The Reading section of the SAT consists of 67 questions that test your vocabulary, critical thinking skills, and focus. It is made up of two 25-minute sections and one 20-minute section. Like all sections of the SAT, it is graded on a 200-800 point scale which goes into your total score.
Questions on the Reading section fall into two categories: Passage-Based Reading and Sentence Completions. On every test, there will be 48 Passage-Based questions and 19 Sentence Completions. When you are working on a section of Sentence Completions, the questions will be listed in order of difficulty (with the simplest one first), while the Passage-Based questions will not.
The Passage-Based Reading portion of the Reading section test your ability to make inferences and stay engaged with what the makers of the SAT themselves refer to as “dense reading material.” However, all the passages on the test are relatively short. In addition, since it is an open book test, students know that they will not be asked questions about specific facts in the reading. Knowing this may change the way students approach reading the passages.
Questions in the Passage-Based Reading sections are multiple choice and fall into three types: big picture, detail, and vocabulary in context. Big picture questions will ask you to make general conclusions about the author’s intent or the tone of the piece. Detail questions will ask you to interpret specific lines in the text. Finally, vocabulary questions will ask you about the meaning of a word in the context of the passage, which is often different than its most common dictionary definition.
Sentence Completions are also multiple choice and ask you to fill in the blank (or two blanks) in a sentence with the best available option. These questions often contain challenging vocabulary in both the sentences and answer choices. Students can prepare for this test not only by improving their vocabulary, but also by learning techniques for using context clues to help them deal with challenging terms.
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The Reading section of the SAT can seem intimidating because students can feel overwhelmed by the amount of vocabulary and reading material that it might include. However, it is important to know that out of the 67 questions on this test, only 5 absolutely require an extensive knowledge of vocabulary words. For the rest, the most important thing to do is arm yourself with tools and strategies to better deal with the tricky format of the SAT. How to take the Reading section of the test is a specific skill that anyone can learn, so the sooner you get started and the more familiar you get with the SAT, the better your score will be!