What is tested on the SAT reading and writing section

What's Tested on the SAT Reading and Writing Section?

The SAT tests reading and writing and language skills in the context of passages. This means that all of the answers to the reading questions will have support in the passage—no outside knowledge is necessary. For the Writing & Language questions, you’ll need to not only identify and correct grammar issues but also correct issues related to transitions and relevancy.

SAT Reading

The SAT Reading test is 65 minutes and has 52 multiple-choice questions, each of which has 4 answer choices. There are 5 passages total: 4 single passages and 1 set of paired passages, with 500–750 words per passage or passage set.

SAT Reading Passages will draw from U.S. and World Literature, History/Social Studies, and Science. One set of History/Social Studies or Science passages will be paired. History/Social Studies and Science passages can also be accompanied by graphical representations of data such as charts, graphs, or tables.

 Reading Test Passage Types
U.S. and World Literature 1 passage with 10 questions
History/Social Studies 2 passages or 1 passage and 1 paired-passage set with 10-11 questions each
Science 2 passages or 1 passage and 1 paired-passage set with 10-11 questions each

The multiple-choice questions for each SAT Reading passage will be arranged in order from the more general to the more specific so that you can actively engage with the entire passage before answering questions about details.

 Skills Tested by Reading Test Questions
Information and Ideas Close reading, citing textual evidence, determining central ideas and themes
Summarizing Understanding relationships, interpreting words and phrases in context
Rhetoric Analyzing word choice, assessing overall text structure, assessing part-whole relationships, analyzing point of view, determining purpose, analyzing arguments
Synthesis Analyzing multiple texts, analyzing quantitative information

[ RELATED: What is tested on the SAT Math section ]

Digital SAT Reading Comprehension Quiz

Get ahead of the most challenging parts of the new Digital SAT by taking this reading quiz.

Prepare for the SAT Reading and Writing Sections with some reading passages

Follow along with these videos, take notes, and answer each question with an SAT teacher. For more practice like this, check out Kaplan’s SAT® On Demand.

SAT Writing and Language

The SAT Writing & Language test is 35 minutes and has 44 multiple-choice questions, each of which has 4 answer choices. There are 4 passages total, each of which has 11 questions.

The passages range from arguments to nonfiction narratives and will be about careers, history, social studies, the humanities, and science, with 400-450 words per passage.

Some passages and/or questions will refer to one or more informational graphics that represent data. SAT Writing Questions associated with these graphical representations will ask you to revise and edit the passage based on the data presented in the graphic.

The most prevalent question format on the SAT Writing & Language Test will ask you to choose the best of three alternatives to an underlined portion of the passage or to decide that the current version is the best option. You will be asked to improve the development, organization, and diction in the passages to ensure they conform to conventional standards of English grammar, usage, and style.

 Skills Tested by Writing & Language Test Questions
 Expression of Ideas (24 questions) Development, organization, and effective language use
 Standard English Conventions (20 questions) Sentence structure, conventions of usage, and conventions of punctuation