SAT Subject Test - Literature

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The SAT offers 20 different subject tests in addition to the general SAT exam. These subject tests are offered as a way to demonstrate a student’s proficiency in a specific area of academia and are taken by students depending on their particular interests.  Colleges could possibly recommend one or multiple tests and some may require a specific test as part of their program prerequisites.  It is recommended to take these tests only if you have taken, or are currently taking, courses in the respective subject area.  It is also recommended that non-native speakers of the English language take one or more of the subject tests depending on the program in which they wish to apply.  This allows ESL and international students the opportunity to perform well in subjects that may not fall under the general content of the SAT.  It may be recommended for homeschooled students to take one or more subject tests, so colleges have additional information pertaining to the skills and knowledge they learned outside of the traditional classroom setting.

The subject tests consist of multiple-choice questions and a student is allowed one hour per subject test, up to a maximum of three tests per day.  For more general information about SAT Subject Tests, click here.

The SAT Subject Test in Literature allows students to exhibit their ability in reading and interpretation from historical documents and a variety of writing genres.  The test is comprised of 60 multiple-choice questions and students are given 60 minutes to complete the exam.  The test consists of between six and eight sets of questions, with each set based on a passage of literature.  There are passages taken from various time periods in the history of literature and some questions associated with the passages may be quite unique, so it is important for a student to pay as much attention to historical details as possible.

Students are assessed on their knowledge of literary terminology such as tone, image, irony, and alliteration. They should have a good understanding of the theme and overall meaning of a written passage. Literary forms, such as genre and structure are also represented in the test. Students should have the ability to choose the correct use of language and understand the meanings of different words used within the context of a sentence. Students should understand tone and attitude as it is used in a speaker’s written voice.

It is recommended that students have the following:

  • 3-4 years of college prep literature classes
  • Understanding of entire novels and plays
  • Critical reading of drama and poetry

Selections from three major categories are included on the SAT Subject Test in Literature: question source, chronology, and genre.  Question source is comprised of American Literature, English Literature, and literature from other areas written in the English language. Chronology includes works from the Renaissance as well as the 17th Century, 18th and 19th Centuries, and the 20th Century. Genre categories include passages from essays and fictional works, poetry, and drama.

For more information and to access online practice questions for the SAT Subject Test in Literature, visit the link here.

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