Types of SAT Reading Passage Questions

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  • 0:00 Changes to Keep In Mind
  • 0:54 Vocabulary Questions
  • 1:58 Context and Meaning
  • 2:58 Drawing Conclusions
  • 3:38 Proving It
  • 4:13 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

The changes to the SAT Reading Test mean big things for the types of passages you'll be reading. However, you'll also find that many of the skills you have already learned will help you out here.

Changes to Keep in Mind

There are plenty of changes that have come to the SAT as a result of the March 2016 redesign. Not surprisingly, a number of those changes have altered the reading portion of the exam. However, that doesn't mean that we can't be prepared for those changes!

In this lesson, we're going to take a look at the four major types of questions that you can expect to find on the Reading Test, which is part of the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section of the SAT. We'll start with vocabulary questions, then move on to questions that ask you to establish context and meaning, draw conclusions, and finally back up those conclusions with cold hard facts, or at least a reference to the piece being read.

Also, because it is such a drastic change from past SAT versions, it's important to note that guessing is no longer penalized! In other words, if you are running out of time, guess and move on. Now on to the question types.

Vocabulary Questions

Generations of past test-takers dreaded the vocabulary section of the SAT. Famously, in the past it has been criticized over where it managed to get some of the more obscure words. Luckily, you don't need to know the definition of chtonic anymore. Instead, all the words you'll need to know are words that you hopefully have already encountered in high school, and certainly should be able to use in college. Instead of words like chtonic, antediluvian, and truculent, you'll have words like analyze, develop, and theorize.

However, don't think that you're in trouble if you don't feel comfortable using superfluous language, or that memorizing the dictionary is the best way to go. Instead, you'll be tested on your ability to find the best meaning of a word in the context the author is using it. For example, the word portrait can mean either a painting of a person, especially of their face, or it could mean some sort of description of something or someone. After all, when an author paints a portrait of modern-day Europe, we don't see a personification of Europe.

Context and Meaning

In other words, context has become increasing important in the new SAT. Questions will almost always feature some way of referencing a specific part of the text, whether through line numbers or key terms. This is probably a good thing, because last time I checked, the text-based macroeconomic outlook of continued preservation of the Kerry spotted slug is not an exciting read.

Speaking of context and meaning, much of what you'll read will come from sources outside of English class. Two of the passages will be scientific in nature, one will be history-related, one will be a literature passage, and one will be related to economics or another social science. Don't worry, everything you'll need to answer the questions is contained within the material. In fact, test writers will try to throw you off by bringing in outside information in some answer choices. Remember, the Reading Test it is a test of reading ability, not a test of your knowledge of random outside facts!

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