College PrepSAT

What’s Tested on the SAT® Reading Section?

The SAT Reading test is 65 minutes and consists of 52 multiple-choice questions that correlate to passages and graphics. This section of the SAT tests your reading comprehension skills through 4 types of passages.

Reading Test Passage Types

  • U.S. Literature or World Literature: One passage 
  • History and Social Sciences: Two passages or one paired passages set  
  • Science: Two passages or one passage and one paired passages set

Types of SAT Reading Passages and Questions

You will get five passages from different genres. One passage is from U.S. or world literature, two are from history or social science, and two are from science.

Each of the passages will have about 500 to 750 words, followed by 10-12 multiple choice questions that begin with general topics and progress to ask about specific details from the texts. Graphs and charts will accompany one or two passages.

You will find that some passages come in pairs, where the subject and theme are the same, but the perspectives presented are different.

The questions on the Reading Test fall into three main categories:

  • Direct Information: Questions that focus on what the passage says
  • Author’s perspective: Questions that ask you to compare, contrast, or consider a dialogue between two authors or perspectives. These paired passages will focus on the authors’ writing styles or opinions.
  • Interpretation: Questions that are coupled with a graph, table, or chart. Correlating the information in the passage to the information in the graphic is designed to test your data interpretation skills. While practicing for the SAT Reading Section, you should become familiar with the types of graphics seen on the exam.

Skills Tested on SAT Reading

It is important to remember that the Reading Section of the SAT tests your reading skills in a variety of ways. It specifically evaluates your ability to:

  • Pinpoint or provide evidence
  • Interpret details 
  • Identify the main points 
  • Make inferences
  • Evaluate writing styles
  • Identify a detail’s purpose
  • Define vocabulary through challenging contexts
  • Analyze data through graphics

This portion of the exam tests your critical reading and comprehension skills, not your knowledge of the passages’ topics. So don’t worry about absorbing every bit of information from the texts provided. Instead, practice reading efficiently to answer questions about detailed information and implications.

Familiarize yourself with the format and structure of the SAT exam. Get comfortable with the types of passages and questions in the SAT Reading section through UWorld’s SAT Prep courses, where you can work with each kind of passage, answer practice questions, and improve your skills to identify the different types of questions.