About the Reading Section:
- Inside the SAT Reading section Description from the College Board including quick facts, sample questions, and video
- Reading question types and strategies for answering
SAT questions = 65 min. timed test, 52 multiple choice questions, consisting of 5 reading selections: 4 passages and 1 paired set of two passages:
- One passage from a classic or contemporary work of U.S. or world literature.
- One passage or a pair of passages from either a U.S. founding document or a text in the great global conversation they inspired. Examples include the U.S. Constitution or a speech by Nelson Mandela.
- One passage on economics, psychology, sociology, or some other social science.
- One passage or a pair of passages in science examining concepts and developments in Earth science, biology, chemistry, or physics.
- Questions are arranged in order from general (central ideas and themes, point of view, overall text structure) to more specific and detail-focused (words in context, evidence).
- Questions do not increase in difficulty from easy to hard.
Sites for Practice:
Tips for the Reading Questions
Strategies to use as you read:
- Read the description of the passage at the very beginning. It gives an idea of what the subject is and how long ago it was written – if it’s contemporary or historical.
- Read the passage first. If you read the questions first before reading the passage, you waste time on details and puts you at a disadvantage on “main purpose” or “main idea” questions. Read the passage first and specifically look for the purpose or main idea as you read.
- Make notes. Read an entire paragraph, then make margin notes in the test booklet:
- Underline the main idea of each paragraph. In the margin, draw an arrow to it.
- Underline important nouns, verbs, and key terms.
- Circle clues that hint to the author’s point of view, arguments, or attitude.
- Circle any examples given.
- Number items like supporting points that are given.
- At the end of each paragraph in the margin, write a 2-3 word description.
- …But avoid note clutter. Limit yourself to one underlined sentence or note per paragraph and only on the purpose and main idea.
- Be critical. Read a passage not just to understand it, but to criticize it: think about whether you agree or not with the argument or can connect in any way with what the author is saying.
- Circle key abstractions. Abstractions like the words empiricism and modernism are harder to understand than concrete objects or experiences like hummingbirds and football games. Circle any key abstractions as a clue to slow down and think about them in order to completely understand the passage.
Strategies to use as you answer:
- Eliminate wrong answers. None of the answers will be glaringly wrong. In fact, they're worded in such a way that they'll often all seem feasible. Generally, wrong answers are too specific, too broad, describe a relationship in reverse order, or just present a totally unrelated concept. A good rule of thumb is to avoid extremes. Words like "never" or "always" are not usually present in the correct answer.
- Be aware of trick answers. These are answer choices intended to catch careless readers. They include words that remind you of the passage or they make true statements, but they don’t actually answer the question. To avoid these trick answers, think of your own answer first, then read the choices second. Find the choice that best matches your own answer.
- When in complete doubt, guess. Questions on the reading test don’t get progressively harder. So if you are on a difficult question, make a guess and move on; the next one might be easier.
- As you work through the questions, it can be distracting to go back and forth between the test booklet and bubble sheet. It can be useful and save time to answer the entire set of questions in your test booklet and then transfer all your answers for that passage to the bubble sheet at one time.
Types of Reading Questions
- Main idea: Questions about the main point of the passage.
- Details: Questions about a specific line or lines in the passage.
- Inference: Questions that ask you to interpret the meaning of line or two in a passage.
- Vocabulary In Context: Questions that ask for how a word is used in a particular instance in the passage. To answer these:
- Define the word first in your head in the context of the sentence or paragraph, without looking at the answer choices.
- Replace the word with your own definition that keeps the meaning of the sentence. Now you have an idea of the word you’re looking for among the answer choices.
- Substitute each answer choice into your rephrased sentence. The answer should look something like what you rephrased.
- Cross out answers that clearly don’t fit.
- Author's Technique: Questions that ask about the passage's tone or style; you'll often be asked to compare and contrast different authors’ techniques.
- Evidence Support: These questions ask “Which choice provides the best evidence to the previous question?” While these questions can help you check your thinking, if you answered wrong to the previous question, you'll probably find that the mistake in your thinking has a corresponding answer in the evidence question.
- Data Analysis: Questions that refer to graphs and charts, such as, “Which claim about traffic congestion is supported by the graph?” The hardest ones may combine with an inference question, like, “"The author is least likely to support which interpretation of the data in this figure?” While you’re reading:
- Make notes in the margins.
- Circle parts of the chart that describe important detail.
- Read the title right away so you understand the subject .
- Identify relationships among parts of the chart.
- Draw conclusions about the chart as a whole.
- Paired Passages: Questions that have you read TWO passages and ask questions like...
- What is the common topic of the two passages?
- How do the two passages differ in attitude or tone?
- How do the two passages differ in emphasis?
- Which of the following summaries a shared purpose of the two authors?
Pay attention to the differences in the two passages, especially in content, attitude, and tone.