle the remaining questions.

Try to answer all the questions on a particular passage.


Whenever you know how to answer a question directly, just do it. The tactics that are reviewed below should be used only when you need them.

Memorize all the formulas you need to know. Even though some of them are printed on the first page of each math section, during the test you do not want to waste any time referring to that reference material.

Be sure to bring a calculator, but use it only when you need it. Don’t use it for simple arithmetic that you can easily do in your head.

Remember that no problem requires lengthy or difficult computations. If you find yourself doing a lot of arithmetic, stop and reread the question. You are probably not answering the question asked.

Answer every question you attempt. Even if you can’t solve it, you can almost always eliminate two or more choices. Often you know that an answer must be negative, but two or three of the choices are positive, or an answer must be even, and some of the choices are odd.

Unless a diagram is labeled “ Note: Figure not drawn to scale,” it is perfectly accurate, and you can trust it in making an estimate.

When a diagram has not been provided, draw one, especially on a geometry problem.

If a diagram has been provided, feel free to label it, and mark it up in any way, including adding line segments, if necessary.

Answer any question for which you can estimate the answer, even if you are not sure you are correct.

Don’t panic when you see a strange symbol in a question; it will always be defined. Getting the correct answer just involves using the information given in the definition.

When a question involves two equations, either add them or subtract them. If there are three or more, just add them.

Never make unwarranted assumptions. Do not assume numbers are positive or integers. If a question refers to two numbers, do not assume that they have to be different. If you know a figure has four sides, do not assume that it is a rectangle.

Be sure to work in consistent units. If the width and length of a rectangle are 8 inches and 2 feet, respectively, either convert the 2 feet to 24 inches or the 8 inches to two-thirds of a foot before calculating the area or perimeter.

Standard Multiple-Choice Questions

Whenever you answer a question by backsolving, start with Choice C.

When you replace variables with numbers, choose easy-to-use numbers, whether or not they are realistic.

Choose appropriate numbers. The best number to use in percent problems is 100. In problems involving fractions, the best number to use is the least common denominator.

When you have no idea how to solve a problem, eliminate all of the absurd choices and guess.

Student-Produced Response (Grid-in) Questions

Write your answer in the four spaces at the top of the grid, and carefully grid in your answer below. No credit is given for a correct answer if it has been gridded improperly.

Remember that the answer to a grid-in question can never be negative.

You can never grid in a mixed number—you must convert it to an improper fraction or a decimal.

Never round off your answers. If a fraction can fit in the four spaces of the grid, enter it. If not, use your calculator to convert it to a decimal (by dividing) and enter a decimal point followed by the first three decimal digits.

When gridding a decimal, do not write a zero before the decimal point.

If a question has more than one possible answer, grid in only one of them.

There is no penalty for wrong answers on grid-in questions, so you should grid in anything that seems reasonable, rather than omit a question.


Read all the answer choices before you decide which is correct.

Use your ear for the language to help you decide whether something is wrong.

Pay particular attention to the shorter answer choices. Good prose is economical. Often the correct answer choice will be the shortest, most direct way of making a point.

Remember that not every sentence contains an error or needs to be improved.

Improving Sentences Questions

If you immediately spot an error in the underlined section, eliminate any answer choice that also contains the error.

If you don’t spot an error in the underlined section, look at the answer choices to see what is changed in each one. The nature of the changes may reveal what kind of error is present.

Make sure that all parts of the sentence are logically connected.

Make sure that all sentence parts arranged as a series are similar in form. If they are not, the sentence suffers from a lack of parallel structure.

Identifying Sentence Errors Questions

First read the sentence to get a feel for its structure and sense.

Remember that the error, if there is one, must be in an underlined part of the sentence.

Look first for the most common errors (lack of subject–verb agreement, pronoun–antecedent problems, faulty diction, incorrect verb tense).

Improving Paragraphs Questions

First read the passage; then read the questions.

First tackle the questions that ask you to improve individual sentences; then tackle the ones that ask you to strengthen the passage as a whole.

Consider whether the addition of signal words or phrases—transitions—would strengthen the passage or particular sentences within it.

When you tackle the questions, go back to the passage to verify each answer choice.

Tips for the Essay

First, read and re-read the prompt with care. Be sure you understand the topic.

Decide on your thesis, the main point you want to make.

Pace yourself: keep to your essay-writing plan.

Allow yourself 4 minutes at most for pre-writing and outlining.

Keep careful track of your time. Allow yourself time to come to a conclusion.

Write as legibly as you can.

Length counts: write as much as you can (while still making sense) within the allotted time.

Follow traditional essay-writing conventions. Write 4 to 5 paragraphs. Indent them. Use transitions.

Upgrade your vocabulary judiciously. Avoid throwing in big words that you don’t understand.