SAT* Crash Course
SAT Prep by gurus who won't make you snooze, now in course form.
If time is of the essence and you need an SAT Test Prep Course that gives you all the review you need by your test date, then this is the course for you. Our SAT Crash Course throws you into the passenger seat and then goes fast and furious through everything you need to know so you can succeed on the SAT.
Here's what you get in your low-cost, low-stress, high-scoring SAT Crash Course:
- a step-by-step plan that shows you how to master every section: Reading, Writing, and Math
- SAT essay prompts, examples, and tips for getting a perfect score
- test-taking tricks and secrets to score on each section
- hundreds of sample practice questions
- video explanations of important concepts and sample problems
- two complete, timed practice exams
- an interactive virtual classroom interface where teachers or parents can see students' work and grades, communicate with students, and have their class discuss material and exchange tips through the discussion board.
Are you an instructor looking to create a class that makes it easy to view students' progress and grade their practice drills, problems, and essays? Our SAT Test Prep course comes with a virtual classroom interface that helps you monitor their journey toward total SAT domination—er, preparation.
*SAT is a registered trademark of the College Board, which was not involved in the production of, and do not endorse, this product.
Unit 1. Reading
Get the best SAT reading strategies to improve your sentence completion, passage comprehension, and critical reading skills.
Unit 2. Writing
Identify your sentence errors, improve your sentences and paragraphs, and write the best possible SAT essay with our dozens of drills and examples.
Unit 3. Math
Master math with more practice problems than you’d ever thought possible for both multiple choice and student-produced responses.
Sample Lesson - Introduction
Lesson 1: Sentence Completion
"You Complete Me"
Sentence Completion, otherwise known as the neediest of all the reading sections, is always the first to appear, and it's a tough cookie to crumble. Armed with some sweet-talk and maybe a pie (mmm, cherry), you'll defeat it in no time. Along with the basic ingredients we discussed in the Introduction, the main cranial prowess you need to have at the ready is vocabulary, vocabulary, vocabulary. Miss that? Vocabulary. We cannot stress this enough: Making and memorizing flashcards with vocabulary words on the front and definitions on the back will help you dramatically in this section. It's one of the only parts of the SAT that you can truly prepare for in advance, so be sure to take advantage. Vocabulary. (Just for good measure.)
A Quick Note About Vocabulary
There are two main ways to cram vocabulary:
Learn whole words.
Learn roots and prefixes.
Name That Word
The first step in learning words is to study your vocabulary list and make your own flash cards, or, hey, use ours. When you're writing your hundred or so flash cards, keep in mind that you should make your definitions as specific and simple as possible so they will be easy to remember. Often, just writing down a couple of synonyms for the word will be sufficient.
If the word on the card is "supercilious" (which means "behaving or looking as if you feel you are superior to others"), you should just write "stuck-up" on your card. This way, you won't get bogged down in a long-winded definition and will be able to quickly recall the meaning of the word. Feel free to make songs about your words, like we do, or to record them and listen to them in the car, like a motivational speaker, but for vocabulary words instead of whatever this guy talks about.
Get Back To Your Roots (and Prefixes)
Knowing word roots is like getting the free airline upgrade. It usually doesn't take much effort, but the chairs and service are way better. What is a root, anyway? Well, if a word is a hamburger, the root is the meat: It is what gives a word its substance and meaning. For instance, the root "rrh" means "to flow." Think of "hemorrhoid" or "diarrhea." (It's gross, but you'll never forget this root now.)
Sometimes big words have two roots in them which, together, make up the meaning. The root "hemo/a" means "blood" (as in "hematoma" or "hemophiliac"), so "hemo" + "rrh" means "flowing blood," which is exactly what a hemorrhage is. Similarly, the root "auto" means "self," the root "bio" means "life," and the root "graph" means "writing." Graphbioauto! Wait. No. Autobiography, we mean!
If a root is the meat, then the prefix is the sesame seed bun. Prefixes usually do one or more of these three things: indicate place or location, specify whether a word is positive or negative, or modify the root to be more specific. The prefix "a-" means "not," so "atypical" means "not typical," "atheist" means someone who doesn't believe in God ("not a theist"), and so on.
Remember the word "supercilious" that we mentioned a minute ago? Of course you do. "Super-" is a prefix meaning "above," and "cilia" means "eyebrow," so the word literally means raising your eyebrows at someone in disdain. If you're really ambitious, making some flashcards of roots and prefixes can help bump your score up into the 700s and beyond.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.1a: Structure
What She's Got in Store For You
Sentence Completion does not mess around. This thing's as serious as a 6-year-old about Halloween candy. Each question in this section will be a sentence, usually somewhat complex, with one or two words left blank. It is up to you to pick the word from the five answer choices that best fits in that blank. Sometimes there will be two blanks and two words to fit in. We'll get to that in a bit.
Keep in mind that the right answer will be a word that preserves the meaning of the entire sentence the best. This isn't Mad Libs™, unfortunately. It's probably not a great idea to put "goober" or "weirdo" in the blanks to make the most hilariously nonsensical sentence possible, but you could do it. Your score, and mother, will potentially not be pleased.
Questions in this section always come in order from easy to hard, and there are five to eight of them per section, which means there are 19 in the entire Reading section. In classic tricky test fashion, Sentence Completion lures you in with some cake-walk questions and tries to make you feel drowsy and comfortable. Then the game steps up with things that make you go "hmmm."
It's helpful though, that this section is predictable. There are three—and only three—distinct methods in play here: Define It, Solve It, and Compare It. Speak on, you say? Well, keep reading. We're about to drop some knowledge on you.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.1b: "Define It" Questions
With these types of questions, you'll get a definition or description and be asked what word best fits that description. Often, these question types will include synonyms, or words that have the same meaning as the word you're looking for. Sometimes, they'll even have entire phrases that describe the blank. All you have to do is figure out which of the answer choices is the word that is being defined. For example:
Ben was often -------: He had a tendency to be moody and to change his mind and opinions about everything on a whim.
Here we have a guy named Ben. He changes his mind and his opinions rather quickly and without much thought. Let's say Ben is your friend, and you are sitting at a restaurant trying to order. The waiter has already checked on you three different times, and Ben is still perusing the menu, not sure if he wants to eat the lamb chops, chicken salad, or to just skip everything and head for dessert. He doesn't know what he's in the mood for since his mood changes suddenly and constantly. The waiter is holding his pen impatiently, waiting to write down Ben's order, and giving him the dirty look that means we don't want to know what happens in the kitchen, but Ben just keeps going back and forth. Silly Ben.
Finally you throw up your hands in the air and say, "Ben! Stop being so -------! Just pick something already!" The word you decide to put in this imaginary sentence would probably be a good word to put in that blank, as long as it doesn't contain profanity.
If this were you, you might choose a word like "annoying." Well, yes, Ben is definitely being annoying, but does the word "annoying" define the phrase "constantly changing his mind and opinions"? Not really. You need something more specific. "Indecisive" might be a good one. That certainly fits: Ben cannot seem to ever decide on anything. Other words that mean "indecisive" are "ambivalent," "irresolute," "vacillating," and "equivocating." Write that down. (Seriously; they make good flashcards.)
However, even though you've picked a good word to describe Ben, there is still a problem: The word "indecisive" is not one of our answer choices. Scandal! Fury! What to do?
The best thing to do at this point is to scan the list of words and eliminate the ones that definitely do not mean "indecisive." Answer choice (A) says "flimsy." You've probably seen that word before. "Flimsy" means weak or bendable like the excuses you made the other day about that thing in the place, and does not have anything to do with not being able to make up your mind. Cross it out.
Answer choice (B) says "benevolent." This is the kind of word where knowing your roots can come in handy. Let's say you studied your roots and know that the root "ben-" means "good" or "kind," as in "beneficial," "benefactor." Weird, the guy we were just talking about is named Ben. Based on that root and that root only, you can deduce that the word "benevolent" has something to do with being nice, and you would be right. Well, is Ben being benevolent? Not to the waiter, that's for sure. Cross that one out.
Answer choice (C) says "jovial." This is one of those words where having a definition flash card will help. The roots are harder to recognize here. It turns out it comes from the word "Jove," another word for "Jupiter," which is another word for "Zeus," Greek god of the heavens. That doesn't really tell us anything very useful, though. In this case, knowing the entire word would be helpful.
Assuming you diligently studied your flash cards (as you of course have), you know that "jovial" means "cheerful" and "friendly." People used to believe that those born under the planet Jupiter had friendly dispositions, but we don't care about that. We care that Ben, in this situation, is not being jovial or otherwise Jupiter-esque. Out it goes.
Answer choice (D) says "mercurial." This is the kind of word where flash cards, word roots, and possibly a bit of science and/or a dartboard will come in handy. Mercurial derives from the word "mercury," which is both an element (that silvery liquid in old thermometers) and a Roman god. In astrology, Mercury is the ruling planet of Gemini, the twins, and anyone who takes astrology seriously will tell you that Gemini are known for being indecisive. Mercury, the element, is one of only five metals that are liquid at room temperature, and so it is very useful for determining slight changes in heat. When the "mercury is rising," that means it is getting hotter. On any given day, the mercury will go up and down, constantly changing. Just like Ben. (Mercury also happens to be what made haberdashers go completely insane in the 18th century from brain poisoning, leading to our much-loved term "Mad as a hatter." Yes. This is true.)
"Mercurial" is looking pretty good now, but we always want to check every answer choice before bubbling in an answer and moving on. Keep it and look at the last answer choice.
Answer choice (E) says "hesitant." This word is more common, so you might know it without any vocabulary prep at all. "Hesitant" comes from "hesitate," which means to pause because you're unsure about something. "She hesitated before jumping off the tall diving board," which we never did in our childhoods. Nope, no sir: we went right off the end, floaties at the ready. Here's where it gets tricky.
Is Ben hesitant? Yes, because he can never decide on anything. He most likely hesitates a lot. However, hesitant does not completely fit the sentence. Although answer choice (E) seems good at first glance (and would seem correct to a test taker who is not being careful), it is one of those "sexy" answer choices that sounds good but is not really as correct as another choice. In this case, Ben hesitates because he is indecisive. His hesitancy is an effect, not a cause. Cross it out and bubble in (D) for "mercurial."
Voilà. Answer on a platter. Check, please!
This question only had one blank, but sometimes there are "Define It" questions with two blanks. In this case, the two blanks are usually synonyms of each other or are both defined somewhere in the sentence: "Ben was usually ------- and -------: He was never late and could always be counted on." "Never late" is the definition of the first blank and "could always be counted on" is the definition of the second blank. Two great words for these blanks would be "punctual" and "dependable."
P.S. If you studied your flash cards and happened to know the definition of "mercurial" right from the get-go, this question would take about 0.5 seconds to answer. All you have to do is quickly check the other choices to make sure that none of them sound better. Sometimes the grass is greener on the other side, you know, so it's good to check.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.1c: "Solve It" Questions
"Solve It" problems are the next type of question you'll encounter. With these questions, you'll get sentences that force you to reason out the blanks based on the structure, wording, transitional elements, and factual information given in the sentence. You won't simply be asked to find the word that fits the definition, so these questions can be harder. The trick here is to watch out for switch-ups, and we're not talking about left-handed batters or movies centering on a mischievous pair of twins. With "Solve It" questions, you need to be on the lookout for transitions and negatives.
These are words that can change the meaning of the sentence, making one part contradict another part. You need to know which direction the sentence is going so that you mentally go in the same one. You do not want to accidentally pick an answer choice that only works with the first, but not the second, half of the sentence. That's because, of course, there is no half credit on this exam. Bogus.
Transition words are things like "although," "however," "yet," "but," "instead," and "rather." If a sentence says, "Although I normally like MTV, today I found its programming -------" the word in the blank is something that is opposite of liking because of the transition word "although." Maybe today you decided that MTV was "irritating" or "boring." Both are negative words that suggest mild dislike.
The words "not" and "no" flip the meaning of a sentence entirely. Look at the following sentence: "One requirement of being a good chef is being able to improvise, not simply to ------- recipes." A good fit for this blank would be "rely upon," which is the opposite of thinking on one's feet or improvising. In this case the word "not" meant that we had to search for an antonym, or opposite, of "improvise" in the answer choices.
With these types of sentences, it is important to analyze the wording and meaning of the sentence itself and figure out what it is saying before you try to fill in the blank. Not doing this is like putting on your pants before your underwear. Everything's fine and dandy until lunchtime when you start to feel like you missed something. Let's take a look.
Unsurprisingly, backers of an initiative that would set aside more money for public parks and recreation areas were ------- when the majority voted to use the funds for commercial development instead.
The first word is "unsurprisingly," which is just another way to say, "I expected this," or "Duh." We know right away that whatever is about to happen, happened for obvious reasons. The next phrase we get to is "backers of an initiative." Backers are supporters, and an initiative is any kind of possible law, like a proposition. It is okay if you don't know what every single word means, however, as long as you can get the gist of the sentence. Even if you don't know what an initiative is, you will find out in the next few words that it is something that will set aside money for public parks and recreation, so it probably has something to do with finance or politics.
Before we address the blank, let's back up a second and look at the whole half of the sentence again to clarify things. There are a lot of words here, "parks" and "money" and "initiative," so it's easy to get confused. We need to identify the subject of the sentence: Who are we talking about? Oh right, the backers. It's always about the money.
Now it is time to simplify. Go back and try to take out anything that is unnecessary to the overall meaning of the sentence. "The hungry pack of wolves, which had somehow wandered into the farm, devoured the unsuspecting sheep" could be reduced to "The wolves ate the sheep." Some of the meaning might be lost, but you would get the basic idea.
Since we don't really care what the initiative will do right now, we take away everything after the word "initiative." This turns our sentence into "Unsurprisingly, the backers of an initiative were ------- when…" so now we know that the word in the blank is an adjective that describes the backers and how they feel. Interesting.
Now we look at the second part of the sentence. The words "majority" and "voted" suggest that we are in the political sphere, which strengthens our hunch that an initiative is some kind of possible law. Now what did the majority vote to do? Apparently the majority wanted to use the "funds" (aka "money") for commercial development and not for parks and recreation. The word "instead" is crucial here because it implies disagreement. The majority and the backers are at odds with one another, fighting like children over a puppy, and knowing this will help us when we decide what to put in that blank.
Now, we look at the entire sentence again to figure out what it means. We have some backers, who, for obvious reasons, felt a certain way when the majority voted against their initiative. The way the backers feel is, of course, the word that will fill in the blank. Before we dive into the answer choices, we consider our extremely philosophical thoughts on the matter. If you had campaigned for months to get an initiative passed which you felt very strongly about, only to have it lose the election, you probably wouldn't be too happy about that. "Ticked off" isn't exactly SAT material, but "disappointed" springs to mind. Keep this in mind while we search through the answer choices.
Answer choice (A) says "indifferent." If you know your prefixes, you know that "in-" can be a prefix which means "not" (like "inconclusive" or "inconsistent"). If something is not differing from something else, it's probably pretty neutral right? This is exactly what indifferent means: If you are indifferent, you just don't care one way or the other about something. Does that sound like our backers? Nope. Cross it out.
Answer choice (B) says "bellicose." Knowing that the root "bel-" means "war" would be quite useful here. The word "belligerent," in fact, means "warlike" or "aggressive," so "bellicose" probably has something to do with being temperamental or willing to fight. The backers of the initiative are certainly bummed, but are they ready to start an all-out, Street Fighter-style brawl with people who don’t want more parks? Not likely. Parks just aren't that galvanizing. Cross it out.
Answer choice (C) says "dismayed." Knowing a definition works here. "Dis-" is a prefix which means "bad." The word "disgusting" comes from "dis-" (bad or negative) + "gust" (taste). The root "may" actually comes from a German word which means "having power" or "having hope," so if you're "dismayed," you probably are feeling pretty powerless or hopeless. This is certainly how you would feel if you just lost an election. Even if you didn't have any idea what the word means, just knowing that "dis-" is a negative prefix could help you make an educated guess since we know that the backers are feeling bad. Answer choice (C) is looking great, but we need to check the last two to make sure.
Answer choice (D) says "indignant." Again, we have a prefix "in-," which means "not," and you might guess that "dignant" has something to do with dignified or dignity. When someone kicks you to the ground, you may say, "you have broken my bones, but I retain my dignity," as you dust yourself off. We know we would. Basically, the root "dignus" means "worth." Are the backers feeling as though their self-worth has been insulted? Possibly. They're sensitive.
If you know your flashcards, you know that "indignant" means "expressing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair." Hmm. Would this word fit? It looks pretty good because the backers who lost the initiative are probably both angry and annoyed. However, indignation always refers to someone who feels as though they have been unjustly wronged. The whole aim of the democratic voting process is to be fair. Despite your possible quibbles with government and twisted politics, in this case, "indignant" is a very sexy answer choice that happens to be…incorrect.
Answer choice (E) says "amorous." If you've ever taken a romance language like French or Spanish, you might recognize the word "amour" in there, which means love. Even if you haven't, "amour" has made its way so thoroughly into the English language that many people use it as a substitute for the word "love." Can you think of any perfumes or clothing lines that have the word "amour" in them? The backers of the initiative are upset, not in love and planning a candlelit dinner, so cross it out. Answer choice (C) is correct.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.1d: "Compare It" Questions
In the last type of question to appear, you'll have to use one blank to solve for the other blank. In this case, you'll need to look at the answer choices first and do a little plugging in to see which ones fit. "Compare It" questions are always two-blankers, and you will need to look at the relationship between the blanks. For example, if the sentence describes a teacher by saying something like, "Mrs. McGill was very popular among her students; they found her to be both ------- and -------," you could probably guess that both blanks are nice, positive words. Words like benevolent, affable, amiable, helpful, caring, and so on.
If, however, the sentence reads, "Mrs. McGill was usually so -------, but today she was -------," that "but" tells you to look for a pair of opposites. If the answer choice has something like "indignant . . angry" you know it is wrong because those words are very similar in meaning. The pair "engaging . . aloof" would work much better here. Finally, sometimes one blank will directly define or describe the other blank. In this case, you need to plug in the answer choices and see what fits.
Take them one blank, or one column, at a time. If you can conclusively, without a doubt, get rid of a choice in one column or the other, you can cross out that entire choice. If one blank is dead wrong, it does not matter if the other blank fits or not. Sometimes the sentence will provide a definition of one blank but not the other, so first you must figure out the word that fits the definition, and then see how the other blank relates to that word to solve the whole problem. Sound complicated? It really isn't so bad.
Here's an example of a "Compare It" question with a definition inside:
Adam insisted that his last-minute purchase of a plane ticket to Nicaragua, though seemingly -------, was actually quite -------; he pointed out that his vacation's itinerary was planned weeks in advance.
(A) practical . . premeditated
(B) judicious . . hopeful
(C) spontaneous . . calculated
(D) impulsive . . unconstrained
(E) random . . masterful
We notice right away that this sentence has the transition word "though," which means that at some point it will contradict itself. Other words which should catch your attention because they imply disagreement are "seemingly" and "actually." Next we have to look at punctuation, especially that semicolon right after the second blank. A semicolon holds two independent clauses (or complete sentences) together and is somewhat interchangeable with a period. However, while a period separates the sentences into two distinct ideas, a semicolon is used when the writer is not finished talking about the first idea.
Often, what comes after a semicolon helps to clarify the thing that came just before it. In this case, what comes after the semicolon is that Adam's trip was planned weeks in advance for an unknown reason. It's possible that Adam desires to learn about coffee roasting or surfing or the history of the Spanish language, and Nicaragua happens to be a great place to do all of that. We don't know why Adam wanted to go, we just know that he's a sneaky guy and has enough money to plan exotic vacations. We should become better friends with him.
However, the beginning of the sentence says that he bought a ticket at the last minute. Which one is it, then? Decide, people! Everything after the semicolon implies that Adam's trip, though it appeared super random, was actually well thought out, given that he had already booked his hotels and activities ("itinerary"). Out of the two blanks, which blank do you think should mean something like "planned"? Blank #2, indeed. Wisely chosen.
If you scan the second column of answer choices, the ones that fill the second blank, crossing out "hopeful," "unconstrained," and "masterful" since none of those mean "planned," you are only left with "premeditated" ("pre-" means "before" and "meditate" means to think about something) and "calculated" (plotted, planned). Great, now we're down to only two answer choices, (A) and (C). It does not even matter what (B), (D), and (E) have in their first column. We only look at the first column for (A) and (C).
You now have the second blank narrowed down to a synonym of "planned." What would be a good word for the first blank? Let's look at a simplified version of the sentence with the word "planned" plugged in for the second blank: "Adam insisted that his last-minute purchase, though seemingly -------, was actually well-planned." All we are looking for in the first blank is the opposite of "planned." "Unplanned" works fine. However, we think Adam may be lying. There's definitely more story here that we're not hearing, if you get our drift.
Now, because we do need to stop speculating about Adam's personal life and actually answer the question, we scan the two remaining word choices in the first column for a synonym of "unplanned." "Practical" implies organization and logic, and does not really imply unplanned at all. Cross it out. Now we are left with only one answer choice, and that is the word "spontaneous." Even if you did not know the definition of "spontaneous" (which, incidentally, is "impulsive and unplanned") you would still pick the right answer because you eliminated all the others…and because that's just how you roll. (Like a boss.)
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.1e: Conclusion
Congratulations! After this practice session, you're one step closer to SAT success. Before we move on, here's a recap of the key ideas we've just covered:
- Know your vocabulary, roots, and prefixes
- Know transition words and negatives and how they affect the meaning of a sentence
- Always try to simplify a sentence so that it is easier to understand
- Look for definitions
- Look for relationships between blanks, whether opposites or synonyms
- Eliminate wrong answers
- Plug in answer choices if you cannot find a definition
Now you're ready to move on to the next section of SAT Reading: Short Passages.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 1.1g: Discussion Board
Two minds are better than one, and a whole classful of minds is better than pretty much anything except Nutella. Throughout the unit, if you want to share some SAT Reading study strategies with the rest of the gang, head on over to the discussion board.
Hopefully your classmates will share right back.