“What books on an ACT/SAT reading list will help me improve my Reading Test score?” As an ACT/SAT coach, I am occasionally asked this question by ambitious students (but more frequently by ambitious parents). Although the answer is not as simple as you might hope, the following three simple tips will help you to create your own personalized ACT/SAT reading list to prepare for your upcoming standardized test!

Tip 1: Read ANYTHING.

[Note: I’m talking about printed media here, NOT your Facebook or Reddit feeds.] Upper-level reading skills are valuable on all sections of the test (even math!). If you don’t consider yourself to be a particularly strong reader, choose any book or magazine that appeals to you and dive right in! Whether you’re learning about cutting-edge technological advancements or embarking on an epic fantastical quest, reading something you like will keep you engaged and help you to become a more fluid reader without even realizing it.

Tip 2: Practice active reading.

A word of caution: even for you stronger readers out there, the skill set you’ll need for the ACT and SAT reading tests differs significantly from the one you use in English class. Reading a book for school (or for fun) is generally a somewhat passive process. You’re reading at a comfortable pace, following along with the storyline, and allowing information to sink in over a period of hours or even days.

On the ACT and SAT, however, you’ll need to be an active reader, use skimming and scanning to quickly locate and decode important information within the passages. Your pencil should be moving as you read, underlining important ideas such as thesis statements as well as context clues from specific questions. It’s very unlikely that you would read this way in school (unless you’re one of those daredevils who reads the assigned chapters on the morning of the quiz).

Tip 3: Target your weaknesses.

Passages on both the ACT and SAT follow a very predictable pattern:
ACT: passages are approximately 800 words each, and topics include fiction, social science, humanities, and natural science.
SAT: passages range from 500-750 words each, with topics drawn from U.S./world literature, history/social studies, and science.

Knowing what types of passages to expect can help you decide what you need to focus on as you prepare for your reading test, as certain genres may present more of a challenge than others. For example, some students struggle with science passages containing unknown terminology. Others have more difficulty with dialogue-heavy narrative passages. And still others may struggle with historical passages written in an older style of English.

The following books have been carefully selected to provide a broad overview of the types of texts you may encounter on