What Your Child Should Read to Increase Standardized Test Scores

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One of the most valuable skills a student can have when she goes into the SAT/ACT is strong reading comprehension skills. In fact, we encourage parents to focus on this as early as 9th grade or even middle school to really propel their children ahead in standardized test preparation. Some of the passages in the reading comprehension part of the SAT can take 15 minutes for the average student to read, taking up valuable time needed to answer questions on the passage.

Improving these skills takes time and there is no shortcut. Our academic advisors work with students to understand effective test-taking skills and how to best navigate long passages within the exam. The best way to prepare, however, is to start reading the right kinds of books at a young age. These help a student increase their vocabulary, familiarize them with complicated grammatical structures, and can even increase reading speed – helping them get to those last questions on a standardized test.

Nonfiction Books About Subjects That Interest Them

We know it may be a struggle to get your child to have a book in her hands, especially a nonfiction title. However, finding titles around subjects that are interesting to her can help make this happen a little easier. Look for narrative nonfiction and memoirs about topics and people your child likes to ease into the world of nonfiction reading. Here are 5 of our favorites:

  • The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson
  • The Blind Side: Evolution of a Game by Michael Lewis
  • I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou
  • The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcolm X


Yes, magazines! Now we aren’t talking People or Sports Illustrated, here! Think more in terms of The New Yorker or The Economist. These periodicals offer timely knowledge about topics your child has probably at least heard mention of in conversation or on the news. They also use more advanced sentence structure and vocabulary – helping with reading comprehension skills.

The Classics

These are the ones you remember from school yourself. They have transcended the time in which they were written and are now featured on school reading lists, for a reason. Not only do these titles expand a student’s vocabulary, but there is typically at least one passage written before 1900 on the SAT. Preparing for the structure of these by checking out one of the following novels will prove invaluable:

  • Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
  • The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
  • 1984 by George Orwell
  • Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
  • Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Help your child find books and magazines that interest her while still building reading comprehension skills. By making a small shift and building leisure reading into your child’s regular routine, you are helping set the stage for standardized test success.

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