Erica Meltzer, whose blog at ultimatesatverbal.blogspot.com should definitely be a daily stop for you if you’re prepping for the SAT (which you probably are if you’re stopping by my site), has spent years holding a microscope to the SAT writing section, and has compiled all of her findings into a book that, miraculously, is under 200 pages long.

In those pages, Erica’s managed to pack advice (and a dizzying number of example sentences) to cover every single grammar rule that could conceivably appear in an SAT writing section. She provides insight into how often certain error types appear. At times, she even provides insight into roughly where in the test certain error types are most likely to appear — did you know faulty comparison errors are most likely to appear in the last 3 Error ID questions? She writes with an authority that only someone who has spent as much time analyzing the test as she has could possibly muster. In short, she knows everything you need to know to get an 800 on the SAT writing section, and she tells it to you. All of it. I don’t think one could find a question, in the Blue Book or in any recent QAS, that tests a concept that she hasn’t covered.

The book’s greatest strength — its completeness — might be seen by some as a weakness, though. Erica leaves no stone unturned, and there are many, many stones. An example: Even though the subjunctive appears, by her own admission, very infrequently on the SAT, it does appear once in a great while, so there’s a page devoted to it in this book. Such minutiae is interesting to me because I spend a lot of time looking at the SAT with a critical eye, and is important to the student who seeks a perfect score, but might not be very important to the student who simply seeks a very good score. Erica does a good job of pointing out which concepts are commonly tested and which ones aren’t; it would behoove a student who’s not seeking perfection to gloss over the uncommon bits and spend extra time reviewing the common ones.

My verdict

The Ultimate Guide to SAT Grammar is a very impressive book. It’s accurate, insightful, and exhaustive. It’s of a manageable length. It will serve students well both as a training workbook, and as a desktop reference when arcane grammar questions arise. I dare say its usefulness might even outlast the SAT — grammar will continue to be important long after college admissions testing is a distant memory. As a weapon in your test prep arsenal, it will serve you well.