What is assessed in the SAT Reading section?

Understanding how a test works is important to be able to do well in it. In the case of SAT, which has different sections, it is necessary to go deeper into each one. To help you out, here is an overview of the SAT Reading section: the types of texts that fall, the question formats and what skills you need to get a good grade. Come on?

SAT Reading section format

Reading is the first section of the SAT. It is 65 minutes long and has a total of 52 questions. All of these questions are multiple choice and have four answer options: A, B, C and D. The questions are all based on passages – four individual texts and a set of texts.

In the Reading section of the SAT, you will answer 10 to 12 questions in each passage or set of passages, and one or more texts can be accompanied by an image, such as a bar graph or a table. In the case of this type of question, the statements will interpret data related to the graph.

Some questions are accompanied by graphs and tables

Types of tickets

Although there is no way to predict exactly where the tickets are going to come from, you can know the genre in which each one fits. In this case, you will always receive only one Literature ticket (from the United States or the world), two from the field of History or Social Studies and two related to Science.

Each passage, or set of passages, will have 500 to 750 words. As mentioned above, one or two of them will also present a graph, table or diagram related to the content of the text.

Related passages often discuss the same topic or theme, but approach the content from a different perspective. Questions that accompany related passages often ask the candidate to compare, contrast or consider what an author would think about the other author’s point of view.

Types of questions in the SAT Reading section

The College Board , the organization that formulates the SAT, generally states that the questions have no defined types. That’s because it suggests that students take a holistic approach and focus only on reading the passages in the best possible way. However, by analyzing the test, you can find eight specific types of questions:

Types of questions in the SAT Reading section


Questions about the general idea ask about the main purpose or message of the text. What is the passage about? What is the general argument? Is the text trying to inform, revise, contradict, prove, parody or make hypotheses? What is the goal, anyway?


These questions usually refer to a specific line or two in a passage and ask about a particular detail. There are numbers for every five lines of the passage. That way, you can find a detail quickly. These questions may be related to the author’s purpose or technique, but they tend to refer to a specific line or phrase.


These questions ask you to interpret the meaning of a line, a paragraph, or the entire passage. This will not be very subjective or ambiguous, as there can only be one correct answer.


Function questions tend to be similar to questions about details but specifically refer to how a sentence or paragraph works in a passage. These questions want to know what effect a detail has on the text.

Author’s technique

In addition to reading the text carefully, you should also think about how the author wrote it. For these questions, you can describe the author’s tone, style, voice, attitude or perspective. As we mentioned earlier, you will usually need to compare author techniques on questions related to related passages. They tend to appear in single passages as well.


Support questions are not independent. Instead, they refer to any of the above types of questions and ask you to provide evidence for your answer.

Say you answer an inference question. Then, you may come across a support question that asks which lines in the passage provided the reason behind your answer. These support questions are common throughout the SAT Reading section.

Data interpretation

The last type of question that you will find in the Reading section of the SAT is data interpretation. These questions refer to graphs and tables, and ask for the information presented in them to be interpreted. Frequently, data interpretation questions ask how the graph / table relates to the passage.

What skills are needed to do the SAT Reading section?

As you can see, these types of questions are based on certain English reading comprehension skills , such as your ability to interpret details, find the main point, understand vocabulary in the context of a passage, analyze the sequence and flow of ideas and interpret the author’s technique and objective. In addition, support questions ensure that you choose your answers with evidence directly present in the text.

Being able to recognize the type of question asked can help you use the right skills to answer it. This will also help you find wrong answers and effectively use the elimination process to find the 100% correct answer.

What skills are needed to do the SAT Reading section