The Critical Reader: The Complete Guide to SAT Reading, 3rd Edition by Erica L. Meltzer (2017)
This review is for the 3rd Edition of Ms. Meltzer’s popular Critical Reader series. This version was released in September 2017, and if you are wondering whether it is worth it to buy the newest version…yes, absolutely it is.
While this edition of the book contains much of the same materials that the 2nd edition did, the practice sections have been improved and expanded greatly. You might not think there is anything new as the page counts for both books are the same, but the 3rd edition uses a smaller font allowing for more information to be packed in on each page. Also, since the 2nd edition was published the College Board has released 4 more official tests and analysis of all 8 released tests is included. Ms. Meltzer has gone through the entire book and adjusted her guidance to conform as closely as possible with the new SAT.
This is not a book to rush through, complete all of the practice questions and expect your score to magically improve. Rather, I have suggested 2 approaches for students who want to self study with this book.
Option A for students with limited experience with the SAT or scoring below 330 on the READING section
- Start at the beginning and work through the book 1 chapter at a time. Split the practice questions in half, so that you can see if you retained your understanding of lesson. Do half one day and do the rest another day. Pay attention to why you are choosing wrong answers as this is key to making progress in the Reading section.
- When doing practice tests, try to identify the question types for yourself and apply the lessons that relate to those question types.
Option B for students who are scoring above 330 or have limited prep time (less than 3 weeks)
- Go through the College Board tests you have completed (or do 2-4 of them) and identify the types of errors you make the most.
- Identify the chapters you need to work on, but don’t skip to them immediately. (patience, grasshopper)
- Start with the first chapter and if it is NOT 1 of your problem areas, start with the practice questions and do about half. If you are consistently getting them right, then you probably are solid in that area and can move on. If not, then back track to the lesson part of the chapter, do the the lesson, and then finish the practice questions. This will prevent you from thinking you understand a question type when in fact you were just a good guesser.
I am now going to repeat what I wrote for the previous version of this book.
This is my #1 book suggestion for students who struggle with the reading section of the SAT, with some reservations. If English is your second language, and you never read for pleasure, this book won’t get you a perfect reading score. Most ESL students have holes in their vocabulary, cultural knowledge, and reading abilities that get them stuck in the mid-600s for the Reading/Writing Section. No SAT study book will fix fundamental Reading and Writing Skill problems. Also if you are not good at self-studying, then you might need some hand-holding with this book because the contents are dense.
If you didn’t fall into one of the previous categories, then I would suggest you buy this book. The book is broken down into an overview of the test and test taking skills and then a chapter on each of the types of Reading questions you will encounter. Each chapter takes a question type and breaks it down to the smallest details and explains how to approach the question and what constitutes a wrong answer. There are thorough explanations of both the correct and the incorrect answers and then practice questions to practice your new knowledge. In the back of the book is a break down to the first 8 College Board tests, identifying each of the reading questions type, so that students can identify the questions that give the the most trouble and review those chapters.
Just The Facts:
- 349 Pages
- Targeted practice for the Reading section only
- No full tests, just targeted practice questions
- Paper Quality: Excellent. You can write and erase without worrying about tearing through
- Quality of Answer Explanations: Excellent
This book is available through Amazon. Why are you still here? Go buy the book!
** A Note on theft
Frequently on SAT forums, there are pleas for “copies” of the Meltzer and College Panda books. Some make the excuse that books are too expensive, while others say that Amazon won’t ship to their country. This is disheartening because I understand the years of hard work that went into producing these books, and the authors do so with the basic intention of wanting to give students the highest quality materials. The costs of self-published book is carried by the authors, and they are taking a risk that nobody will buy them. The bottom line is that if you are getting a pdf of a book then you are stealing intellectual property. It might seem like it is meaningless, but it is a slippery slope to the point where content creators will just stop creating content. When the College Board changed the SAT in 2016, many experienced tutors walked away from the industry. However, Ms. Meltzer stuck with it, revised her books and kept working to give students an alternative to the “SAT prep Juggernauts” that rushed to print and produced inferior test prep materials. If you find the cost of an SAT prep book too expensive then College Text books are going to give you a heart attack, and if Amazon doesn’t deliver to your country, consider contacting the author directly to see if he/she can help. I know this probably won’t make everyone stop, but silence often gives tacit approval to a problem.
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