Fiction Passages on the SAT: A Breakdown of the Passages and Questions

Fiction Passage Analysis (College Board Tests)

Below you will find a listing of the Literature Passages from the 8 released SAT Tests. I have also added the question types that accompany each passage, so that we can analyze what you should expect from the first passage of the SAT. The Passages themselves come from a combination of novels and short stories, spanning 1857 to 2011. The excerpts run between 585 and 818 words in length. Overall the passages are from lesser know works and even the most famous author (Bronte) is represented by a more obscure title. So it isn;t a good strategy to start reading the “classics” in the hope that you will read the novel that your SAT excerpts from.  If you are looking to improve this section of the reading, I would suggest that you read the novels and short stories below to become more familiar with the style and difficulty of these types of writing. I have added links to further information for each piece and Tests 3 and 6 have links to the short stories in their entirety.

There are some consistencies in the questions. 5 of the 6 passages start with a “Plot Summary” question. Most passages have the majority of questions that lean on “Literal Comprehension”, “Best Evidence”, and “Function.” “Vocabulary in Context” is not seen in every passage and so you should worry less about understanding obscure language and more about understanding the characters, plots, and settings of the stories, how the stories are constructed and the techniques fiction writers use.

Test 1

TITLE: The Strangeness of Beauty by Lydia Minatoya (1999)

The Strangeness of Beauty (Goodreads)

The Strangeness of Beauty (Amazon.com)

Passage Length: 738 Words

10 Questions

  1. Plot Summary
  2. Structure Question
  3. Vocabulary in Context
  4. Literal Comprehension
  5. Best Evidence for Q4
  6. Inference/Literal Comprehension
  7. Purpose/function
  8. Vocabulary in Context
  9. Literal Comprehension
  10. Best Evidence for Q9

TEST 2

TITLE: The Professor by Charlotte Bronte (1857)

The Professor (GoodReads)

The Professor (Amazon.com)

Passage Length: 656 Words

10 Questions

  1. Plot Summary
  2. Purpose/function
  3. Rhetorical Strategy
  4. Function
  5. Literal Comprehension
  6. Literal Comprehension
  7. Best Evidence for Q6
  8. Function
  9. Literal Comprehension
  10. Best Evidence for Q9

TEST 3

TITLE: The Schartz-Metterklume Method by Saki (1911)

The Schartz-Metterklume Method (GoodReads)

The Schartz-Metterklume Method (East of the Web)

Passage Length: 739 Words

10 Questions

  1. Plot Summary
  2. Vocabulary in context
  3. Inference
  4. Best Evidence for Q3
  5. Function
  6. Vocabulary in Context
  7. Literal Comprehension
  8. Inference
  9. Literal Comprehension
  10. Best Evidence for Q9

TEST 4

TITLE: The Balloonist by MacDonald Harris (2011)

The Balloonist (GoodReads)

The Balloonist (Amazon.com)

Passage Length: 585 words

10 Questions

  1. Plot Summary (Character shift)
  2. Best Evidence for Q1
  3. Vocabulary in Context
  4. Function
  5. Literal Comprehension
  6. Best Evidence for Q5
  7. Literal Comprehension
  8. Inference
  9. Vocabulary in Context
  10. Vocabulary in Context

TEST 5

TITLE: The Folded Leaf by William Maxwell (1959)

The Folded Leaf (GoodReads)

The Folded Leaf (Amazon.com)

Passage Length: 809 Words

10 Questions

  1. Plot Summary (Focus Shift)
  2. Purpose/Function
  3. Inference
  4. Literal Comprehension
  5. Best Evidence for Q4
  6. Literal Comprehension
  7. Literal Comprehension
  8. Main Idea (Paragraph)
  9. Best Evidence for Q8
  10. Vocabulary in Context

TEST 6

TITLE: Nawabdin Electrician by Daniyal Mueenuddin (2009)

Nawabdin Electrician (GoodReads)

Nawabdin Electrician (The New Yorker)

Passage Length: 818 Words

10 Questions

  1. Purpose/Function
  2. Vocabulary in Context
  3. Function
  4. Best Evidence for Q4
  5. Function
  6. Literal Comprehension
  7. Inference
  8. Best Evidence for Q7
  9. Literal Comprehension
  10. Literal Comprehension

TEST 7

TITLE: Silas Marner by George Eliot (1959)

Silas Marner (GoodReads)

Silas Marner (Google Books)

Passage Length: 502 Words

10 Questions

  1. Main Idea
  2. Literal Comprehension
  3. Rhetorical Technique
  4. Function
  5. Literal Comprehension
  6. Best Evidence
  7. Function
  8. Literal Comprehension
  9. Best Evidence
  10. Vocabulary in Context

TEST 8

TITLE: The Angel’s Game by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (2008)

The Angel’s Game (GoodReads)

The Angel’s Game (Amazon.com)

Passage Length:

10 Questions

  1. Main Idea
  2. Purpose/Function
  3. Inference
  4. Best Evidence
  5. Inference
  6. Best Evidence
  7. Inference
  8. Vocabulary in Context
  9. Rhetorical Effect
  10. Literal Comprehension

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