What Does the SAT Reading Test Measure?

the SAT logoThe SAT Reading Test is designed to measure a range of passage-based reading skills. This test section involves five passages drawn from a wide selection of source material:

  • One passage from a classic or contemporary work of U.S. or world literature.
  • One passage or a pair of passages from a “U.S. founding document” or important speech or essay on human rights
  • One passage about economics, psychology, sociology, or some other social science.
  • Two passages (or one passage and one passage pair) on Earth science, biology, chemistry, or physics.
  • Informational graphics, such as tables, graphs, and charts, accompany some passages—but no math is required.

While SAT Reading passages cover lots of different subjects, prior topic-specific knowledge is never tested. Understanding is evaluated through multiple-choice questions accompanying each passage. The reading skills tested fall into three main categories:

Command of Evidence questions require test takers to identify how authors use evidence to support their claims. Typically, students will need to find evidence in a passage that best supports an explicit point or implied idea.

Words in Context questions evaluate the ability to use context clues to decide how an author’s word choice shapes meaning, style, and tone or figure out which meaning of a word or phrase is being used.

Analysis in History/Social Studies and in Science test the ability to examine hypotheses, interpret data, and consider implications of information provided in the passage and attendant informational graphics.

The timed nature of this section also rewards reading speed and comprehension along with critical test taking skills like focus, endurance, and answer awareness.


What does the SAT Writing and Language Test measure?
What does the SAT Math Test measure?
What does the SAT Essay measure?
What does the ACT cover?
What does the ACT Reading test measure?