What SAT RPs Test
RPs test specific reading skills needed to make sense
of paragraphs and longer chunks of prose. You’ll be expected to:
- Recognize the major features of an RP: topic, main
idea, purpose, tone, theme,
- Recognize the use of rhetorical devices and literary techniques, including: hyperbole,
repetition, imagery and figurative language, sound patterns, rhetorical
questions, idioms and clichés, irony, foreshadowing,
- Decode unfamiliar words from context.
- Find informational details (facts) in the passage.
- Identify cause and effect and follow the logic of arguments.
- Compare and contrast arguments.
Don’t worry if some of these terms look unfamiliar or
confusing: we’ll cover everything in the following sections.
Passages can be either nonfiction or fiction. Nonfiction
passages can be on any topic in one of three broad areas: science,
social science, and the humanities. Items are never based on outside
knowledge; all the information you need to answer the items is in
the passage. Passages may feature a couple of unfamiliar terms related
to the topic at hand, but these terms are always defined within
A major change to the new SAT is the addition of fiction
passages. The good news is that pre–2005 SATs have featured fiction
passages on occasion, so we have a good idea what these RPs look
like. The fictional prose you will see will be straightforward and
conventional and most likely concerned with issues of personal development
or family relationships. Standardized tests tend to stay away from
controversial topics such as war, sex, death, or politics. While
some familiarity with basic literary techniques is required, the
fiction sets are pretty similar to the old-style nonfiction sets.
Before we can jump into the methods you’ll use to handle
RPs, there are a few essential concepts and skills you’ll need to
get under your belt. Let’s take a look at those now.