Home / Blog / SAT Reading Question Types: Part 2

SAT Reading Question Types: Part 2

This week we’re going to finish examining the major types of questions that appear on the SAT Reading section. Reading, like all sections of the SAT, uses the same types of questions over and over. There are some questions that you are guaranteed to see on Reading every time you take the SAT.


As with the previous lesson, our focus will be on recognizing how specific types of questions are phrased and what kind of answer each type of question is really asking for.



Textual Evidence

Textual evidence “questions” actually take the form of two related questions. The first question asks you to draw some broad conclusion based on your understanding of the passage. The second question then asks you to choose the “best evidence” from a selection of lines to support your answer to the previous question.


The key to answering both questions correctly is to treat them as if they are a single question. The correct answers to the questions should state the same information in slightly different ways. In other words, the correct answer to the previous question will paraphrase the correct answer to the “best evidence” question.



Reading graphics (charts, graphs, tables, etc.) are simple visualizations of concepts related to the passages to which the graphics are attached. The exact phrasing of graphics questions varies widely. However, the questions take two basic forms: graphic-only and graphic plus passage.


To answer graphic questions correctly, identify what data the question is asking about and look at just that data. For example, if a question asks about a single column in a table, look only at that column. A slightly more complicated example would be a passage followed by two pie charts. In this scenario, a graphics question might ask you to analyze the two charts, one chart and the passage, or both charts and the passage. Just ignore any sources not mentioned in the question, and you’ll be well on your way to choosing the correct answer.



One of the “passages” in the Reading section will actually be two shorter passages. Most of the questions will apply to only one passage, but a handful will ask you to compare and contrast the two passages. The passages themselves will be on the same broad topic but will differ in focus, tone, attitude towards the subject, conclusions reached, and so on.


Compare-contrast questions always ask about the similarities, differences, or relationship between the passages. The first two types are relatively simple to answer. The correct answer to a “similarities” question will be the broadest choice. The correct answer to a “differences” question will be the most specific choice that is also accurate to both passages. “Relationship” questions are a bit trickier. However, the wrong choices will either misrepresent one of the passages in some fundamental way or get the relationship between the passages backwards. Eliminate any choices that contain such errors, and you’ll be left with the correct answer.



Question that say “…based on the information in the passage, it can reasonably be inferred that…” are asking you to put together several things in the passage or reach a logical conclusion based on what is present in or absent from the passage. These questions are not asking you to “read between the lines” or use outside knowledge. The information you need to answer them is still in the passage. You just need to do a little bit of detective work to find it.


For instance, a passage might tell you that James always wears his favorite shirt on Tuesdays. If the passage takes place on a Tuesday, it would be reasonable to infer that James is wearing his favorite shirt. Watch out of for wrong answers that throw in extraneous information, however minor that information might be. The correct answer will be the one that follows the “favorite shirt” model and makes the fewest assumptions along the way.



Tags: , , , , , , , ,