Ready, Set, Test: A Dozen Titles for Test Takers

standardized tests may strike fear in the hearts of your young patrons, never more so than when the format morphs. Essential to test takers is knowing when and how tests change,” says Rob Franek, SVP/publisher, the Princeton Review. “Changes in standardized tests present challenges for all who help people prepare for them.” Franek further notes, “in the three to six months before a revised test debuts, some students may be preparing to take the last administration of the soon to be ‘old’ test while others are preparing for the new one. It is especially important to have resources available that will accommodate both sets of test takers.” This past January, for example, saw changes to the GED, the high school equivalency test. Lonny Stein, Director of Marketing at Barron’s, explains that while students still face the same five “subtests,” there will now be less emphasis on rote learning, and more on evaluating information. Another reform has probably already added to the line of patrons waiting to use your computers: the test can now only be taken on a machine, and Stein explains that test takers need the ability to use a mouse and basic word-processing skills. Along with the higher fee for the test—in some states, it’s gone from $60 to $120—low-income and older students now face significant barriers.

While the biggest news surrounds the GED, it’s also worth examining your materials that help those preparing for the ACT, as that test is gaining in popularity over the SAT for those who are college bound.

So which books should you buy? The several big names in this area—Barron’s, Kaplan, Peterson’s, and Princeton Review—all regularly publish a new crop of titles, and there are smaller players in the market competing for your budget dollars, too. Help is at hand! LJ education reviewer Roseanne Cordell examined this year’s various guides and below offers a list of the best.


realact031714The Real ACT Prep Guide. 3d ed. Peterson’s. 2011. 929p. illus. ISBN . pap. $30.95; ISBN 9780768934403. $34.95 w/CD. ED

This title contains extensive information about the test’s format and content from the ACT makers. The general information about test centers and strategies for test taking are particularly helpful. One practice test is provided for each subject area. Scoring information is also offered. The optional CD contains college planning resources from Peterson’s. While other ACT prep books include more practice tests, this book has information from the test creators themselves, which makes it especially valuable.

Dulan, Steven W. McGraw Hill’s ACT. McGraw Hill. Apr. 2013. 552p. illus. ISBN 9780071817332. pap. $33 w/CD. ED

McGraw-Hill’s approach to the ACT is similar to that of the Princeton Review, including a diagnostic test and test-taking strategies. This title offers both practice tests in print and on a CD and is available online. College choice and application information is included, too.


Rankin, Estelle M. & Barbara L. Murphy. 5 Steps to a 5: AP English Literature 2014–2015. 5th ed. McGraw Hill. 2013. 230p. illus. ISBN 9780071803847. pap. $29.95 w/CD; ebk. ISBN 9780071803823. ED

Six practice exams are included here—three in the book and three on a CD. ­Quizzes are available online, as well. Additional features that students may ­appreciate are a suggested reading guide, a glossary, and a list of websites related to college-level literature studies.


Wall, Janet E. McGraw-Hill’s ASVAB: Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery. 3d ed. McGraw Hill. 2013. 597p. illus. ISBN 9780071809207. pap. $19. ED

All test-prep books cover test content and format, as well as provide practice questions. This book also explains the role of the ASVAB in gaining entrance to the military’s various branches, how to decide upon a military career, and the jobs available in today’s armed forces. The diagnostic test, content review chapters, three practice tests, and test-taking advice are solidly designed to help even reluctant test takers.


Sharpe, Christopher & Joseph S. Reddy. How To Prepare for the GED Test. 16th ed. Barron’s. (GED). 2014. 697p. illus. ISBN 9781438002675. pap. $18.99; ISBN 9781438073699. $29.99 w/CD. ED

This book covers all subjects and ­question types on the new GED, with two tests in print and two on the CD—the latter format simulates computer testing with time limits. Instructions are included for navigating the computer screens while testing.


redstarMartz, Geoff & Adam Robinson. Cracking the GMAT 2014. Princeton Review. 2013. 757p. illus. ISBN 9780307945662. pap. $37.99 w/DVD. ED

Princeton Review’s thorough program includes a review of all exam subject areas, instruction and drills for each section, testing strategies, and access to four full-length tests to be used as diagnostic and practice exams. Notes in the margin of the text refer to DVD and online resources. ­Students who are unable to take a test-prep course will greatly benefit from the advice offered here.


redstarMaster the GRE. Peterson’s. 2013. 656p. illus. ISBN 9780768937480. pap. $35.95; ebk. ISBN 9780768938036. ED

The three major test-prep publishers have very similar GRE books, but this one includes appendixes on common grammatical and mechanical errors and often confused and confusing words. Also offered are four print practice tests and three online exams.

H.S. Entrance Exams

redstarMaster the Catholic High School Entrance Exams 2014: Everything You Need To catholichighschoolentranceexams031714Boost Your Score. 19th ed. Peterson’s. 2013. 664p. illus. ISBN 9780768936605. pap. $19.95; ebk. ISBN 9780768937992. ED

Librarians will want to check which of the several high school entrance exams are used locally. This title has information on the HSPT, COOP, TACHS, SSAT, and ISEE exams, although it should be noted that it focuses on the high school levels of those ­exams that have versions for younger students. Practice exams are provided for each type of test. In the reviews of the subjects, differences among the quizzes are discussed. A helpful added feature is a list of 500 commonly used words on the exams.


Robinson, Adam & Kevin Blemel. Cracking the LSAT. Random House Reference & Information. 2013. 563p. illus. ISBN 9780307945686. pap. $38.99 w/DVD. ED

Students will appreciate Robinson’s detailed instruction on arguments (logical reasoning) questions, which make up approximately half of the LSAT. Study plans for four-, eight- and 12-week periods are included. Students have access to two full-length practice tests in print and four more online, as well as score reports, tutorials, tips via email, and a guide to law schools. Margin notes refer to information found on both the DVD and online.


Flowers, James L. & Theodore Silver. Cracking the MCAT 2013–2014. Princeton Review. 2012. 1168p. illus. ISBN 9780307945341. pap. $99.99.

This hefty volume covers physics, inorganic chemistry, organic chemistry, biology, and verbal reasoning as tested on the MCAT and provides four full-length, online practice tests. The 16-page “Review Guide” contains critical formulas and definitions that students will find handy as a study guide.


Lucas, Amy. Your Complete SAT Math Prep Course with Amy Lucas. Private Tutor. 2012. 207p. illus. ISBN 9781463672997. pap. $29.95. ED

These titles (in addition to this work covering math, volumes are available for ­writing and critical reading) provide lessons and drills on the subjects covered by the SAT. DVDs to accompany each title may be ordered from the publisher website (, as the titles do not include full-length, timed practice tests. While the material in these volumes is useful, given that they lack tests, they will work best as supplements to other SAT practice books. [See Video Reviews, LJ 3/1/12.]

Robinson, Adam & John Katzman. Cracking the SAT 2014. Princeton Review. (College Test Preparation). 2013. 817p. illus. ISBN 9780307945624. pap. $34.99 w/DVD. ED

This is the most comprehensive SAT review offering, which includes both print and online practice tests, score reports, exercises, and the opportunity to have essays graded. General information about the SAT, test-taking tips, principles, and information on admissions and financial aid processes are also provided. An excellent buy.

Rosanne Cordell is the Associate Dean for Public Services at Northern Illinois University Libraries, DeKalb. She has experience as an academic reference and instruction librarian and a school librarian

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