SAT Reading, Writing, and Language

Overview of Reading Section

  • 65 minutes

  • 52 questions

  • Five passages

    • 500 to 700 words for each passage, 10-11 questions per passage

    • 1 literature passage

    • 2 science passages

    • 2 history/social studies passages

  • Types of questions

    • Determine the meaning of words in context

    • Deciding the author’s purpose

    • Find the main idea of a whole passage

  • They are not presented in order of difficulty

  • When reading questions, figure out what they are asking: who, what, or why

  • Use line references or key words to help you find the answer in a passage

  • Use process of elimination in order to eliminate the obvious wrong answers

  • Consider the following questions when eliminating choices:

    • What is mostly right or slightly wrong/

    • What could be true?

    • What is the right answer, but to the wrong question?

    • What is the right words, but the wrong meaning?


  • Read the blurb at the beginning of the passage to see if it gives you information about the nature of the medium as well as the author or source

  • Do the questions in order and if you are not sure what the answer is GUESS after you eliminate the obvious wrong answers

  • Remember, they want you to “choose the best answer to each question based on what is stated or implied in the passages”

    • This means that when answering a question be sure that you can tie the answer back to a detail straight from the passage

    • You should be able to find a sentence to underline to help you predict the correct answer

    • Try NOT to overanalyze or paraphrase what you think is implied --sometimes the answer is more obviously literal based on an actual sentence in the passage

    • Eliminate choices that you know are wrong for sure, so you can get closer to the right answer.

Common Question Stems

  • The central claim of the passage is that …

  • Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?

  • The author most like mentions … in order to …. (think why?)

  • The author’s statement that … implies that …

  • “XXX” most nearly means ….

  • The passage indicates that an effect of ….. Is …

  • According the passage, what percent of XXX was XXX?

  • The author most likely mentions … in order to ….

  • The quotation marks around the word, “XXX,” in line XXX most likely indicated ….

  • Based on the passage, the author most likely agrees that “XXX” is …

Sample Questions

Overview of Language and Writing Section

  • Types of passages: nonfiction narratives, history, careers, social studies, humanities, and science

  • 35 minutes

  • 44 multiple choice questions

  • Topics

    • Grammar Usage

      • Correct errors in word usage

        • Parallel structure

        • Misplaced modifier

        • Subject-verb agreement

        • Comma usage

        • Verb tense

        • Word usage errors (using the wrong word) --words in context

    • Punctuation

    • Style

      • Transition words

      • confused words

      • Making it more precise/concise

    • Revising

      • Consider how the passage might be revised to improve the expression of ideas

        • Improve word choice, making passage more precise or concise

        • Revise for better supporting detail or argumentative claim

        • Make structural changes to improve a point or coherency in a paragraph

        • Use information from a graphic to correct an error or replace a passage’s vague description of the findings with more precise information


  • Series of passages with underlined portions

    • Need to determine whether the underlined portion is correct or should be replaced.

  • Determine what is changing in the answer choices

    • Grammar, usage, style, sentence structure

  • Eliminate incorrect answers to narrow down your options

  • Sometimes, it may be the most concise answer choice, so if you are stuck, see which one is the shortest answer

Guiding Questions

  • Are the words in their correct form or usage?

  • How many commas does this sentence need and where do they belong?

  • Is the language specific or is there a better way to phrase it being more concrete?

  • What order should the sentences go in?

  • Are the sentences complete sentences (not fragments or run ons)?

  • Which words best link the two ideas together?

  • What is the appropriate pronoun to use?

  • Do I need a comma or semicolon to connect the ideas?

  • Is there a way to make the sentence more concise or precise?

  • Is the wrong word used?

Sample Questions