What Should I Read to Raise My SAT Reading Score?

Posted on 23rd April 2018

In this post, our Student Liaison Officer Kelli discusses great books and articles to help boost your SAT and ACT reading scores over the summer.

Summer instantly reminds students of summer break, holidays abroad and endless Netflix binge-fests. As annoying as it may feel, keeping up with your ACT/SAT prep over those warm summer days is critical to keep up your momentum for the autumn test dates.

What’s a lazy hack to keep mentally engaged over summer without ploughing through mock test after mock test? One of the simplest ways, regardless of what year in school you are or your university ambitions, is to start reading!

Reading comprehension and vocabulary are evaluated in both the SAT and ACT, so upping your reading game over the summer can be a fantastic way to prepare yourself for these tests without cracking open a test prep booklet. Reading helps familiarise students with the kinds of texts they will encounter on the big day.

This leads to the obvious question: what should I be reading?

There is a lot of information out there about what books, novels and publications you should be using to boost your reading skills. To help you cut through the noise we’ve compiled our recommended reading list below. The aim of this list is not only to help you prepare for the entrance exams but also for your college education!

Since the tests are designed for US students, the literature and texts that appear on the SAT/ACT may differ to what you are acquainted with. As such, to prepare for a US exam it makes sense to brush up on the reading an American student would be expected to be familiar with!

Though some books in the list may be from places such as the UK, many deal with distinctly US topics such as US slavery. Additionally, as the SAT/ACT often feature passages drawn from historical documents, you'll want to look at some foundational documents from the US, as well as text about the civil rights movement and the charge for women’s suffrage. Here is a quick list of fiction and non-fiction works for you to sink your teeth into:
  • Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson
  • The Tales of Edgar Allan Poe by Edgar Allan Poe
  • Frankenstein by Mary Shelley
  • The Color Purple by Alice Walker
  • The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Beloved by Toni Morrison
  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville;
  • Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • Slaughterhouse – Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • Animal Farm by George Orwell
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Path

  • The Narrative of the life of Frederick Douglass, A Slave by Frederick Douglass
  • A Room of One's Own by Virginia Woolf
  • Thirteen Days by Robert F. Kennedy
  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
  • Rights of Man by Thomas Paine
  • A Vindication of the Rights of Woman  by Mary Wollstonecraft
  • Abraham Lincoln's  Gettysburg Address
  • American Declaration of Independence
  • Sojourner Truth's Ain't I A Woman
  • Freakonomics by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner
Don’t worry about reading every text before taking the SAT or the ACT, but you should try to read regularly to keep your mind active on those lazy summer days. As well as getting comfortable with different kinds of texts from different eras, we would recommend reading a little bit every day – even 20 to 30 minutes makes a significant difference in the long run!

In addition to the list above, a great way to stay sharp for exams is to read magazines, journals and publications. We would recommend you regularly read articles from the following:
  • New Scientist
  • Atlantic Monthly
  • The Economist
  • National Geographic
  • The New Yorker

Reading is a brilliant way to both better yourself and improve your SAT or ACT scores. Try to balance out those impromptu football matches with your mates over the break with a bit of reading every day. Most importnatly, enjoy what you're reading!
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