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Top 7 Reading Recommendations for SAT/ACT Reading Success


At AJ Tutoring, we pride ourselves on having helped thousands of students navigate the test-taking process. Our goal in working with students who are preparing for exams like the SAT and ACT is to minimize stress and maximize success. 

While the exams are difficult, the content of each section is predictable, and a limited range of topics is presented. By combining our bespoke, 1-on-1 approach with a level of SAT/ACT expertise that borders on obsession, our tutors provide a tutoring service that is about as efficient and effective as you can get. 

For sections that test reading comprehension, we find that the greater challenge is not so much content knowledge as strategic prowess. Most students meet with a tutor for about 10 sessions to prepare for an exam, and, by the end of the course, we’ve developed an approach to the unique difficulties and obstacles of the reading section that makes the most sense for the individual learner. 

What we’ve found is that, while strategies are a huge help, students who are voracious readers see the most success on the SAT and ACT reading sections. Because they’ve seen hundreds of thousands of pages of quality fiction and non-fiction, the tactics for time management and passage scanning come a bit more naturally. 

With that in mind, here are some reading recommendations that can both engage a young learner with core academic subjects, inspire future readings, and even bolster SAT reading capabilities. 

1. Pride & Prejudice

This classic novel by Jane Austen is a great way to build comfort with literature written more than 100 years ago, which, yes, will show up on test day. A “novel of manners,” Pride and Prejudice is committed to a realistic portrayal of a social order. It’s a fitting vehicle for one of literature’s great perceptive minds as readers get to experience the early 1800’s in all their rules and restrictions, their humor and humanity. 

2. The U.S. Constitution

The CollegeBoard recently announced on emphasis on two core codes for success in today’s society: computer science and the U.S. Constitution. You can read how AJ is helping students better engage with these crucial codes here

One aspect of College Board’s focus on these codes is an increased presence of constitutional passages on the SAT. Think of the advantage you’ll have if you read, re-read, and absorb the founding legal document of the United States. You might even get a leg up on the SAT reading section! 

3. The Federalist Papers

Are you a fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s hit Broadway show, Hamilton? Why not read some of the greatest hits from the man himself, along with a little help from his friends, James Madison and John Jay. It’s a great follow-up to our 2nd recommendation on the list because a key goal of these papers was to get the US Constitution ratified. 

OK, you don’t have to read all of them. Start with #10, #14, #78 and #84. Pay attention to how the authors develop their arguments through reason and rhetoric.

4. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass

Harrowing to say the least, the life of Frederick Douglass is a testament to the bravery and endurance of the human spirit. The Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass is somehow even more than that: Douglass was one of the best prose writers in American history. It’s moving and informative, poetic and passionate. As if you needed more reasons to pick this up: Douglass’s writings have showed up on College Board exams several times. 

5. Scientific American

Reading Scientific American is super helpful for keeping informed about a wide variety of contemporary scientific goings-on. Subscribing or poking around the website regularly can work wonders for improving your fluency with science-based reading passages.

6. A Vindication of the Rights of Woman

You could say it was ahead of its time. Women would not get the right to vote in the United Kingdom until the 1920’s. The word “feminist” wasn’t even coined until the 1890’s. Mary Wollstonecraft published her vindication in 1792! 

In this carefully crafted treatise, Mary Wollstonecraft rejects arguments propounded by political theorists and educators who thought that girls should not receive the same education as boys. Wollstonecraft’s range as a writer and thinker means that reading this will help you with philosophical writings and political arguments as well as with older literary passages.

7. Song of Solomon

Toni Morrison’s masterpiece traces the life and death of Milkman Dead. It’s probably the most important work of American fiction in the last 75 years. It’s also a treasure trove of rich passages in which observe literary skills at the highest level.  

So, there you have it! With several holiday breaks coming up and a few months until test day, dedicating an hour a day to reading is one of the best possible investments of your time.

If you’d like to have someone to talk through the books with, please read up on our academic English tutoring

If you’d like to sign up for customized, 1-on-1 tutoring with an SAT expert, please give us a call today to put together a plan. 

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