Tips to approach the Social Sciences passage: Critical SAT® reading

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The SAT® Reading test includes one passage that is focused on topics in social sciences. The passage will be 500 to 700 words, focusing on topics like economics, sociology, and psychology.

You may need to assess connections or relationships between the passage and a graphic (like a chart, graph, or table). Keep in mind that you do not need any prior knowledge on these topics to answer questions about the passages. 

Focus on your skills in reading comprehension. You can expect that the Reading questions will ask you to pinpoint or provide evidence, interpret details, identify main points and hypotheses, and make inferences. 

You will also have to evaluate the writing style, identify a detail’s purpose, define vocabulary through challenging contexts, and analyze data through graphics.

A social science passage may ask you to assess an experiment. The questions will require you to review and analyze hypotheses, interpret implied information, and make sense of data graphics.

You will find questions in these categories: big picture, evidence support, words in context, little picture, inference, function, analyzing data graphics, analogy, and author technique.

Here are some examples of the questions you may find following the social science passages:

  • The passage most strongly suggests that researchers share which assumption?
  • Which claim about [the passage] is supported by the graph?
  • The graph following the passage offers evidence that . . . 
  • The author’s main purpose of including information about _____ is to . . . 
  • A student claims that ____. Which of the following lines from the passage contradicts the student’s claim?
  • Does the data in the table support the author’s claim that ____?
  • The two passages suggest that ____.
  • Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?
  • Which statement best captures the hypothesis that motivated the author’s research?

Are you worried about your skills in economics, sociology, or psychology? Remember that the questions assess your understanding of the passage. Using outside knowledge is not helpful in the Reading test.

You can gain experience with the style and level of difficulty of the social science passages in the SAT Reading test using UWorld’s SAT Prep Course. Our practice exams, detailed question explanations, and performance tracking tools can provide you with experience for test day. 

You can also find out more about your weak points through these resources. Try them out to practice Reading questions that follow the social science passages in the SAT exam, and use UWorld’s prep course to boost your scores!

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