Literature SAT Subject Test

Read and analyze excerpts from novels, poems, essays and more.

If you plan to major in English or a related discipline, you may be required to take the Literature SAT Subject Test. Unlike the general SAT, the literature test measures only your ability to read and analyze literary texts.
The test contains 60 multiple choice questions grouped into 6 or 8 sections, with each section focused on a different text. These texts are excerpts from novels, poems, dramas or literary essays, most of which were written before 1900.
As with the other SAT subjects tests, you will have one hour to complete the exam.

What’s on the Test (and What Isn’t)

The Literature SAT Subject Test assesses your reading and critical analysis skills. You will be expected to understand and identify the following:

  • Meaning, theme and argument
  • Form, genre and structure
  • Tone, diction and syntax
  • Figurative language, imagery and metaphor
  • Narrative Voice
  • Characterization

In addition, you should be familiar with basic literary terminology such as irony, stanza and couplet.
The Literature SAT Subject Test does not examine your knowledge of specific literary periods, movements or authors. However, historical background is useful when orienting yourself to difficult texts, so a cursory overview of major periods (e.g. Romanticism) and writers (e.g. Shakespeare) is recommended.

How is the Literature SAT Subject Test Scored?

As with the other SAT subject tests, the literature exam receives a score between 200 and 800. Be aware that the SAT does not penalize you for leaving an answer blank, so strategize accordingly.
The average (mean) score for the 2011 SAT Literature Subject Test was 576.
The literature test may sound daunting, but if you know how to prepare for the SAT, you’ll find yourself more confident than overwhelmed, not to mention extremely well-read!

Other SAT Subject Tests You Can Take: