1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

SAT Literature Subject Test Information

What's on This SAT Subject Test?

By

SAT Literature Subject Test Information
Lin Pernille

SAT Literature Subject Test Introduction

When some people hear the word, "Literature", they cringe out of habit. Literature makes things like movies, magazines, books and plays – stuff you actually want to enjoy – seem stuffy or out of date. But, if you'll remember that the term is just a fancy way of saying, "entertainment" it won't be so daunting when it's time to be tested on something like the SAT Literature Subject Test.

Note: The SAT Literature Subject Test is not part of the SAT Reasoning Test, the popular college admissions exam. It's one of the many SAT Subject Tests, which are also offered by the College Board.

SAT Literature Subject Test Basics

So, what should you expect when you register for this SAT Subject Test? Here are the basics:

  • 60 minutes
  • 60 multiple-choice questions based on 6 to 8 different literary passages
  • 200-800 points possible

SAT Literature Subject Test Passages

The SAT Literature Subject Test is very narrow in its scope. Remember, this is a Literature test, not a reading test, which is quite different. You will not be reading nonfiction like excerpts from memoirs, passages from biographies or samples from textbook. Nope! These six to eight passages of literature excerpts will look like this:

The Genres:

  • Approximately 3-4 of the passages will be prose (excerpts from novels, short stories, and essays).
  • Approximately 3-4 of the passages will be poetry (either complete or shortened if the poem is long).
  • Approximately 0-1 of the passages could be drama or other forms of literature (legends, fables, myths, etc.).

The Sources:

  • Approximately 3-4 of the passages will come from American Literature.
  • Approximately 3-4 of the passages will come from British Literature.
  • Approximately 0-1 of the passages could come from literature from other countries. (Indian, Caribbean, and Canadian excerpts have been used in the past.)

The Age of the Passages:

  • 30% of the passages will come from the Renaissance or 17th century.
  • 30% of the passages will come from the 18th or 19th century.
  • 40% of the passages will come from the 20th century.

SAT Literature Subject Test Skills

Since this is a Literature test, and not merely your average reading exam, you'll be required to do a lot of analytical thinking about the passages you're reading. You'll also be expected to understand the basics about literature, itself. Here's what you should brush up on:

  • Common Literary and Poetic Terms
  • Narrator's and Author's Tone
  • Meaning and Vocabulary in Context
  • Word Choice, Imagery, Metaphor
  • Theme
  • Characterization
  • Basic Plot Structures

Why Take the SAT Literature Subject Test?

In some cases, it won't be a matter of choice; you'll have to take the SAT Literature Subject Test based on the requirements of the program in which you're choosing to apply. You must check with your program's requirements to see if you're one of the lucky applicants that must sit for the test. If a particular program doesn't require the test, then some people choose to take the exam to show off their skills if they're masters in Literature. It can really give your application score a boost if your SAT Lit score is through the roof.

How to Prepare for the SAT Literature Subject Test

Mostly, if you've done really well in your 3-4 years of Literature-based classes in high school, love to read outside of class, and can usually understand and analyze what's going on in various literary passages, you should do just fine on this exam. For those of you who have to take the test and Literature isn't your strongest suit, then I'd definitely recommend hitting up your English teacher for some extra assignments to help you get better at analyzing the material.

Good Luck!

  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Test Prep
  4. SAT
  5. SAT Literature Subject Test Information

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.