Review: Barron’s 1600

Okay, let’s start with the premise that there is something different about some students, and these students want to score 1600 on the SAT. The rest of the students? Nah. They don’t care. They are disinterested. They couldn’t possibly benefit from the “secrets” that can only be revealed to the super-special 1600 club. That is, those who are willing to buy another book.

Okay, enough raging against the test prep/publishing industry. Is this book worth it? Maybe. It has a variety of approaches for the Reading section and some test taking  strategies that are helpful across the board. The Writing & Language Section is a little light, and the Math section takes up the majority of the book (as per usual). In the back is an appendix where you will find the most useful part of the book, a section on Vocabulary. The Vocabulary section has lists of words with definitions, but more importantly, it has exercises to practice the subtleties of vocabulary in context. There is a full practice test in the back, but parts of it are off, especially in the Reading Section where one of the Reading Passages is closer to an ACT Science passage, and another is the preamble and the first 10 Amendments to the Constitution. I’m Canadian, and I have the American Constitution memorized–mostly thanks to growing up in the 70s with SchoolHouse Rock– so that doesn’t seem challenging enough for our eager beaver 1600 students. Most problematic though is that the answer key has errors. I cannot tell you how many times, students have walked into my room with a test prep book full of sticky notes and questions about why “B” is the answer. I read the question, and B isn’t the answer… “C” is because of all the reasons the student thought it was.

Teacher Michelle’s test prep tip #47- If the answer key doesn’t make sense…you might not be crazy or stupid, the book might be wrong.

There is some solid test strategy information in this book. I just don’t understand why it isn’t in the regular book. (Yes, yes money. I understand. It just annoys me.)

I would suggest buying it as an ebook to get the info, or even better try borrowing a copy from the library (but for the love of everything you hold dear–don’t write in the library book!). Use it for the test prep advice, but don’t lean too heavily on the practice questions.

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