How important is it to read to prepare for the SAT?
I have been looking at ways to prepare for the SAT and ACT (21 composite ACT, 1170 SAT) and have been seeing lists of what I should be reading (stuff like the New Yorker, the Classics, etc). Is this important to do or should I take it with a grain of salt?
Reading for leisure/practice only helps if you are a slow reader. That being said it doesn’t help much since you will read a magazine/book differently than you will read the passages on the SAT. for the SAT you need to know how to quickly understand a passage, locate direct quotes, find specific answers to questions, and analyze the text. You don’t have to read the entire passage (and that is the most common mistake - without even reading the passage (save for the intro/tiny paragraph above), answer the specific questions first, then try to answer the more general/broad/main idea passages. You should have a good enough understanding of the passage by the time you are done with the specific questions to be able to answer the general questions. I highly recommend doing either common core English drills/practice for your grade level (i.e. Regular English 11 worksheets or tests or really whatever you can find since that tests the same concrete, low-thinking, not very analytical approach that the SAT does. The SAT can’t test you at AP level thinking since most of the people who take the exam don’t have exposure to that. Another option is doing SAT reading practice on CrackSAT or other online, free practice websites. I HIGHLY recommend you invest in either the Princeton Review or Collegeboard SAT book and use that to teach yourself the strategies you need to know to improve. Just reading a piece (especially a New Yorker article, which is not the same type of passage as an SAT reading passage) won’t do much since you aren’t strengthening the specific skills you need to improve on to do better on the reading section.
I think the answer depends on your reading section score. If you are scoring below ~650 on the reading/writing section, reading more may be a good way to improve your score. If you are scoring above 650, reading more may be a waste of your time. Also, it depends on how much time you have to study. If your test date is in under a year, reading more may not be the best strategy.
Either way, there are more efficient ways to improve your reading/writing score. Spend time learning grammar rules and doing drills, or try out different reading strategies with practice tests so you can figure out which strategy works best for you. Khan Academy and Prepscholar have some great free resources for the reading/writing section that I used to improve my score from 670 to 800. Looking at a skills analysis of your reading/writing score may also be beneficial (can be found on collegeboard.org). Take practice tests, identify your weaknesses, and work on learning or developing strategies so that you dont get the same types of questions wrong again.
When I was practicing for my SAT and my ACT, I read nature magazine and primary history sources (like Washington's farewell address and the like) to prepare for the science and history sections (which were my weakest). However, I would 100% recommend reading one book in particular: The black book. https://www.amazon.com/SAT-Prep-Black-Book-Strategies/dp/0692916164
This book was absolutely godly for exam prep. I highly recommend it. Khan Academy also has free courses for the SAT as well if you need more practice. Another thing you should definitely do in addition to these things is go the cracksat.net and take practice tests until your head spins.
I think reading is a major part of the SAT because reading is something that takes a lot of time, and you need to be focused to be able to understand what the passage is saying. The questions in the reading section are especially tricky, as there are some questions that ask you to give an answer, and the question after that asks you to support that answer with a quote. If you get that answer wrong and the quote corresponds to the wrong answer, that is 2 questions gone.
I think that reading one article from The New York Times isn't that time consuming, but surely will improve your vocabulary while getting you used to reading about different categories, which you will do in the test.