About the New SAT Reading Passages

What kind of passages are you going to encounter on the new SAT Reading test? Tests are always way less nerve-wracking when you know what to expect, so let’s talk a little bit about Redesigned SAT Reading in general:


Where do New SAT reading passages come from?

SAT Reading passages aren’t written specifically for the test. Instead, they’re taken from high school or college-level reading sources and adapted to make them fit into the 700 words or so that the SAT likes. Of course, that means that test-makers have to make some pretty significant changes to the original texts—creating clear introductions and conclusions—because these books or essays weren’t written with the SAT exam in mind.

Unless you’re a voracious reader, there’s not much chance you’re going to come across a passage that you recognize (UNLESS it’s a passage from a U.S. Founding Document that you’ve studied in school; then you might get lucky). But it’s rare, and no matter how much you read between now and the day of your SAT, you’re not going to better your odds in any significant way.


New SAT reading passages are academic

Generally, SAT readings come from books that you might read in high school or college, and that makes sense. Of course, there are all sorts of different things you might study in college. So that’s why the new SAT makes sure you see a little bit of everything from fiction to history to science.

If you read through an article or two from The New Yorker, The Economist, or other similar publications, you’ll get a sense of the level of reading the SAT expects of you.


Redesigned SAT readings aren’t super dense, old, or full of jargon

Even if they’re academic, SAT Reading passages are supposed to be readable for people who aren’t actually in the field of study that the passages come from. So you won’t get anything really old (e.g. Shakespeare or Kant) or highly specialized (e.g. linguistic theory from Chomsky). As long as you stay focused while reading, you’ll be able to understand the information in the passage without any background knowledge.


Fiction on the SAT Reading test

There’s always a literature passage on the SAT, but it’s not usually the kind of thing most people have read for fun—sorry, no Harry Potter. It’s more likely to be something, well, literary. The books you read in high school are a good comparison. While you won’t see The Great Gatsby on your SAT, since so many students read it in school, it’s the right type of book.


The best advice we can give you is to read everything you are assigned in school from now until the SAT (and well, you should probably keep reading all of it after your SAT too, but we won’t be breathing down your neck then 🙂 ). Since the new SAT Reading test is designed to measure what you are learning in high school, high school reading material is the best material to practice with.



  • Kristin Fracchia

    Dr. Kristin Fracchia has over fifteen years of expertise in college and graduate school admissions and with a variety of standardized tests, including the ACT, SAT, GRE, GMAT, and LSAT, with several 99% scores. She had a PhD from the University of California, Irvine, an MA degree from The Catholic University, and BA degrees in Secondary Education and English Literature from the University of Maryland, College Park. She was the recipient of the 2013 Excellence in Teaching Award and the Chancellor’s Club Fellowship from the University of California, Irvine. She’s worked as a high school teacher and university professor, as an independent college and graduate school admissions counselor, and as an expert tutor for standardized tests, helping hundreds of students gain acceptance into premier national and international institutions. She now develops accessible and effective edtech products for Magoosh. Her free online content and YouTube videos providing test prep and college admissions advice have received over 6 million views in over 125 countries. Kristin is an advocate for improving access to education: you can check out her TEDx talk on the topic. Follow Kristin on LinkedIn!

By the way, Magoosh can help you study for both the SAT and ACT exams. Click here to learn more!


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