For 2016 and Beyond!
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Alternative Solutions to the Official SAT Practice Tests!!!
Preparing for the SAT is less complicated than you think. Just take care of these check-list items and you will be all set:
1. Learn how to manage your time. Know the layout of the test and what you need to accomplish to reach your personal best.
2. Learn the classic SAT methods: Trial and Error (where you play with each answer choice until you find the one that works) and the Back Door Play (where you replace their variables with numbers that you choose).
3. Review the math content that is actually tested.
You can take care of those first three items by carefully reading:
The New Math SAT Game Plan.
But as you read the book, you still have one more item on your check-list:
4. Take practice tests USING ONLY THE MOST AUTHENTIC MATERIAL AVAILABLE! Then, review each question until you understand it so well that you can explain it to someone else.
For now, the best tests available are the four tests released by the College Board. You can find them here:
You will also see that they have posted solutions. But you should know something about those solutions. As I wrote in my book:
The College Board’s provided solutions are always the “proper” kind. They use the algebraic methods that you use in math class. And that’s fine! You can certainly learn a lot by reading their solutions carefully. But you should also know the alternatives. Often, there are other ways to go about solving these problems — ways that the College Board never mentions!
What follows here is my list of alternative solutions and shortcuts to the questions on each of those four released tests. As you go through the list, you will see some questions marked with the code DITW. That’s short for “Do it their way.” For that question, the “official” way was best. Sometimes, you just have to play by their rules. Still, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by how many times we can find another path to the answer.
As more tests get released, I will post their alternative solutions as well. Also, if you see a question marked DITW, but you have found a shortcut, absolutely feel free to post a comment. If you are right, I will add your solution here.
The solution methods posted here are not intended to be complete, step-by-step guides. I am just trying to give you a big push in the alternative direction. (It’s the kind of thing I do when I post on forums like the one at College Confidential.) But if you feel you need further explanation, please feel free to post questions, either here or at College Confidential.
But which method is faster?
Only YOU can answer that! It depends on your comfort level with algebra and whether you “see” the school method or not. So while I welcome your comments, you do not have to email me about a problem just tell me that “algebra is faster.” It may have been faster for YOU this time on this question, but maybe not for someone else – and maybe not for you either on the next question. My goal here is just to show you that for many of these problems, another path exists.
THE ALTERNATIVE SOLUTIONS
If you are looking for the actual tests, you can get them here:
I strongly recommend that you print them out and take them with paper and pencil. That is a much more realistic and effective way of practicing.