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SAT Reading Comprehension: Practicing History Passages

History and literary passages on the SAT are often taken from centuries past, when the common mode of expression was markedly different from that of today, and students are often intimidated when confronted with them. In the Covid period especially, after a lengthy student absence from schools, many of the history passages students would have ordinarily read have fallen by the wayside.



The Reading Comprehension section consists of 5 passages all together. One of these passages is drawn from literature, and two are drawn from history. Since both literature and history passages are often drawn from past centuries, reading and practicing on literature passages will help with understanding of the historical, and vice versa.


The best means of confronting and overcoming obstacles posed by such passages is by reading them as often as possible, thus becoming more familiar with them. Below is a list of recommended sources, chosen to best prepare you for your SAT Reading Comprehension section:


Literary Sources:

1. Jane Austen, ‘Pride and Prejudice’

2. Henry James, ‘Washington Square’

3. Charles Dickens, ‘Great Expectations’


History Sources:

1. Elizabeth Stanton, 'History of Woman Suffrage'

2. Thomas Paine, 'Common Sense'

3. Alexis de Tocqueville, 'Democracy in America'

4. Catherine Beecher, 'An Essay on Slavery and Abolitionism'

5. Abe Lincoln, 'Writings'


Again, the great difficulty with these passages isn't that they're intrinsically complicated, but rather that they're written in a vastly different manner from the writing of today. So, if you're not in the habit of reading passages from the 19th or 18th century, of course you'll find them difficult and frustrating.


So read short history passages on a regular basis (at least 2-3 times a week). Your ease and familiarity with them, as well as your ability to score well on these sections, should improve significantly.



For more tips and methods, or to get help personally tailored to your needs, consider working with me. I've helped people from all over the world get into their dream school. In coaching you, I adopt my methods specifically to your personality, schedule, and learning style. For this reason, studying privately with a skilled coach is the best way to increase your test score.


Happy learning,

Tova