Resources/Tools

These are the only battle-tested resources I use:

For the New SAT 2016

1. The College Board Practice Tests

The College Board has released 4 practice exams in anticipation of the release of the new SAT in March 2016. These will serve as your best guide to what the new SAT will look like. If you prefer a physical copy of the tests in book format, you can purchase the official guide.

2. The College Board Practice PSAT

The College Board has released just one practice PSAT, but since it’s just a shorter version of the SAT, it’s definitely worth going over even if you’re just prepping for the SAT.

3. Official SAT Sample Questions

The College Board has released a bunch of sample questions on its website that are definitely worth doing. A lot of these questions aren’t found anywhere else (a few are found in the review portion of the official guide). I really recommend doing these questions as they are corrected for you on the spot.

4. The SAT Daily Practice App

This app, available for iOS and Android, contains many practice questions that aren’t found anywhere else. I highly recommend going through all of them because they represent the most accurate picture of what the new SAT will look like (they’re the most recent questions the College Board has released).

5. Anki

Regardless of what The College Board might say, vocabulary is still a huge component of the test. You won’t be able to get away from those college-level words that still lurk in the passages.

And if you don’t understand the vocabulary in the passages, you’ll have a hard time comprehending them. The College Board has actually done a great disservice to students by claiming that tough vocabulary is no longer necessary. Don’t buy into the deceptive advertising.

With Anki, it’s easier than ever to improve your vocabulary. For those of you who haven’t heard of it, it’s a free flashcard program that helps you memorize words through spaced repetition. For long-term memorization, our brains need to have repeated encounters with the subject matter. Scientists have also shown that the best time to make those encounters is just when we’re about to forget it.

By using the program once a day, Anki’s algorithm will track your memory and adjust to you. Words you struggle with will show up more frequently while words you’ve mastered will show up much less. Anki gets rid of the hassle of physical flash cards and speeds up memorization significantly. A few students of mine have memorized thousands of words with amazing retention.

To learn how to setup Anki for SAT Vocabulary, check out my 10-minute Anki tutorial.

6. TI-89 Titanium Graphing Calculator

ti89Don’t get it if you already have a graphing calculator and you’re just taking the SATs, but if you plan on taking Math 2 as a subject test or AP Calc, this calculator is a godsend. I can’t believe it’s not banned (though it’s banned from the ACT).

There are three main things that make this calculator awesome.

  1. It solves equations for you. Type in \(2x +8 = -4\) and it will spit out \(x=-6\).
  2. It gives you exact fractions. Other calculators will spit out \(.142857\ldots\) this calculator will elegantly print out \(\dfrac{1}{7}\).
  3. The TI-89 will solve equations with logs, trigonometry, imaginary numbers, derivatives, and integrals. Over your head? Well, these topics don’t show up on the SAT, but if you plan to take the Math 2 or AP Calc, this calculator will save you over and over.

Note: This calculator, in my opinion, is better than the new TI-Inspire. The TI-Inspire can do more but it’s so difficult to use. It’s hard to navigate and click things with its touchpad pointer and multiple menus. That being said, it’d be a waste to get the TI-89 if you already have the Inspire. Learn to use it well.


For the ACT

1. The Real ACT Prep Guide

Also known as “The Red Book,” this is the essential book for ACT Study. It’s released by the official test-makers and contains five past exams with full answer explanations.

Note that this book is not fully updated with the current format of the test, which contains a dual reading passage, an essay with three perspectives, and harder English and Science sections. We’re still waiting on the ACT to release an updated edition, but in the meantime, this edition is still the closest thing you’ll find to the current test. The question types and the overall feel are the same. Just make sure you’re you’re up-to-date on the essay (see below).

2. The ACT website

You’ll definitely want to work through the following on ACT’s main website:

3. Past ACT Practice Test Booklets

These are official past exams that the ACT distributes each year to students. Not every year is a new booklet. Sometimes they repeat old ones, but I’ve sorted through them all and I’ve compiled a unique list below: