Building Your SAT Reading Muscle

Imagine your brain as a group of muscles.  One of these muscles is called the reading muscle. Like any muscle, the reading muscle can very easily become weak and flaccid–if you don’t use it.

Now imagine trying to lift 150 pounds over your head. That would take quite a lot of muscle. Reading muscle-wise, the SAT is the 150-pound weight. Without first getting your reading brain into shape, you are going to have difficulty hoisting the SAT weight over your head.

Okay, enough with the extended metaphor. Simply put: To do well on the SAT reading you have to read a lot. For many in high school this isn’t a problem because A) they love to read or B) their classes require that they read a lot – anything from Shakespeare to the article from The Atlantic Monthly that a teacher assigned.

For those who do not get much exposure to reading, one way to prepare before and during your SAT prep is to read. Of course you don’t want to pick up the daily comic section. On the flip side you don’t have to power your way through the complete works of Shakespeare.

The type of reading you have to do must be at a certain level – what I like to call “academic lite.” Below are some resources that will whip your reading muscle into shape. (And for those looking for good examples on your essay, these magazines and newspapers provide a trove of such tidbits).


100-pound weight

Newsweek and Time Magazine


125-pound weight

The New York Times, The Atlantic Monthly, Literacy Cookbook

150-pound weight

The New Yorker, The Economist

One final note: Do not read the 1-page articles, thinking you’ve gotten a good workout. Read the extended articles (yeah, I know–the one’s that are long). Especially those on a topic you are unfamiliar with. Some of these articles—-such as the ones in The New Yorker—-typically run as long as 20-pages. Reading these will definitely get you “in shape” for the SAT Critical Reading section.



  • Chris Lele

    Chris Lele is the Principal Curriculum Manager (and vocabulary wizard) at Magoosh. Chris graduated from UCLA with a BA in Psychology and has 20 years of experience in the test prep industry. He's been quoted as a subject expert in many publications, including US News, GMAC, and Business Because. In his time at Magoosh, Chris has taught countless students how to tackle the GRE, GMAT, SAT, ACT, MCAT (CARS), and LSAT exams with confidence. Some of his students have even gone on to get near-perfect scores. You can find Chris on YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!

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