Book Riff

Good Ones


SMW, April 11, 2010 7:16 PM


Previously published by The Daily Riff 1/10/10

UPDATE:  Check out Cramster - a few people turned us on to this site for both SAT prep AND regular homework.

Up Your Score: By Six Kids Who Aced the SAT from Yale, Duke, Cornell & Harvard
 (Plus Five Other Options)

I recently had a chat with a father who was thrilled about his daughter who had increased her SAT test scores by hundreds of points through tutoring over the course of a month.  (There are conflicting studies as to how and what test prep may be/or if is effective but this is not the point of this post). 

While I was happy for him, I felt disheartened realizing that many kids can't afford a personal tutor.  In the end, was this student really hundreds of points "smarter" than someone less fortunate at a given point in time?  Would that knowledge and skill be retained?  (Once again, however, this is another topic for another time, as is how testing is a game unto itself).  

So, in the spirit of if-you-can't-beat-'em-join-'em, we came up with a few last minute, less costly (even free) alternatives to attempt to level the playing field a bit.  Here we go:

UpYourScore.jpg1)  Up Your Score:  The Underground Guide to the SAT.  How to Outsmart "the test" by Six Kids Who Aced the SAT.  Updated for 2010. 

Don't let the fun, easy-to-read format with cartoonish illustrations fool you (complete with an Evil Testing Serpent named ETS).  This book is jam-packed with strategies and information for a solid math and verbal prep, especially when time is limited.   It also covers last-minute tips for test day and offers a free diagnostic test on-line to find your strength and weaknesses. 

Written by young whizzes adept at decimating the SAT,  ETS has "admitted defeat" during an earlier incarnation of this book to the point where ETS changed the test.  The smart folks from Underground continue with updates to outmaneuver the SAT folks in this education game.  Makes one wonder about it all.

2)  According to the site Grockit  is "an online test prep and collaborative learning tool that allows students to practice tests in the three ways they naturally study - alone, with peers, and with experts."

 A review from Fortune Tech Blog Jessica Shambora called it "When the Princeton Review met Facebook . . .The site's anytime, social, and game-play elements will appeal to future generations of test takers for whom this type of online interaction comes naturally."

From TechCrunch December 2009:  " . . . solo games adapt to you as a player, group games use an algorithm to figure out what group to put you in, and lessons will float up which teachers and lessons we recommend."

3) is an advanced learning platform which includes various "goals" such as "Beat the SAT Verbal".  We've checked it out and looks promising - let us know what you think. 

According to, "this platform tells you what to study and when.  It tracks your progress so you can set goals.   It takes the burden out of learning by automatically creating a learning schedule that adapts to the individual's performance and needs. The system combines proven learning science with the latest in adaptive, semantic and social Web technologies. Powered by personalized learning algorithms, measures memory strength on a granular item by item basis. The algorithms are based on decades of research on optimum learning patterns in the fields of cognitive science and neuroscience."

4)  Let us not forget the three granddaddies of test prep:  College Board, Kaplan and Princeton Review.

5)  We'd like to hear your experience with test prep - the good, the bad, the ugly.

     Let us know if there are others out there you would recommend and good luck!

- S.M.


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