Hypotheses and Experimental Data: SAT® Reading

Teenage school boy sitting in a classroom and writing an exam with classmates
Learn how to approach science passages on the SAT® Reading section with focus on hypothesis and experimental data
Teenage school boy sitting in a classroom and writing an exam with classmates
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The SAT® Reading exam contains passages that focus on topics in literature, history, social sciences, and science. You will find that the SAT Reading test includes two science passages. Sometimes, science passages come in pairs. 

Paired passages present two texts that focus on the same topic while offering varied opinions or points of view. The questions that follow paired passages require your ability to compare two perspectives or draw connections. Science questions can be intimidating to students who are not used to the style of writing that is research-based or data-oriented.

The main difference between the questions that follow science passages and the questions that follow passages that focus on other topics is that rather than asking you to focus on the plot or various characters, science passages will ask you to consider the hypothesis and experimental data provided throughout the passage. 

You don’t need outside information to answer any of the science questions. Don’t worry about studying any background information. Questions that ask about the hypothesis, methods of experiments, or experimental data can be answered if you have strong reading comprehension skills.

In fact, using outside information to draw conclusions or answer questions will harm your performance. Be wary of bringing in background knowledge (rather than textual evidence) when answering questions about science passages. 

If the writing style within science passages is out of your comfort zone or something that you are unfamiliar with, you must work to gain experience and boost your reading comprehension skills with this style.

The College Board®’s SAT Study Guide 2020 states that “Science passages deal with information, concepts, and experiments in the fields of Earth science, biology, chemistry, and physics.” 

Again, you don’t need any background experience with these topics, but getting some practice with nonfiction writing that pertains to these areas of academia can be helpful when practicing your reading comprehension skills. 

You should also know that questions that focus on hypotheses and experimental data may require that you draw connections or make conclusions about the information presented in a data graphic that relates to the text. These graphics can look like tables, graphs, or charts.

During the SAT Reading test, you will answer 21 questions related to science passages. If you’re looking for more ways to prepare for questions that focus on hypotheses and experimental data, you can try out UWorld’s SAT Prep Course

The prep course offers thousands of practice questions and sample passages to gain experience with the style and level of difficulty you will find on the official SAT exam. You can also use the prep course for a score report that contains performance tracking data to pinpoint your weak performance areas. 

We also offer detailed question explanations to guide your understanding and help you learn from your mistakes. Try it out to learn more about your own performance throughout SAT science passages.

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