A self-assessment and five model SAT II writing tests are presented with performance evaluation charts, explained answers for multiple-choice questions, and a self-scoring guide for the essay question.
Do books like this help? When I attended a decent public high school, we were told that outside preparation was a good way to spend a lot of time and money on statistically insignificant returns. This doesn't bother private high school students I've met recently. I don't know if preparation has improved, or if the "cost" side of cost/benefit inhibits them less. Familiarity with the format and grounding in tactics has got to be worth something.
I think Lance Armstrong likes to ride the course before the Tour de France starts. His margin of victory is statistically insignificant, but it seems to work for him.
In rebuttal to another reviewer's comments: You *can* improve your ability to write essays (assuming there's room for improvement to begin with). I'm coaching a student whose essays just improved dramatically after she studied the tactics recommended by the Princeton book (e.g. add some literary or historical references). Of course some essay topics are easy to get one's teeth into, others are intractable, and we can't tell how she'll feel about the one the test puts in front of her--but she has a better template to work with than she did before.
Not bad, eh? I think I tossed this together in 20 minutes or less, with an illustrative reference to sports! I've had more practice than my student, but improvement is possible!
For example, the book says that an excellent score is no more than 5 missed answers on the multiple choice section (with a detailed breakdown in each of the 3 subsections). That's what we focused on: correcting common errors to get the score within that range.
The official score report we received showed only 5 missed answers and translated that to a score of 79 out of 80 on that part of the exam. In my mind, that validates the book's scale.
The review material in both the Kaplan guide and this Barron's guide are excellent and equivalent. I am glad my "scholar" used both books. But if I had to recommend only one, I would recommend the Barron's.
I wouldn't say that I'm an amazing writer, but with just this book, I was able to get an 800 on my first try.