How to use your old SAT prep books for the new SAT

SAT Prep | ACT Prep | SAT

Now that the old SAT is How to use your old SAT prep books for the new SAT (Study Guide)officially put to rest (sigh—I am still not over it just yet), you may be wondering what to do with the pile of SAT books that you (or more likely your parents) spent hard-earned money on. Turn them into doorstops? Burning material for your mom’s fireplace? A booster seat for your kid sister? Don’t get rid of them just yet—they still have life for anyone studying for the new SAT or even the ACT.


Let’s start with the most popular—and most important—SAT book. The second edition of the Official SAT Study Guide, also known as the Old Blue Book, contains ten practice tests with 1700 questions—and nearly all of the questions can still help you prepare for the new exam. Yes, the format is different, and it is important that you purchase the newest edition of the Blue Book or download the free tests online (note that these free tests are the same four tests in the New Blue Book) so that you are familiar with the layout of the new test, but once you burn through  those four tests, you’ll need some other material to help you prepare. And since there is nothing better than real test questions from the test makers, we recommend that you practice with old questions from from prior-format tests.


Material to skip: Sentence Completion questions are no longer tested, so you should avoid the first page of every Reading section in the Old Blue Book (see examples on pages 390, 402, and 425). Also, all passages on the New SAT are at least 500 words, so you can skip the short single and short paired passages at the start of the first two Reading sections (see examples on pages 391 and 403).

Material to study: All of the long reading passages, listed by page numbers in the table below, are still valid study materials. All of the questions types have been retained, and the passages on the new SAT will be pulled from similar sources. Note that these passages also provide good practice for the ACT.
























































Material to brush up on in the New Blue Book: The new test has added a new type of question called Command of Evidence. These questions ask you where in the text you found the answer to a previous question or where you would find evidence to support a conclusion. You can see an example of two Command of Evidence questions on page 336 of the New Blue Book or on page 4 of the first free test (questions 5 and 10). Command of Evidence questions are now the most prevalent question type on the test, so it is extremely important you familiarize yourself with them prior to taking the new SAT. If you want to practice Command of Evidence in the Old Blue Book, simply underline the portion of text that provides the answer to questions about a specific portion of the test.

The new SAT also contains questions about one or two science-related graphics that accompany passages. Most of these questions have more to do with science than with reading, but you should investigate them in the New Blue Book before taking the test (two examples appear in questions 20 and 21 on page 339 of the New Blue Book or on page 7 of the first free test).


Material to skip: Nothing! All of the content tested on the old SAT is expected to show up on the new SAT, although it may appear more or less frequently. I wish I could say that because Geometry is being relegated from 35% to 10% of test content it means that you have less Geometry concepts to remember, but it’s just not true. You still may be asked about triangles, circles, cylinders, quadrilaterals, and all of the other Geometry content tested on the old SAT, only just not as often.

Material to study: All of the Math sections are valid study material. Note that these sections also provide good practice for the ACT.

Material to brush up on in the New Blue Book: You will want to review the Math section in the New Blue Book to learn about the “No Calculator” section, item sets, and the new focus on Algebra. You should also review basic Trigonometry, as it’s been added to the test.


Material to skip: The Essay on the new SAT is now optional  and it’s much different than the old Essay, so ignore the ten practice essays in the Old Blue Book. You can see an example on page 389.

Material to study: Although the format of the Writing section has changed the most among the three subject areas, all of the grammatical concepts on the old SAT are still tested on the New SAT. So while all of the multiple-choice Writing questions in the Old Blue Book provide valuable information about the types of errors on the new SAT, students must understand that the new test uses passages with errors instead of individual sentences with errors.

Material to brush up on in the New Blue Book: The Writing section has changed the most, so you have the most outside work in this subject area compared to the other two. In addition to completely revamping the format (think ACT English section), the test makers have added punctuation errors, word choice (i.e. it’s/its and there/their/they’re), degree of formality, and style maintenance to the test. They have also thrown some vocabulary questions and science questions into the mix. As in the Reading section, the science questions are more about science than about Writing, but you need to be aware of them before test day.

If you have any questions about how to use your Old Blue Book to prepare for the new test or for the ACT, let me know! You can find more prior-format tests in our Free Help Area. Next week I’ll cover how to use your old copies of the PowerScore SAT Bibles for the new SAT.