SAT Reading Section Structure, Patterns and Scoring

Video Lesson on SAT Reading Section Structure, Patterns and Scoring

In this lesson, you'll learn what to expect on the reading section of the SAT, including how the sections are organized, how the scoring works and how this can help you raise your score on the test.

The SAT Reading Test

As you may have heard, the SAT has undergone some pretty big changes that begin with the March 2016 test. Some of the most sweeping changes are on the reading section of the test. However, that doesn't mean that you have to live in the dark until you take the test in order to find out more about them. In this lesson, we are going to learn about the new SAT Reading Test.

We'll start by going over some quick facts about it, then move on to how it is structured, how it is scored, and any patterns that will help you do better on test day.

Quick Facts About the Test

First things first, let's look at a few numbers. The new SAT gives you 65 minutes to complete the Reading Test, which is comprised of 52 questions. In the past, you had 70 minutes to do 67 questions, so if you are the type of person who likes to take your time when pondering a question on a standardized test, you're in luck.

However, time and question number changes were not the only differences that went into the design of the new test. Additionally, the reading passage changed. In an attempt to be more in line with what is being taught in classrooms, the SAT now uses the Reading Test as an opportunity to test your abilities to read not only literature, but also works of significance in history, social science, and natural science.

On one hand, there is a likelihood that you've seen these same texts before in different classes. On the other hand, it means you need to have some familiarity with how to read a scientific or historical text in order to do well on them. However, under no circumstances will you need to memorize any scientific or historical facts before the test to do well. Every question can be answered from the subject matter presented

Structure and Patterns

The SAT Reading Test features five sets of questions based off of six passages. Each passage will be between 500 and 750 words long, so these are pretty substantial documents for a reading test. But wait, why five sets of questions for six passages? This is because one of the sections will be based off a pair of passages. However, it will always be a scientific or historic pair, so never literary or a pair based in the social sciences.

Additionally, there may be graphs, charts, maps or even info-graphics in the selections that you are asked to read. After all, this is a test to determine your ability to read a variety of information.

Typically, each selection will have a question that asks for the main idea, a few questions that ask you to more clearly define what is being said in a specific part of the text, and a few questions that want you to ascertain the meaning of a word mentioned in the text. Additionally, each section will now have a question that asks you to prove your reason for choosing your previous answer.


There are pretty important changes to the SAT when it comes to scoring as well. As you may have heard, the test is now returning to its previous scale of 400-1600. If you wanted a perfect 2400, I'm afraid those days are gone. The SAT Reading Test combines with the Writing and Language Test to comprise the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Section. This section of the test is measured on a scale of 200-800.

That's not the only scale worth noting however. The reading score itself will be assessed from 10-40, while cross test scores will measure your abilities to analyze history or social studies, and analyze science. Finally, a number of sub-scores will provide feedback on specific parts of the test. It is also worth nothing that there is no longer a guessing penalty on the SAT, so if you aren't sure of an answer, you should definitely try your best guess.

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