What is SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing?

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Whether you’ve taken the SAT before or you’re just starting out on your test prep journey, understanding how the SAT is structured can help you improve your score significantly. If you want to make sure that you do well on the “English” portion of the SAT, then you’ll definitely want to make sure you know what to expect on test day!

 

SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing: An Overview

 

The SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section (or EBRW for short) is one of the two main sections of the SAT. The EBRW is made up of two tests, the Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test.

 

Although the skills and concepts tested on both the Reading and Writing and Language Tests are likely ones that you were taught in your English class, the tests themselves are very different from each other.

 

The Reading Test is always the first test on the SAT. On this test, you’ll read short passages excerpted from novels and academic nonfiction. Then, you’ll answer a series of questions pertaining to each passage. The questions will test you on your reading comprehension and analysis skills, similar to what you might do when discussing a literary work in class. Here are some quick facts about the Reading Test:

 

  • Time: 65 minutes
  • Questions: 52
  • Number of passages: 4 single passages plus one pair of passages
  • Passage subjects: one literary passage, two history/social studies passages, two science passages
  • Questions per passage: 10 or 11

 

The Writing and Language Test is always the second test on the SAT. These passages are works-in-progress that contain some grammatical errors or poor stylistic choices, and the questions ask you to choose the answer that would improve the passage. It’s similar to what you would do when editing or revising a paper for improvement. Here are some quick facts about the Writing and Language Test:

 

  • Time: 35 minutes
  • Questions: 44
  • Number of passages: 4
  • Passage subjects: one career-related, one humanities, one history/social studies, one science
  • Questions per passage: 11

 

Impact of Evidence-Based Reading and Writing on SAT Score

 

The SAT has two main sections: the Evidence-Based Reading and Writing section and the Math section. Each of these sections are scored between 200 and 800, and they are combined to form your total score out of 1600. This means that your EBRW score is a huge component of your overall SAT score—50%, to be exact.

 

As we mentioned earlier, the Reading Test and the Writing and Language Test comprise the EBRW. These tests are scored between 10 and 40, and your performance on these tests will determine your overall EBRW score. Using the scoring guidelines from a College Board sample test, we can figure out how your test scores convert to your section score.

 

Here’s how to quickly estimate your EBRW score:

 

  1. Add your Writing and Language Test Score and the Reading Test score together. Let’s use 25 and 29 as example scores for the respective tests. Adding them together gives us 54.
  2. Multiply the sum of your test scores by 10 to get an accurate section score. Using our previous example, multiping 54 by 10 yields a section score of 540.

 

Colleges tend to use the section scores when making admissions decisions, but that doesn’t mean they won’t look at the individual test scores as well. Some colleges use the individual test scores on the Reading and the Writing and Language test to determine class placement or eligibility for scholarships and honors programs, so keep that in mind as you set test score goals for yourself.

 

Improving Your SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing Score

 

Most students begin blindly practicing for the SAT when they want to improve their score. Although you might be able to improve your score this way, it’s better to use a strategic approach. To do that, let’s review the foundation you need to know how to improve your score.

 

First, you need to have a base score to start with so that you can identify where you want to focus your efforts. Take one of the free SAT practice tests available from the College Board and do your best to simulate test-day conditions. Since you’re focusing on the EBRW score, you don’t have to complete the math portion if you want to save yourself some time.

 

Next, score your practice test. One of the advantages of using the SAT practice test is you can see exactly which questions you missed. If they belonged to a subscore, that can clue you into whether there is a question type that you need to improve on. You also want to reflect on the quality of your test-taking experience. Did you rush, second-guess yourself, or experience test anxiety?

 

Once you’ve figured out where you need to improve, you can target your studying and preparation efforts. Here are some common areas students want to improve on the EBRW and how you can get better at them:

 

Brush up on grammar. The Writing and Language Test covers concepts like grammar and writing composition, but many students never formally learn grammar in school. If you want a top score on this section, then you should at least review grammar rules, especially anything that you have questions about. There are plenty of short and engaging resources for grammar on the internet, but we recommend finding an SAT-specific book at the library to get a more complete overview.

 

Prevent second-guessing: come up with your own answer first. On the Math section of the SAT, students tend to solve the question and then match one of the answer choices to the solution they came up with. Most students don’t apply this same strategy to the EBRW, but you can use this strategy to spot the right answer and prevent yourself from being confused by tricky wording.

 

Read the question and, without looking at the choices, think about what you would say the answer is. Once it’s clear in your mind (or you can jot down a phrase or two) look at the answer choices to see which one matches your answer the best. You’ll need to practice this at your own pace a few times before you try to implement it on a timed SAT.

 

Tackle paired passages one at a time. The Reading Test features a pair of short passages that share the same set of questions, which allows the SAT to ask you to compare and contrast these passages. The structure for the set of questions is usually like this: there are 3 or 4 questions for Passage 1, 3 or 4 for Passage 2, and 3 for both passages.

 

To avoid getting overwhelmed, and to help you keep the passages straight in your mind, read Passage 1 first and then answer the questions that only deal with Passage 1. Go back and read Passage 2 right before answering the questions that deal with Passage 2, and then you can move on to the questions that involve both passages.

 

We hope that gives you a good place to start when it comes to improving your score and feeling more confident on test day. Need more tips for preparing for the SAT? Download our free guide with our top 8 tips for mastering the SAT.

 

For more test-taking advice, check out these posts below:

 

10 Ways to Overcome Test Taking Anxiety

5 Common SAT Math Mistakes to Avoid

How to Get a Perfect Score on the SAT Essay

What is a Good, Bad, and Excellent SAT Score? Here’s How to Think About It.

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Gianna Cifredo
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Gianna Cifredo is a graduate of the University of Central Florida, where she majored in Philosophy. She has six years of higher education and test prep experience, and now works as a freelance writer specializing in education. She currently lives in Orlando, Florida and is a proud cat mom.