SAT English : Literature Subject Test Preparation

Studying for the SAT Subject Test in Literature likely seems like a daunting challenge to many students, even those who consider English to be their best subject.

The test expects students to be familiar with the conventions of prose, poetry, and drama across five centuries, to know the terms and vocabulary used to discuss specific literary and rhetorical devices, and to be able to pick apart what the densest of literary passages actually mean.

While the SAT Subject Test in Literature is certainly a challenge, it is a challenge that can be met with the right attitude and proper preparation.

By learning the types of questions the SAT Subject Test in Literature asks and the way it which it asks them, as well as taking a brief but comprehensive look at literary history, you can prepare yourself adequately for the SAT Subject Test in Literature in less time than you’d think.

The SAT Subject Test in Literature assesses your ability to analyze literature; it is less about identifying certain works of literature than it is about figuring out what they say and identifying the devices that they employ.

A college student writing notes in class

The test consists of about 60 multiple-choice questions, which correspond to a number of passages of poetry, prose, or drama of varying lengths in sets of six to eight questions each.

So, the test contains about ten literary passages. You are given one hour in which to read the passages and answer the questions.

Student learning online

All of the questions on the SAT Subject Test in Literature are multiple-choice; there is no essay component. Since it consists of only multiple-choice answers, the literary analysis on the SAT Subject Test in Literature is a much more linear process than if the test were exam-based; instead of considering the wide-ranging and diverse implications of a passage, for instance, you will be asked to identify certain literary devices and answer relatively pointed questions about the possible interpretations of the passage.

Even given the specific and relatively unambiguous nature of the exam’s questions, some students may still be apprehensive about how they can familiarize themselves with the common conventions and styles of such a broad range of English literature.

You can use Varsity Tutors’ free SAT Subject Test in Literature Practice Tests to start investigating wide-ranging examples of passages from different time periods and genres, all while answering SAT Subject Test in Literature questions about them.

Each SAT Subject Test in Literature Practice Test consists of between ten and twelve SAT Subject Test in Literature questions, and what’s more, each question includes a detailed explanation of the reasoning that was used to reach and justify the correct answer.

So, make sure to read the explanations for any questions you miss or don’t feel that you completely understand; this will help you to realize your strengths and weaknesses in SAT Subject Test in Literature material and streamline your studies.

By making use of all of the free SAT Subject Test in Literature resources offered by Varsity Tutors, you can prepare yourself for the exam in a way that is both efficient and comprehensive, and feel completely prepared for the exam!

The Literature Subject Test gives you the opportunity to highlight your strengths in reading and interpreting literary texts from a variety of historical periods and genres.

Taking the test also gives you the opportunity to showcase your interests and enhance your college application.

Test Basics
Scoring, Timing, Number of Questions

Anticipated Skills

Knowledge of basic literary terminology, such as irony, stanza, image, tone, alliteration, and speaker (highly specialized terms are not covered).

Understanding of the following literary concepts:

Overall meaning, including effect and theme

Form, including structure, genre, and organization

Use of language, including word choice, imagery and metaphor

Meanings and connotations of specific words in context

Narrative voice, including tone and attitude

Characterization in narrative and dramatic selections

Recommended Preparation

3–4 years of literary study at the college-preparatory level

Close, critical reading in English and American literature from a variety of historical periods and genres

Reading of complete novels and plays — not just excerpts
Independent, critical reading of poetry, prose, and drama

Topics On the Test

Three sets of classifications describe the selections on the Literature Subject Test.

Additional Things to Know

There are six to eight sets of questions on the test, each based on a different literary text.

Each selection is followed by a date (usually of first publication). Questions don’t ask about the historical background of the content, but you may find the date helpful when orienting yourself to the selection.

Each set of questions addresses some features of the literary selection that may be distinctive or even unique. For example, if a poem presents a complex reading task, the set may also include some questions that focus on the meaning of specific words or lines in order to measure your ability to read and understand the poem accurately.

Please note that this test reflects what is commonly taught in high school. Due to differences in high school classes, it’s likely that most students will find questions on topics they’re not familiar with. This is nothing to worry about. You do not have to get every question correct to receive the highest score (800) for the test. Many students do well despite not having studied every topic covered.

We assess each student to gauge their exact needs and prepare a tailored study plan to address their gaps and weaknesses. So go ahead sign up your child for a FREE individual 60 mins Trial lesson now and watch your child progress (yes, we track student’s progress too)!

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