College PrepSATSAT Reading

How to Analyze Data Graphics on the SAT® Reading Section in Less Time

What to Expect

Graphics accompany some passages in the Reading and Writing sections of the SAT® exam. These questions assess your ability to interpret data presented in the form of a graphic and relate it to the text. The Reading section of the exam will focus on your ability to interpret the information on the graph, while the Writing section will assess your ability to determine relationships between graphs and passages.

Question Types

1. Read the graph

Some questions will ask you to simply display an understanding of the information presented in a graphic. These are often quite simple, but you should know that common mistakes are made by misinterpreting the graph. You risk missing out on points on a simple question if you don’t take the time to read the graph carefully. 

  • Example: Data in the graph indicates that _____. 

2. Draw a conclusion based on the graph’s information

Some questions will ask you to use the information found in the graph to draw a conclusion. These questions require understanding the graph’s information while including the extra step of finding an answer choice that supports that information. 

  • Example: What choice is supported by the data in the graph? 

3. Does the graph support the text? 

Some questions will ask you to combine your skills reading the graph with your skills drawing conclusions to answer whether the graph’s information and the text’s conclusions support each other. The correct answers to these questions require support from both the graph and the passage. They may also require that the information in the graph supports the claims made in the text or vice versa. 

  • Example: Which of the following is supported by both the graph and the passage?

Here are some strategies for analyzing data graphics

1. Wait until you come across a question that asks you to analyze the graph before spending time trying to absorb the information it presents 

For some students, it is a waste of time to look at the data beforehand. Instead of assessing the graph right away, wait until you come across the question that addresses it directly. This is a strategy to save time. You’ll inevitably have to spend time with the graph when answering its correlating questions. Don’t spend too much time on it before you need to.

2. Don’t rush to answer the question

Be sure you have a complete understanding of the information presented in the graph. If you rush to answer a question before understanding the relevant information, then you are destined to make silly mistakes. Scales, legends, and units of measurement are all important to understand when analyzing data graphics.

3. Test each answer choice against the data

Eliminate each answer choice by testing whether the data in the graph supports it. You can eliminate choices that disprove the data in the graph. You can also eliminate answers that fail to support the data in the graph.

Look at each option by setting it side by side with your understanding of the graph, and narrow down your correct answer by finding obvious dysfunctions in the other answers. 

As you prepare for the Reading section of the SAT exam, don’t be overwhelmed by the passages accompanied by graphics. You can gain experience with these question types through UWorld’s SAT Prep course and test these strategies using the thousands of practice questions and detailed explanations. Check out how they can improve your scores using our performance tracking tools!