What Questions Are Asked in the SAT?

Welcome to MST Tutoring’s comprehensive guide examining the multifaceted spectrum of questions posed on the SAT. As seasoned SAT instructors, we routinely field this inquiry from anxious students and parents alike. The SAT can undoubtedly appear intimidating at first glance, with myriads of question types engineered to rigorously assess one’s abilities. However, by proactively learning about the assorted SAT question classifications in advance, you can walk into test day feeling wholly prepared and empowered.


An In-Depth Breakdown of the Core SAT Question Categories

The SAT rigorously gauges competencies across three core domains: Evidence-Based Reading and Writing, Math, and an optional Essay. Within each section, examinees will encounter several standard question types designed to evaluate specific skill sets:


The Reading Test

The Reading Test measures students’ reading comprehension aptitude using texts across a spectrum of topics from the humanities, social studies and sciences. Students should prepare for the following question formats:

  • Short and Long Passage Questions – These questions reference shorter and lengthier passages spanning one or more paragraphs. They necessitate finding direct evidence and extrapolating insinuations from the passages to exhibit true comprehension.
  • Dual Passage Questions – These questions provide a pair of shorter passages and ask students to compare and contrast concepts covered across both texts.
  • Vocabulary-in-Context Questions – These questions evaluate students’ ability to discern the meaning of advanced vocabulary words based on the contextual clues provided in the accompanying passage.


The Writing and Language Test

The Writing and Language section measures writing execution and editing abilities using passages on career-oriented topics spanning the sciences, humanities and social sciences. Common question types include:

  • Text Improvement Questions – These questions require revising or editing an excerpt to augment clarity, precision, succinctness, syntax, logical coherence, style, tone and other facets of writing craft.
  • Graphic/Infographic Improvement Questions – Students must revise or edit charts, graphs, infographics and other visual elements to enhance clarity, accuracy and logical coherence.
  • Issues-Focused Questions – These questions require analyzing a passage and identifying how to best orient content to serve an intended objective or audience.


The Math Test

Lastly, the Math test gauges mathematical reasoning, problem-solving, fluency and conceptual understanding spanning core topics taught in high school. Standard question formats include:

  • Heart of Algebra & Problem Solving Questions – These questions test foundational algebra proficiency, multi-step problem solving skills and translating word problems into mathematical expressions.
  • Advanced Math Questions – These questions feature more sophisticated mathematical concepts like trigonometric functions, circles and triangles, vectors, complex numbers and manipulating algebraic/trigonometric equations.
  • Additional Topics – These questions measure skills in specialty subjects like statistics and probabilities, counting and permutations, and mathematical modeling.
  • Calculator and No Calculator Questions – The test features both types to account for cases when calculator use is or is not permitted in mathematical practice.

This covers the essentials, but some additional nuances apply. For example, the test may feature multi-part question sets spanning an entire passage, or math questions necessitating application of multiple concepts to model complex, real-world scenarios.


Key SAT Question Formats to Know

In addition to categorizing questions by section and type, it’s vital to grow familiar with how questions manifest in practice. The SAT poses questions in different formats that you’ll need to recognize and master strategies for successfully answering:

  • Multiple Choice – Classic multiple choice with one unambiguously correct answer provided.
  • Multiple Answer – Variant of multiple choice allowing selection of one or more answer options.
  • Numeric Entry – Require inputting the precise numerical solution without answer choices listed. Necessitates accurately working through computations.
  • Evidence-Based / Command of Evidence Questions – Ask students to cite or reflect on specific quotes/lines from a passage to corroborate a previous response.
  • Grid-In Response – Used for math questions without answer choices. Require bubbling in the numerical solution on a separate grid chart provided.


Leveraging MST Tutoring to Master SAT Question Formats

As evidenced above, the SAT leverages an extensive array of question types across reading, writing, math and optional essays to rigorously evaluate college readiness. With abundant possibilities to account for, diligent preparation and broad-based practice is imperative for success.

This is where MST Tutoring provides immense value – our experienced instructors possess accumulated decades of direct SAT prep experience. We go above and beyond conventional textbook drilling to infuse real-world, pragmatic analytics into our teaching approach – pinpointing precise deficiencies and tailoring customized regimens targeting growth opportunities.


Through our time-tested and results-driven methods, students markedly augment their proficiencies, confidence and scores. Schedule a free consultation today with MST Tutoring to ignite your SAT prep journey!


Frequently Asked SAT Prep Questions

Still have some lingering questions? Reference our FAQ below:

How many total questions comprise the full SAT exam?

Without the optional Essay, the SAT contains 154 questions spread across the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and Math section. With the Essay included, you answer one additional essay prompt.

Does the SAT penalize for incorrect answers?

No penalties exist for wrong answers. You should supply your best guess rather than leaving any questions blank.

Does the SAT repeat the same questions annually?

Each SAT administration pre-tests a small subset of questions for potential use on future exams. Otherwise, SAT questions comprise previously retired questions from past tests – not verbatim repeats year-over-year.

Which SAT section do students classically find most challenging?

The Reading Test tends to pose the steepest challenges for students working to consistently answer questions correctly. By contrast, the Math and Writing sections are more formulaic and learnable through diligent preparation.