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The SAT Reading Test: Overview

An overview of what to expect on the SAT Reading Test
The SAT Reading Test assesses your ability to read and interpret a variety of texts similar to the reading you will find in college and your career.
All of the questions on the reading test are linked to a passage, a pair of passages, or a passage with an informational graphic or two, such as tables, charts, and graphs. Each reading test consists of five passages with 10 to 11 questions each, for a total of 52 questions. One of the five sets of questions will be about two "paired" shorter passages. You will have 65 minutes to complete the reading test.


Passages on the reading test cover a range of topics under two main text types:
  • Literary, which includes works of fiction from the United States and around the world
  • Informational, which includes science, social science, founding documents, and the great global conversations they inspire
Image of a Reading passage excerpt. It says:
Questions 4-8 are based on the following passage.
The passage is adapted from a speech delivered by Congresswoman Barbara Jordan of Texas on July 25, 1974. She was a member of the Judiciary Committee of the United States House of Representatives. In the passage, Jordan discusses how and when a United States president may be impeached, or charged with serious offenses while in office. Jordan's speech was delivered in the context of impeachment hearings against then President Richard M. Nixon.
Today, I am an inquisitor. An hyperbole would not be fictional and would not overstate the solemnness that I feel right now. My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total. And Ia m not going to sit here and be an idle spectator to the diminution, the subversion, the destruction, of the Constitution.
"Who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation as the representatives of the nation themselves?" "The subjects of its jurisdictions are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men." And that's what we're talking about. In other words, [the jurisdiction comes] from the abuse or violation of some public trust.
If it is wrong, I suggest, it is a misreading of the Constitution for any member here to assert that for a member to vote for an article of impeachment means that that member must be convinced that the President should be removed from office.

What the questions are asking

The questions on the reading test fall into three main categories:
  • Information and Ideas: Questions that focus on what the passage says, directly or indirectly
  • Rhetoric: Questions that ask about how the author conveys meaning
  • Synthesis: Questions that ask you to draw conclusions and make connections between two related passages or between passages and informational graphics
Image of a pair of circular graphics that accompany a Reading passage: "Orientation of Hatchling Loggerheads Tested in Magnetic Fields".
Want to get started? No better time than the present - Practice now!


This article was adapted from the following sources:
“SAT Practice Tests” from The College Board.

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