BCA Exam Prep: Summer Reading List

Closeup of four students reading books

BCA Exam Prep: Summer Reading List

BCA Exam Prep: Summer Reading List

Summer is a great time to enjoy the sun, spend some time with family, and relax a bit.

But it’s also a great time to capitalize on your spare time by preparing for your high school admission goals. Read our blog to learn more about how summer courses are a game changer.

This summer and fall, many 8th graders in Bergen County will be preparing to apply to Bergen County Academies (BCA) or Bergen County Technical High School in Teterboro (BT).

Doing some extra summer reading can help students be better prepared for this application, test, and interview:

  • First, you can familiarize yourself with the type of text you will encounter during the English portion of the BCA/BT admissions exam. The more exposure you have to these types of texts, the more successful you will be on the official exam in January!
  • Second, you can use your summer reading list to learn more about your own interests. BCA and BT are STEM schools that ask you to apply to a specific academy or program. Your application process will be much easier if you have a genuine passion and a demonstrated interest in the academy or program you are applying to.

Below is a suggested reading list that will help you accomplish both tasks. Don’t worry about reading everything, just follow your curiosity. Also, remember, you aren’t just reading to read, but to comprehend! Look up any unfamiliar vocabulary and use online resources to better understand confusing aspects of the text.

Texts Similar to the English Portion of the BCA/BT Exam

The English section of the BCA/BT admissions exam consists of a short passage, generally 1-2 pages, followed by an essay prompt that asks you to analyze the text in some way. Here are some books, short stories, essays, articles, and websites, you can read this summer to become better acquainted with this style of text.

Books or Novels

  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Seasonal Eating by Barbara Kingsolver
  • A Short Guide to a Happy Life by Anna Quindlen
  • Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir by Amy Tan
  • The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls
  • Last Days of the Dog-Men by Brad Watson
  • Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Kimmerer

Short Stories, Essays, Articles

  • “Wrestling with Peace” by Mary Alice Hostetter
  • “If You Think Racism Doesn’t Exist” by Jordan Womack
  • “How to Tame a Wild Tongue” by Gloria Anzaldua
  • “Math is Personal” by Jessica Nordell
  • “The YouTubers are not okay” by Rebecca Jennings
  • “We’ve Got to Stop Requiring Parking Everywhere” by Farhad Manjoo
  • “Through the Tunnel” by Doris Lessing
  • “Shaving” by Leslie Norris
  • “The Glowing Muse” by Steve Almond

Websites or Publications

  • The New Yorker
  • The New York Times
  • The Atlantic
  • Orion Magazine

Texts that Can Help You Explore Your Interests

As you consider applying to particular programs or academies, you want to cultivate specific interests with a field of study. Below is a list of books, articles, or publications to check out. It’s been divided particular BCA academies or BT programs. But don’t feel like you have to stick with one category! Use this list to explore!

Science, Engineering, and Math


This reading material on this list is appropriate if you are considering applying for the Academy for Advancement of Science and Technology, Academy for Engineering Design Technology, Academy for Medical Science Technology, or Academy for Technology and Computer Science at BCA. It’s also appropriate if you are considering applying for the Automotive Engineering and Design, Aerospace Engineering, or Computer Science programs at BT.


  • The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks written by Rebecca Skloot
  • When Breath Becomes Air by Paul Kalanithi
  • Unnatural Causes by Dr. Richard Shepherd
  • Stiff: The Curious Life of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach
  • Stuff Matters: Exploring the Marvelous Materials That Shape Our Man-Made World written by Mark Miodownik
  • Engineer to Win by Caroll Smith
  • Set Phasers on Stun by S.M. Casey
  • Algorithms to Live By: The Computer Science of Human Decisions by Brian Christian and Tom Griffiths

Websites and Publications:

  • Scientific American
  • Science News
  • National Geographic
  • BBC – Science
  • Ars Technica
  • Atlas Obscura
  • Smithsonian



This reading material on this list is appropriate if you are considering applying for the Academy for Business and Finance at BCA or the Strategic Asset Management program at BT.


  • Zero to One by Peter Thiel
  • Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner
  • Naked Economics: Undressing the Dismal Science by Charles Wheelan
  • Notes to a Young Entrepreneur by Gary Nealon

Websites and Publications:

  • The New York Times – Business Section
  • Forbes
  • Bloomberg
  • CNBC
  • MarketWatch
  • Wall Street Journal – Business Section

Humanities, Cooking, and the Arts


This reading material on this list is appropriate if you are considering applying for the Academy for Culinary Arts and Hospitality Administration or the Academy for Visual and Performing Arts at BCA. It’s similarly appropriate if you are considering applying for the Fashion Design, Culinology, Digital Media Arts, or Commercial Art and Graphic Design program at BT.


  • The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Secrets Behind What You Eat by Michael Pollan
  • Without Reservations: How a Family Root Beer Stand Grew into a Global Hotel Company by Bill Marriott and Kathi Ann Brown
  • Fashion Design Essentials: 100 Principles of Fashion Design by Jay Calderin
  • The Elements of Graphic Design by Alex W. White
  • Type: A Visual History of Typefaces and Graphic Styles by Jan Tholenaar
  • An Actor Prepares by Constantin Stanislavski
  • An Illustrated History of Filmmaking by Adam Allsuch Boardman
  • On Writing by Stephen King

Happy Reading!

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Rachel Erwin

Rachel is the Dean of Faculty, in charge of teacher training and material development. She teaches College Test Prep, H.S. Test Prep, and College Application Essays. Within the English Department, she serves as a coordinator for the Exam Prep team, working diligently to ensure all students’ success. With her clear and systematic approach to teaching, she helps students make huge improvements.


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