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How Many Reading Passages Are On The SAT?

Oct 3, 2022

How many sections are there in SAT? How many passages in SAT Reading? Is it challenging to prepare SAT reading passages? What tips should need for SAT literature passage practice?

These are some frequent questions that students search for while preparing for the SAT. Preparing for the SAT reading section is a challenging task. So, it is helpful for students to know more about it before facing it in the exam.


This section is about the SAT Reading section. You will know how many passages in SAT reading and how to prepare for them.

About SAT

The Scholastic Assessment Test (SAT) is a standardized test that high school students take to get admitted to US schools for undergraduate courses. The SAT is a three-hour, offline test. It encompasses multiple choice questions and is divided into three sections, i.e., Reading, Writing and Language, and Mathematics.


There are 154 questions in total on the SATs. These questions are divided into 44 questions in the SAT Reading and Writing section, 52 in the SAT Reading section, and 58 in the SAT Mathematics section.

What Is the SAT Reading Section All About?

The SAT exam paper is divided into five sections. These are

  • Section 1: SAT Evidence-Based Reading
  • Section 2: SAT Writing and Language
  • Section 3: SAT Mathematics No-Calculator
  • Section 4: SAT Mathematics Calculator
  • Section 5: SAT Essay/ Experimental

Each section has its own scores. Sections 1 and 2 are counted as Verbal scores, while Sections 3 and 4 as Mathematics scores. On the contrary, Section 5 scores are not computed with other scores.

The SAT Reading section includes a certain number of passages. Some multiple-choice questions accompany each passage. Students need to read these passages and then answer the questions going through these passages.


How Many Reading Passages Are on the SAT?

This section includes a total of five different reading passages. Out of these five passages, four are single passages, and one is a set of paired passages. Each passage comprises 500-750 words.

Students will get 65 minutes to attempt this section. In this duration, they have to attempt 52 questions. The questions in this section are all multiple-choice types, and each question has four answer choices.


Paired passages are a set of two small passages that are relevant to each other. The questions will be composed of both these passages. You can also say that it seems like a long passage. The passage’s length is 500-750 words, making it a good-sized paragraph.

Is It Challenging to Prepare SAT Reading Passages?

In the SAT Reading section, each passage or paired passage will have 10-11 questions. Answers to each question will be present in the passages. So, students need to read the passage carefully and with concentration before jumping to answer the questions.


Remember, you do not need to know any outside facts or information to answer the questions in this SAT section. You need to take care of such passages that contain graphics. The graphic could be a chart or table. These charts or tables can be about the data related to the passage’s topic or represent additional data not in the passage.

All these things make the SAT Evidence-Based Reading section quite challenging. However, it is not hard to handle this challenge if you practice diligently.


What Type of SAT Reading Passages Are About?

The five passages of SAT reading section are drawn from three genres, i.e., literary narrative, science, and history and social science. Broadly, you can say that these passages include a combination of modern and classic published works.

The topics of these passages are generally related to classic or contemporary literature, essays, speeches, scholarly articles, and scientific reports. The literary narrative is usually about US or World literature. The paired passage is drawn from History and Social Studies or Science topics. This passage may be accompanied by graphical representations of data such as charts, graphs, or tables.

According to the College Board instructions, out of five passages, the SAT Reading section includes

  • One paragraph from a contemporary or classic work of world or US literature.
  • A paragraph about economics, sociology, psychology, or other social science.
  • One paragraph, or a paired passage, about either a text in the Great Global Conversation they inspired, such as a speech by Nelson Mandela or The US Constitution, or a US founding document.
  • Two science passages examine foundational concepts and developments in Earth science, Chemistry, Biology, or Physics.

Tips to Prepare SAT Reading Section

Students will find three types of passages on SAT, i.e., Literary narrative (about US/ world literature), Science, History, and Social Science. Some strategies to prepare these types of passages are given below.

1. Tips to prepare literary narrative-related passages:

Some strategies that can assist students in preparing for the US or world literature are

  • Read literature books as much as possible. But remember not to stress yourself.
  • Try to work on your reading apprehension skills by familiarizing yourself with literature.
  • Practice developing the ability to interpret literary devices.
  • Pay attention to key elements in the passage.
  • Practice highlighting important characters or dialogues in the passage.
  • You can sketch the plots to simplify the passage and keep track of the integral elements in the text.

2. Tips to prepare science-related passages:

It is necessary to keep up with your reading comprehension skills. This way, it becomes easy for you to understand science-related passages. Some strategies that can aid you are

  • Practice reading scientific texts and familiarize yourself with them.
  • Learn the formatting of scientific passages. It will aid you in answering them.
  • Make simple notations and highlight the key concepts of the passages.
  • You can create reference points within the texts and then interpret them.
  • Keep track of the titles and labels in tables, graphs, or charts.

3. Tips to prepare history and social science-related passages:

These passages are quite tricky for students, as they find it hard to understand the nature of the writing style. Some tips that can help you out are

  • Familiarize yourself with the topics such as women’s rights, general US/ World history, the American founding documents, classic philosophical works, etc.
  • Focus on historical figures, debates, and key players.
  • Try to learn new vocabulary skills.
  • Encourage yourself to look after the best context clues.
  • Learn to draw prominent and critical strategies.
  • Read the dictionary.
  • Highlight key points and claims made throughout the passages.


The SAT reading section is considered one of the most competitive sections among others. Even if you find comprehending the passage an easy task, sometimes it is not easy to understand the questions in the reading section of the exam. So, it will be best if you practice SAT reading passages to grasp the types of questions and answer them correctly. 

As some passages contain fictional parts, it becomes challenging to understand them for some students. SAT literature passages practice lets you improve your vocabulary and analytical skills to do well in the reading section.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. How to manage time for the SAT reading section?

A. For the SAT reading section, you will be allotted 65 minutes. You have five passages to read and answer 52 questions during this duration. So, on a rough basis, you have 1 minute to attempt each question. So, it is very crucial to manage your time for attempting this section.

Although it is difficult to predict the source of these passages as the College Board selects the passages, broadly, these passages are related as two will be from the field of history or social studies, one will be from the US or world literature, and two will be from science, with each passage having about 500 to 700 words.

It will be best if you prioritize which passage seems easy, and you can attempt it in the least time. Then move to the next one.

2. Can we categorize the questions of the reading section in the SAT?

A. Yes, You can categorize specific question types in the reading section. Some of them are

  • Question about the overall purpose or message of the passage.
  • Question about inference or interpreting the meaning of a word, line, paragraph, or entire passage.
  • Question about a specific line or detail from the question.
  • Questions about the author’s technique, i.e., tone, attitude, voice, or author style.
  • Questions about effects of phrase or sentence on a paragraph or the entire passage.
  • Questions about clarifying the information from charts and graphs are provided in the passage.
  • Questions about providing evidence support with your answer to previous questions in the same passage.

3. Can reading books help me score in the reading section of the SAT?

A. Yes. Reading books will improve your reading score. It will also improve your grammar and language skills.

  • You can select classic literature books for better improvement. These books will be the models for your SATs and generally have a much wider vocabulary.
  • Dictionary is also a good source for the reading section’s preparation. You can also use an electronic dictionary.
  • Newspapers are one of the traditional ways to improve your reading skills.
How many passages on SAT Reading


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