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Improve your English scores in standardized tests and competitive exams

Improve your English scores in standardized tests and competitive exams.

Students appearing for competitive exams (SAT, CAT, GMAT, GRE) often struggle with poor marks in the reading comprehension section. In general, all languages take time and effort to master and English is no exception. Here are some tips for students. Depending on the time available for preparation, you may pursue some or all of the techniques mentioned below:

  1. Read a lot of books: No surprises here. Reading more is the best way to improve your reading comprehension. Students that are voracious readers, read more and faster than those that are not. They are able to understand a complex matter better in a single reading than someone else may in multiple attempts. Its important to cultivate reading as a hobby while young. Most students start with fantasy fiction like, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson etc. before moving into more advanced books like Twilight or The Foundation series by Isaac Asimov. Provided below is a list of books recommended by College Board for college bound students. While this list includes a lot of classics, reading current non-fiction books is equally helpful. However, if your exam is in a few months, you may need to make extra efforts.

So please read on.

  1. Read an English newspaper daily, including the editorial section: Build the newspaper into your daily routine. Reading news is easy, there are a lot of facts, reporting and comments that are easy to remember. Reading the editorial section is more difficult. You are reading the editors views and analysis of a complex issue. Try to read deliberately and slowly. After reading, spend a few minutes thinking about the idea that the writer was expressing. Are you able to write down what the editorial was saying? Go back to the passage and read it again.

Now compare the editorial with what you wrote. Were you able to write down some of the concepts, most of them or all of them? You will notice a marked improvement within a few weeks of practicing this way.

Through extensive experience (both my own and other students), I strongly recommend this strategy.

  1. Learn five to ten new words daily: A strong vocabulary is a major asset. You can understand more complex passages and authors and know just the appropriate word to describe a particular situation. Even if your tests are in three months, learning 5 new words daily means 450 new words added to your vocabulary. No matter where you are starting from, this improvement in vocabulary will be a huge improvement.

Reading books, reading newspaper editorials and expanding your vocabulary all help strengthen your English language foundations, especially in reading and comprehension. An average student that diligently follows the above three steps sees major improvement in three to six months.

  1. Practice for your test using high quality preparation materials and online resources: Since the objective is to appear for a competitive test, you have to find high quality preparation materials and resources focused on that test.
    1. Start early and appear for a diagnostic test.
    2. Spend time analyzing your mistakes. This is probably the most crucial part of test preparation. Set out a day of the week (say, Sunday) when you will appear for a mock test. After the test sit down and check the answers while the test is still fresh in your head. Focus on the ones that you got wrong. What were you thinking when you chose option A instead of option D? Were you undecided between both the options and went with one over the other? Do you realize why your answer was wrong?
    3. Understand your strengths and weaknesses. After two mock tests, you should have a strong idea of the topics where you are doing well, topics where you need some improvement and topics where you need a lot of improvement. Scholarly provides a powerful online platform for SAT and ACT for high school students. The diagnostics enable the student to understand their performance, strengths and weaknesses. This allows the students to allocate their time appropriately to get the best possible results.

Time is the most important resource while preparing for an exam. Knowing where you stand and where to invest the available time wisely is crucial to getting the best possible score. You do not have time to attend all coaching classes for all topics. Identify the topics where you need help and attend those classes. Test, Practice, Rest & Repeat. It is a simple strategy.

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Recommended Reading List for College-Bound Students

Author Title

  1. Anonymous – Beowulf
  2. Achebe, Chinua – Things Fall Apart
  3. Agee, James – A Death in the Family
  4. Austen, Jane – Pride and Prejudice
  5. Baldwin, James – Go Tell It on the Mountain
  6. Beckett, Samuel – Waiting for Godot
  7. Bellow, Saul – The Adventures of Augie March
  8. Bronte, Charlotte – Jane Eyre
  9. Bronte, Emily – Wuthering Heights
  10. Camus, Albert – The Stranger
  11. Cather, Willa – Death Comes for the Archbishop
  12. Cervantes, Miguel de – Don Quixote
  13. Chaucer, Geoffrey – The Canterbury Tales
  14. Chekhov, Anton – The Cherry Orchard
  15. Chopin, Kate – The Awakening
  16. Conrad, Joseph – Heart of Darkness
  17. Cooper, James Fenimore – The Last of the Mohicans
  18. Crane, Stephen – The Red Badge of Courage
  19. Dante – Inferno
  20. Defoe, Daniel – Robinson Crusoe
  21. Dickens, Charles – A Tale of Two Cities
  22. Dostoyevsky, Fyodor – Crime and Punishment
  23. Douglass, Frederick – Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass
  24. Dreiser, Theodore – An American Tragedy
  25. Dumas, Alexandre – The Three Musketeers
  26. Eliot, George – The Mill on the Floss
  27. Ellison, Ralph – Invisible Man
  28. Emerson, Ralph Waldo – Selected Essays
  29. Faulkner, William – As I Lay Dying
  30. Faulkner, William – The Sound and the Fury
  31. Fielding, Henry – Tom Jones
  32. Fitzgerald, F. Scott – The Great Gatsby
  33. Flaubert, Gustave – Madame Bovary
  34. Ford, Ford Madox – The Good Soldier
  35. Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von – Faust
  36. Hardy, Thomas – Tess of the d’Urbervilles
  37. Hawthorne, Nathaniel – The Scarlet Letter
  38. Heller, Joseph – Catch 22
  39. Hemingway, Ernest – A Farewell to Arms
  40. Homer – The Iliad
  41. Homer – The Odyssey
  42. Hugo, Victor – The Hunchback of Notre Dame
  43. Hurston, Zora Neale – Their Eyes Were Watching God
  44. Huxley, Aldous – Brave New World
  45. Ibsen, Henrik – A Doll’s House
  46. James, Henry – The Portrait of a Lady
  47. James, Henry – The Turn of the Screw
  48. Joyce, James – A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
  49. Kafka, Franz – The Metamorphosis
  50. Kingston, Maxine Hong – The Woman Warrior
  51. Lee, Harper – To Kill a Mockingbird
  52. Lewis, Sinclair – Babbitt
  53. London, Jack – The Call of the Wild
  54. Mann, Thomas – The Magic Mountain
  55. Marquez, Gabriel Garcia – One Hundred Years of Solitude
  56. Melville, Herman – Bartleby the Scrivener
  57. Melville, Herman – Moby Dick
  58. Miller, Arthur – The Crucible
  59. Morrison, Toni – Beloved
  60. O’Connor, Flannery – A Good Man is Hard to Find
  61. O’Neill, Eugene – Long Day’s Journey into Night
  62. Orwell, George – 1984
  63. Orwell, George – Animal Farm
  64. Pasternak, Boris – Doctor Zhivago
  65. Plath, Sylvia – The Bell Jar
  66. Poe, Edgar Allen – Selected Tales
  67. Proust, Marcel – Swann’s Way
  68. Pynchon, Thomas – The Crying of Lot 49
  69. Remarque, Erich Maria – All Quiet on the Western Front
  70. Rostand, Edmond – Cyrano de Bergerac
  71. Roth, Henry – Call It Sleep
  72. Salinger, J.D. – The Catcher in the Rye
  73. Shakespeare, William – Hamlet
  74. Shakespeare, William – Julius Caesar
  75. Shakespeare, William – Macbeth
  76. Shakespeare, William – A Midsummer Night’s Dream
  77. Shakespeare, William – Romeo and Juliet
  78. Shaw, George Bernard – Pygmalion
  79. Shelley, Mary – Frankenstein
  80. Silko, Leslie Marmon – Ceremony
  81. Solzhenitsyn, Alexander – One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich
  82. Sophocles – Antigone
  83. Sophocles – Oedipus Rex
  84. Steinbeck, John – The Grapes of Wrath
  85. Stevenson, Robert Louis – Treasure Island
  86. Stowe, Harriet Beecher – Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  87. Swift, Jonathan – Gulliver’s Travels
  88. Thackeray, William – Vanity Fair
  89. Thoreau, Henry – David Walden
  90. Tolstoy, Leo – War and Peace
  91. Turgenev, Ivan – Fathers and Sons
  92. Twain, Mark – The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
  93. Voltaire – Candide
  94. Vonnegut, Kurt Jr. – Slaughterhouse Five
  95. Walker, Alice – The Color Purple
  96. Wharton, Edith – The House of Mirth
  97. Welty, Eudora – Collected Stories
  98. Whitman, Walt – Leaves of Grass
  99. Wilde, Oscar – The Picture of Dorian Gray
  100. Williams, Tennessee – The Glass Menagerie
  101. Woolf, Virginia – To the Lighthouse
  102. Wright, Richard – Native Son

About the Author: 

Vivek Bhandari is the Chief Executive and Co-founder of Scholarly.co. He is an engineer from IIT Delhi and an MBA from IIM Kolkata. Vivek has worked extensively in financial services, real estate and mortgages space in USA, Europe, and India.

Scholarly helps ambitious international students locate the right universities and courses to pursue their education. We provide college credit courses and research papers to students that want to learn more and differentiate themselves. We help students develop and present their best version to their dream university. Our recommendations are based on the student’s field of interest, academic performance, financial resources and career plans. We provide test preparation classes from the best teachers to help improve scores and thus the prospects for admission. We also assist students with their visa and loan applications to reduce the anxiety associated with international education.

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