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The SAT Reading Test: Information and Ideas

Details about Information and Ideas on the Reading Test.

Information and Ideas: The Author's Message

The Information and Ideas category includes questions that focus on what the passage says (directly or indirectly). To interpret the author's message, you’ll need to consider both what’s stated and what’s implied – or strongly suggested – in the passage.
A note on the images in this article: all Reading Test items will be associated with a passage, but the passages are not included here. Each question pictured is just one example of how items in that category can look.
Some sub-topics within Information and Ideas:

Reading Closely.

These questions will ask you to identify information and ideas explicitly stated in the text or to draw reasonable inferences and logical conclusions from the text. In some cases, the questions will ask you to apply information and ideas in a text to a new, analogous situation.
Image of an SAT test question that says:
The passage most strongly suggests that Adelita used which of the following to navigate her 9,000-mile journey?
A) The current of the North Atlantic gyre B) Cues from the electromagnetic coils designed by Putman and Lohmann C) The inclination and intensity of Earth's magnetic field D) A simulated "magnetic signature" configured by Lohmann

Citing textual evidence.

These questions will ask you to cite evidence within the text that best supports a given point or idea.
Image of an SAT test question that says:
Which choice provides the best evidence for the answer to the previous question?
A) Lines 13-16 ("It . . . office") B) Lines 20-23 ("The division . . . astute") C) Lines 51-54 ("The drawing . . . misdemeanors") D) Lines 61-64 ("Congress . . . transportation")

Determining central ideas and themes.

These questions will ask you to identify the central theme(s) or the main point(s) of the text.
Image of an SAT test question that says:
The main idea of the final paragraph is that
A) human quirks make it difficult to predict people's ethical decisions accurately. B) people universally react with disgust when faced with economic injustice. C) understanding human psychology may help to define ethics in economics. D) economists themselves will be responsible for reforming the free market.


These questions will ask you to recognize an effective summary of a passage or of a part of a passage.
Image of an SAT test question that says:
Which choice best describes what happens in the passage?
A) One character argues with another character who intrudes on her home. B) One character receives a surprising request from another character. C) One character reminisces about choices she has made over the years. D) One character criticizes another character for pursuing an unexpected course of action.

Understanding relationships.

These questions will ask you to draw connections (such as cause-and-effect, comparison-contrast, and sequence) between or among people, events, or ideas in the passage.
Image of an SAT test question that says:
Based on the passage, which choice describes the relationship between Putman's and Lohmann's research? A) Putman's research contradicts Lohmann's. B) Putman's research builds on Lohmann's. C) Lohmann's research confirms Putman's. D) Lohmann's research corrects Putman's.

Interpreting words and phrases in context.

These questions will ask you to figure out the precise meaning of a particular word or phrase as it's used in a passage.
Image of an SAT test question that says:
As used in line 52, "intense" most nearly means A) emotional. B) concentrated. C) brilliant. D) determined.
You will not need to know the names of these question types for the test, but this list gives you an idea of some of the question types you will encounter.
Want to practice your analysis skills? Try some questions now!


This article was adapted from the following sources:
“SAT Practice Tests” from The College Board.

Want to join the conversation?

  • leaf green style avatar for user sharmanimit708
    How can i improve my vocabulary for the reading section ?
    (17 votes)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Dave Travis (Khan Academy)
      From the author:You're in the right place to find reading passages of the appropriate difficulty level, jam-packed with the kinds of words you'll see on the SAT. Write down words you don't know, along with their definitions and an example sentence. Read challenging articles from newspapers and magazines like Time, Vanity Fair, Newsweek, Nature, Scientific American, and the Economist, and look up the words you don't know. Your vocabulary will grow, and your general knowledge about the world will grow too!
      (49 votes)
  • primosaur seedling style avatar for user Elizabeth Smith
    I have trouble with the textual evidence problems. I tend to cite one sentence that has a similar theme/idea to the correct one. How can I stop doing this?
    (11 votes)
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    • starky sapling style avatar for user Ojasw Upadhyay
      Think of the textual evidence problems as, which option almost restates the point I need to support or is the most relevant.

      Problem: Which evidence best proves that the author believes that her PoV is not popular with the general population?

      Approach: You would look where it says that not everyone agrees with her point. *Be CRITICAL.* If you are stuck between two, then there is some small detail you are missing. Make sure it answers the question completely and is not just a relevant fact.
      (15 votes)
  • aqualine ultimate style avatar for user irislovespizza
    Hi! How do you tackle those Inference questions? Thanks!
    (8 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user ryumuranushi2000
    My recent SAT practice score on the reading and writing part is only 540/800, would you mind giving me some advice in order to improve the score ?
    (11 votes)
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    • hopper happy style avatar for user Josi S
      I would do another practice exam or focus on the reading section. I would also read books so that you are exposed to other kinds of literature. While you are reading create an summary in your head. When a question asks for a specific line, look at a few lines before and after so that you know the context of the specific line.
      (7 votes)
  • duskpin ultimate style avatar for user Cowboy
    so, let me get this straight... even if I get a good score on the english sections, I would still have to work hard and get a good score on math to "do well" because math and english are separate parts of the test?
    I can't just pass because one half that I know better and get a high score can carry the other half that I don't know as well?
    (6 votes)
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  • purple pi purple style avatar for user Nikesh
    Why are there no "Top Tip" for Information and Ideas section?
    (9 votes)
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  • old spice man blue style avatar for user Daniel Roland
    I'm struggling with the difference between when they ask for what the author is implying and what they're indicating. I've always assumed implying meant there was kind of a step between the author's words and the conclusion the reader takes away, while an indication was the author stating the exact conclusion the reader gets word for word.
    Sometimes they ask for what the author is implying and then for a quote from the text supporting the implication, but the correct quote is really on the nose, using the same words/phrases and everything.
    Are implication and indication interchangeable on the SAT or am I looking at them in the wrong light?
    (5 votes)
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    • blobby green style avatar for user sonoiki2395
      When "according to the passage", "states" or "indicates" is used in the passage, the answer is directly in the passage, BUT, When "based on the passage", "implies" is used in the question, it means the answer is implied in the passage, that is, you have to get the meaning, it is not directly stated.
      (6 votes)
  • orange juice squid orange style avatar for user Raimi Nawal Iftekhar
    My biggest problem is time management. I can never finish any of the sections on time. How do I solve this?
    (3 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user charanya.y
    I can read the passage in the correct way but Iam not getting the correct answer
    (3 votes)
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  • blobby green style avatar for user NANCY PUNIA
    i am having difficulty managing time for reading passages. how can i manage that?
    (1 vote)
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    • piceratops ultimate style avatar for user Hecretary Bird
      Managing time on the reading section is a struggle for a lot of people. When taking the test, try to do every passage in under 11 or 12 minutes (The time limit accounts for 13 minutes per passage). That gives you a buffer zone for any really hard passage, and gives you a bit of time to check your work and take another look at hard questions. Keep a look at a clock or watch to stay on pace, and try not to get hung up on any one question for too long.
      As for how you can actually go faster, the main part of the test everyone can speed up on, in my opinion, is reading the passages. No one's expecting you to read an SAT passage the same way you'd read a novel for pleasure. Instead, think of it like skimming a webpage for a research assignment. You're only there to absorb the big ideas and get a sense of where things are in the passage, and you'll only really focus on the itty-bitty details when you get to the questions and know what you're looking for. Don't be afraid to do a quick skim of the passage. You'll inevitably get the deeper understanding while you work through the questions.
      Other than that, practice and recognizing patterns can make you faster. You should know to be wary of answer choices that seem very extreme, and make sure you remember where you got the answer from on a question paired with a "find the evidence for the previous question" question. Just little things like that, that you'll mostly absorb from practice.
      (4 votes)