7 Things to Read to Prepare for the SAT and ACT

By Steve Leech

(Test Prep (ACT/SAT/SSAT), and English Literature Tutor at The Edge Learning Center)

Everyone knows that reading is a great way to prepare for any test. When it comes to the SAT and ACT, though, it can be hard where to begin. As it turns out, one good place is here. Right here! These are seven great things you can read to begin improving your test performance.

1. This List

Hey, you’re already doing it! Congratulations on taking the first step to a better score!

2. The Test Itself

Find past papers and read them. Obviously, you should read past papers to get a sense of what’s on the test, but you should also be reading for format, delivery, style, all the good stuff that people overlook. Looking over this sort of information ahead of time means that you can spend more time on test day actually looking at the information you need instead of searching all over for where that information actually is. Sure, the time savings are only going to be a few minutes at most (“Only”?! Minutes count on these things!), but there is also the psychological benefit of not having to search for information. It’s good for speed and your confidence.

3. The Official FAQs

Both the SAT and the ACT offer information about what you can expect leading up to the test, on test day, and after you’ve taken the test. A lot of this information will be obvious for a hep cat such as yourself, but you never know what you never know. It’s entirely possible something you never thought of is a major factor that influences your plans for the test (a “number 2” pencil, for instance, isn’t a “2B“). Similarly, it’s a good idea to check what you can and can’t take with you into the test room. A quick search for test day checklist should bring up official and unofficial guidelines that can help you on your way.

4. Difficult Reading Passages

One of the most challenging sections on both the SAT and ACT is the reading section. Many students struggle with speed and comprehension, which are difficult skills to improve in a short time. The specific texts you should focus on will change based on the test (the SAT in particular likes 18th-century political texts), but challenging yourself with more difficult practice will help on either test, as well as with your university career in general, so that’s useful. Anything aimed at a college-level audience should be enough. You might also consider any writer who’s ever won a Pulitzer, Man Booker, or Nobel.

5. The Answer Explanations

Many officially-released SAT and ACT tests include official answer keys and explanations. The answer keys are obviously very useful when practicing, but don’t forget the insights you can get from the explanations. These kinds of documents will give you insight into how the test-makers make their tests, and if you can understand how something’s put together, you can better understand how to use it. Test-makers leave a lot of design secrets in the answer explanations. Use them! Each year, thousands of innocent points are lost and abandoned simply because students and test-makers didn’t understand each other. You can help provide a warm and loving home for a lot of those points.

6. Your University’s Requirements

To be fair, this might not have factored into your plans yet (and if you’re still making plans, I know some people who can help), but it can save you a lot of stress and uncertainty in the long run. Check with your university admissions office, current and past students, and college rankings about what the school is looking for and what targets you may need to set for yourself. Getting prepared and understanding your target audience ahead of time gives you a better idea of what you need to do, which already puts you in a better position for planning and ultimately accomplishing those goals.

7. The Edge Essentials

Come on, you knew this was coming. At The Edge, we’ve already read all of these materials and more, and we’ve poured that knowledge into our courses, lessons, and books. It’s great to have the information yourself, but it’s even better to have an expert who can help you make the most of it—the only thing left to read is the phone number.


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About The Edge

The Edge Learning Center is Hong Kong’s premier Test Preparation, Academic Tutoring, and Admissions Consulting services provider. Founded in 2008, The Edge has helped thousands of students improve their ACT and SAT scores as well as their IB and AP grades. The AC team has just finished off another successful period in which student gained acceptance to schools such as Stanford, University of Chicago, Brown, and more! Check out the rest of our 2018 Admissions Results!