Technically, the Reading and Writing section is new to the SAT. However, in reality, it has a lot in common with Evidence-Based Reading and Writing on the old SAT. In this article, we’ll go over what exactly the digital SAT Reading and Writing section is and what question types it includes. We’ll also discuss the main ways it’s different from Evidence-Based Reading and Writing on the paper SAT. Additionally, we’ll answer some common questions about the digital SAT.
Here are all the topics we’ll cover:
- What Is the Reading and Writing Section of the Digital SAT?
- What Is Included in the Reading and Writing Section of the Digital SAT?
- Digital SAT Reading and Writing: Key Takeaways
- Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
- What’s Next?
Let’s start by reviewing the nuts and bolts of what the Reading and Writing section is.
What Is the Reading and Writing Section of the Digital SAT?
On the paper SAT, there is a Reading section and a Writing and Language section. The Reading section features passages and SAT reading comprehension questions, while the Writing and Language section features passages and questions focused on grammar, syntax, and writing skills. Together, these two sections make up the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW). Your EBRW score is one half of your composite SAT score (Math is the other half).
On the digital SAT, the Reading and Writing section replaces the two EBRW sections and contains question types from both sections. So, the digital SAT does not separate grammar-focused questions and reading comprehension-focused questions into separate sections.
The Reading and Writing section is split into two modules (as is the Math section). However, both modules are “Reading and Writing” and contain the same question types. So, instead of receiving an EBRW score, you’ll get a “Reading and Writing” score, which will be one half of your composite SAT score. (Math is the other half.)
Note that all of the questions in the Reading and Writing section are multiple-choice with four answer choices and one correct answer.
The digital SAT features a Reading and Writing section instead of the paper SAT’s separate Reading section and Writing and Language section.
Although Reading and Writing basically combines the two EBRW sections, it is not exactly like EBRW. So, let’s discuss the key differences between the digital SAT’s Reading and Writing section and EBRW on the paper SAT.
Paper vs. Digital SAT Reading and Writing: Key Differences
The first key difference between Reading and Writing on the old, paper test and the digital SAT is that the modules are shorter and contain fewer questions on the digital version.
On the paper test, there is a 65-minute, 52-question Reading section and 35-minute, 44-question Writing and Language section. So, there are 96 EBRW questions in total.
On the digital SAT, there are two 32-minute Reading and Writing sections that each contain 27 questions. So, there are 54 Reading and Writing questions in total.
In totalSo, the digital SAT has nearly half as many Reading and Writing questions as the old, paper SAT.
There are a few other key changes to explore about the new Reading and Writing section, including:
- shorter passages
- fewer questions per passage
- fewer and different question types
- adaptive sections
Let’s discuss each of these new features. (For a complete breakdown of all the differences between the old and new SATs, check out our paper vs. digital SAT guide.)
The digital SAT Reading and Writing section is made up of two 32-minute, 27-question modules.
One major difference between the paper and digital SATs is that passages on the digital SAT are much shorter than passages on the old, paper version.
On the paper SAT, Reading passages are 500–750 words, and Writing and Language passages are 400-450 words.
On the digital SAT, Reading and Writing passages are only 25-150 words.
Note that, like the old SAT, the digital SAT features some passage pairs — two passages presented together, which you have to evaluate in relation to each other.
On the digital SAT, Reading and Writing passages are only 25-150 words.
Fewer Questions per Passage
Along with shorter passages, there are fewer questions per passage on the digital SAT than on the paper version. In fact, there is only one question per each passage or passage pair.
On the paper SAT, there are 10-11 questions about each Reading passage and 11 questions about each Writing passage.
Now, remember, there are a total of 54 Reading and Writing questions on the digital SAT. So, with only one question per passage, you’ll be reading just over 54 different passages. (There will be slightly more than 54 passages because occasionally a question will be associated with a pair of passages.)
However, those passages will be very short. On the old SAT, students saw fewer but much longer passages that could take a few minutes each to read. On the digital SAT, each passage will be short enough that you can read it in under a minute.
And because there is only one question per passage, you won’t have to analyze each passage in numerous different ways, as you would on the paper SAT.
So, reading strategies for dealing with long passages, such as strategies related to reading speed and accuracy in locating specific details “hidden” among multiple paragraphs, won’t need to be part of your SAT Reading and Writing practice.
On the digital SAT, there is only one question per Reading and Writing passage or passage pair.
Fewer and Different Question Types
The Reading and Writing section tests basically the same skills that EBRW tests. Those skills include reading comprehension, English grammar, and vocabulary. However, the question types are somewhat pared down on the digital SAT. Also, in a couple of cases, concepts are tested in new ways.
For example, a Writing and Language question on the old SAT might ask which paragraph of a passage to place a certain sentence in. Now, passages on the digital SAT are only one paragraph long. So, that question type wouldn’t make sense.
Similarly, there aren’t any Reading and Writing questions that ask you the following:
- where to move a sentence within a paragraph
- whether to keep or delete a sentence
- whether to add a sentence
- how to most effectively combine two sentences.
The passages on the digital SAT are too short for those question types to make sense.
Also, although passages will still cover topics in the humanities, literature, history, social studies, and science, you won’t see passages that are excerpts of historical documents. (Again, short passages aren’t really fit for those.) Alongside a literature-focused passage, however, you may see answer choices that are lines of poetry, something the paper test doesn’t feature.
Additionally, the digital SAT may present a passage that contains bullet points, along with a question asking which answer choice effectively synthesizes those bullet points to achieve a certain goal. Since paper SAT passages don’t feature bullet points, such questions are new to the SAT.
On the grammar side of things, the digital SAT does not feature questions about easily confused words (ex., affect/effect) or test your ability to notice redundant statements (ex., increasing upward).
The Reading and Writing section features bullet points in some passages and poetry excerpts in some answer choices.
The digital SAT uses what is known as adaptive testing. Specifically, it has adaptive sections.
So, how do adaptive sections work? Well, we know that each section is broken into two modules. So, sticking with Reading and Writing, your overall performance on the first Reading and Writing module affects the difficulty level of the questions in the second Reading and Writing module. (The same goes for the two Math modules.) Note that your Reading and Writing performance does not affect the Math module difficulty, or vice versa.
Importantly, you’ll be able to skip around within a module and change your answers to previous questions in that module, just as you can on the paper test. Moreover, questions that test similar concepts and skills are grouped together within a module and arranged from easiest to hardest. So, you can be strategic about the order in which you answer questions in a module. For example, you could answer all the easy and medium questions in a module before you tackle the hardest ones.
Just keep in mind that each module is timed separately. So, you can’t go back to a previous module once your time in it runs out.
The digital SAT is section-adaptive. So, your performance on the first Reading and Writing module affects the difficulty level of the second Reading and Writing module.
To learn about how the section-adaptive model works, check out our article on adaptive testing on the digital SAT.
Now that we know what the major differences are between EBRW on the old SAT and Reading and Writing on the digital SAT, let’s dig into the question types in Reading and Writing.
What Is Included in the Reading and Writing Section of the Digital SAT?
There are four main categories of question types in the digital SAT Reading and Writing section. Collectively, these questions test everything from your knowledge of proper punctuation and syntax to your skill in analyzing data in passages.
Those four categories of questions are:
- Craft and Structure
- Information and Ideas
- Standard English Conventions
- Expression of Ideas
Each of these categories includes several question types. Craft and Structure and
Information and Ideas questions deal mainly with reading comprehension skills. Standard English Conventions and Expression of Ideas questions deal mainly with writing and grammar skills.
Let’s take a closer look at the question types in each category.
Craft and Structure
Approximately 13-15 of the Reading and Writing questions on the digital SAT fall into the Craft and Structure category. The question types in this category include:
- Structure: questions that ask us to identify the answer choice that best describes how the passage is organized (in other words, what the author does, in what order, in the passage)
- Main Purpose: questions that ask us what the author’s main purpose in writing the passage is — in other words, what the author does overall in the passage (ex. argues against something, provides an explanation for something, etc.)
- Specific Purpose: questions that ask us what the function of a particular underlined portion of the passage is, for example, a particular sentence.
- Words in Context: questions that ask us to either fill a blank within a passage with the most fitting word among the answer choices OR select the word among the answer choices that best conveys the meaning of an underlined word in the passage (you may need to do some vocabulary practice for these!)
- Cross-Text Connections: questions that ask us to relate two paired passages to each other in some way (for example, how someone discussed in passage 1 would feel about the views of someone discussed in passage 2)
SAT Words in Context, Cross-Text Connections, Structure, Main Purpose, and Specific Purpose questions fall under the “Craft and Structure” category in Reading and Writing.
Information and Ideas
Approximately 12-14 of the Reading and Writing questions on the digital SAT fall into the Information and Ideas category. The question types in this category include:
- Main Idea: questions that ask us to identify the central idea of a passage.
- Detail: questions that ask us about a specific idea within a passage, typically an idea expressed in a particular sentence of the passage.
- Inference: questions that ask us which statement among the answer choices most logically completes the passage. (Each answer choice presents a significant portion of what would be the final sentence of the passage.)
- Command of Evidence (Textual): questions that ask us which answer choice most effectively “illustrates” a claim from the passage or most strongly “supports” a claim or hypothesis from the passage. These questions may accompany either literature-based or science-based passages.
- Command of Evidence (Quantitative): questions that ask us to complete the passage with the statement among the answer choices that most accurately uses data from a table or graph.
SAT Command of Evidence, Main Idea, Detail, and Inference questions fall under the “Information and Ideas” category in Reading and Writing.
Standard English Conventions
Approximately 11-15 of the Reading and Writing questions on the digital SAT fall into the Standard English Conventions category.
The question types in this category include grammar questions dealing with the following:
- subject-verb agreement
- pronoun-antecedent agreement
- plural and possessive nouns
- verb forms
- modifier placement
The question types in this category also include punctuation and sentence structure questions dealing with the following:
- how to link different clauses in a sentence using proper punctuation and/or conjunctions
- how to punctuate nonessential elements of a sentence (that is, extra information that is not necessary for the sentence to be complete) or items in a list
- proper use of punctuation in general, including use of commas, semicolons, colons, and dashes (and periods!)
Note that for all of the questions in this category, there will be a blank in the passage that we must fill with the correct answer choice.
English grammar, punctuation, and syntax questions all fall under the “Standard English Conventions” category in Reading and Writing.
Expression of Ideas
Approximately 8-12 of the Reading and Writing questions on the digital SAT fall into the Expression of Ideas category. The question types in this category include:
- Transition: questions that ask us to select fromamong the answer choices the appropriate transition word(s) to fill a blank in the passage that may appear either within a sentence or between two sentences (words such as though, therefore, etc.)
- Rhetorical Synthesis: questions that ask us to select the answer choice that most effectively synthesizes bulleted notes from the passage to accomplish a certain goal (for example, showing a similarity or a contrast)
SAT Rhetorical Synthesis and Transition questions fall under the “Expression of Ideas” category in Reading and Writing.
Digital SAT Reading and Writing: Key Takeaways
In this article, we learned that the Reading and Writing section of the digital SAT replaces Evidence-Based Reading and Writing (EBRW) from the paper SAT. So, the digital SAT does not separate grammar-focused questions and reading comprehension-focused questions into separate sections, as the paper SAT does.
We also learned that the Reading and Writing section is shorter than EBRW, with a total of 54 questions split evenly into two 32-minute modules.
Additionally, the Reading and Writing section features short passages (25-150 words), with only one question per passage, and the modules are adaptive. So, your performance on the first module affects the difficulty level of the second.
Finally, there are four main categories of question types in the Reading and Writing section:
- Craft and Structure
- Information and Ideas
- Standard English Conventions
- Expression of Ideas
Collectively, these questions test a variety of concepts and skills, including:
- knowledge of English grammar and proper punctuation
- vocabulary knowledge
- your ability to see the “big picture” of a passage
- your ability to properly interpret information
- your skill in drawing inferences
- your ability to identify and analyze relationships between ideas
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Let’s answer a few common questions about the digital SAT.
Is there writing on the digital SAT?
There is no essay section on the digital SAT. So, you don’t have to worry about learning SAT writing strategies or doing other SAT essay preparation for the digital SAT.
That said, your SAT Reading and Writing prep will need to include practice with questions that deal with skill in effective writing. For example, to identify correct answers to some Reading and Writing questions, you’ll need to be able to recognize punctuation and syntax that convey a clear meaning and produce cohesion and coherence within a particular passage.
You also may need to do some vocabulary building to choose appropriate words in Words in Context questions.
Is the digital SAT easier than the paper version?
Some students may find the digital SAT easier than the old, paper version because it is shorter overall, contains shorter reading passages, has fewer question types to master, and allows for calculator use in both Math modules.
Nevertheless, students should be aware that many (if not most) of the concepts and skills tested on the old SAT are also tested on the new, digital version.
Do all colleges accept the digital SAT?
The digital SAT is replacing the paper version of the test. So, any college that still accepts SAT scores once the transition to the digital SAT is complete would accept digital SAT scores, since there will be no paper SATs administered (with the exception of some accommodated tests).
Of course, test score policies vary from one college to the next. So, you should research the specific schools you’re interested in to see which tests they accept.
Wondering when you can take the digital SAT? This article explains when the digital SAT will be available to students in different areas.
If you’re just getting started with your SAT prep, check out these 5 steps for success.
If you’re looking for digital SAT practice tests, download College Board’s Bluebook app to gain access to them.