SAT Reading and Writing

Evidence-Based Reading Test

The New SAT Reading Test lasts 65 minutes and is comprised of 4 individual passages and 1 pair of passages. This pair will be made up of two shorter, related passages by different authors that address a similar topic or theme. Each passage or pair will be between 500 and 750 words, for a total of 3250 words overall.

Each passage will have 10 or 11 questions, for a total of 52 questions for the entire section. In every SAT Reading Test there will be 2 passages which are accompanied by graphics, and 1 or 2 graphics for each of those two passages. You will be asked a couple of questions about these graphics and how they relate to the passage. The New SAT does not feature any sentence-completion questions previously used in the SAT.


The passages you will encounter may include informative passages, persuasive passages, and narrative passages. The passages will contain all of the information needed to answer the questions on the test; you will never need to rely on any of your own prior knowledge about the material.

All passages in the SAT Reading Test will come from previously published sources, and may represent a variety of tones and styles. The chart below shows the specific breakdown of passage types that you will see in each Reading Test.

Passage Type Topics Passages
Literature Classic and contemporary literature from the United States and around the world 1
History and Social Studies Both basic concepts and recent development in the social sciences and humanities, including anthropology, communication studies, economics, education, human geography, law, linguistics, political science, psychology, and sociology 1
Founding Document or Great Global Conversation Historically important, foundational texts from the United States (Founding Documents, ie Bill of Rights), other historically and culturally important works dealing with issues at the heart of civic and political life (Great Global Conversation) 1
Science Both basic concepts and recent developments in the natural sciences, including Earth science, biology, chemistry, and physics 2


The questions associated with the passages will assess whether or not you understand information and ideas in the text, and are able to analyze the author’s use of persuasive language and argument. You will also be tested on combining information from related pairs of passages, as well as from passages and their graphs.

The questions will be presented in a consistent order; however, they are not presented in order of difficulty. You will first face more general questions about central ideas, themes, point of view, and the overall text structure. This will be followed by more specific questions that may ask for the meaning of a particular word or phrase, or to find the specific evidence that supports a claim. Many of these questions will have line references, which will point to the material being discussed in the question.

You’ll be asked a variety of questions for each passage, but the question types themselves will be repeated often. For example, you may be asked about the text structure of more than one passage on your test. There are also two question types that will appear with every passage. You will always be asked two Words in Context (PDF) questions, and two Evidence (PDF) questions for each passage or pair of passages.

Writing Test

On the New SAT's Writing and Language Test, you will be asked to revise and edit text from a range of content areas. Your job is to decide whether passages can be improved by making changes to the words, punctuation, or sentence order.

The questions in this section will test your knowledge of grammar rules and of the elements of effective writing. Parts of the passages will contain errors in grammar. You will be asked to correct errors in sentence structure, usage, and punctuation. Other parts of the passages need to be revised to better express the ideas of the author. This will involve improving the development and organization of the passage as well as correcting errors in language use.


The revised SAT Writing Test is made up of 4 passages and 44 multiple choice questions. You will have 35 minutes to read the passages and answer the questions in this section. This means that you will have on average less than nine minutes to read each passage and answer the 11 questions that follow.

The Passages

The Writing Test will ask you to read four passages and answer accompanying questions. These passages may be similar to essays you have read in the classroom and are typically four to five paragraphs long. The topics of the passages always include careers, social studies, the humanities, and sciences.

  • The career passages usually present new trends or debates in major fields of work, such as health care, technology, or business.
  • Social studies passages discuss figures, movements, or events from history as well as topics in the social sciences. These social science topics might be drawn from anthropology, psychology, sociology, or linguistics, as well as economics, education, geography, law, or political science.
  • Humanities passages consider topics in the arts and letters, including figures and trends in fine art, music, dance, poetry, and prose.
  • Science passages examine ideas, inventions, and discoveries in the natural sciences, which include earth science, biology, chemistry, and physics.

The passages will be 400-450 words in length, broken up into paragraphs. At least one passage will also contain an informational graphic. The graphic may be a table, graph, or chart that conveys information that is related to the passage topic.