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Seeking ACT-like Prose Fiction and Humanities Pieces
May 6, 2014 9:56 AM   Subscribe

Hi all. I'm tutoring some students for the ACT, and wanted to find some good selections of prose fiction and humanities non-fiction to give them a sense of what they can expect on the reading section of the test. I had lots of ideas for prose fiction, but many seemed to involve something potentially confusing and controversial (abortion in Hills Like White Elephants, Tourette's Syndrome in Motherless Brooklyn, intersex identity in Middlesex) and most of the humanities writing I'm familiar with is high-level academic scholarship that is probably too dense for high school students.

Two selections that I think good models are Flannery O'Connor's short story, "Everything That Rises Must Converge," and James Baldwin's essay "Everybody's Protest Novel." I have some more in mind but I'd like to get your suggestions. Please let me know if you can think of any good novels, short stories, and essays that might be accessible yet challenging and analytically rich for high school juniors.
If you're curious to see what I had in mind, here's an online sample test.

Thank you!
posted by foxy_hedgehog to Education (3 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
One of my colleagues urges her students to read the various books in the Best American series to prep for the MCAT verbal section. They come out annually, so they're like Best American Essays of 2013 or Best American Short Stories of 2011. You could check out some of the short story and essay ones and see what they had in there that's good.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 10:04 AM on May 6


I used to work in test prep for the SAT and ACT exams, and I think passages from The New Yorker can be pretty good for prose. Also good are Harper's magazine articles. I find those convenient to use because they're the right length. For non fiction, maybe try The Economist.
posted by flyingfork at 10:20 AM on May 6


There are literally hundreds of freshman-comp anthology textbooks that offer carefully-curated collections of just this sort of writing, preselected to be not too hard and not overly controversial. You can pick up used versions for dirt cheap on Amazon. Why not order a few, browse, and use what you like? Just a few that come to mind:

In Depth: Essayists for Our Time

The Longman Reader

The Norton Anthology of Short Fiction
posted by Bardolph at 10:46 AM on May 6


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