There are 5 different types of critical reading questions. Here are our tips and advice for each type:


These questions are the “low hanging fruit” of the critical reasoning section. You will find the answers to them verbatim inside the passage. To be quite frank, only mental fatigue and lack of concentration should prevent you from acing the detail questions.

Be sure to read one line above and one line below the line number reference in the question!


These questions are a little more difficult. The key here is to decide how the particular word is being used in the passage. Be very well aware that ETS, the test writers, will deliberately choose a word with more than one meaning and the correct answer will NOT be the vocabulary word’s primary meaning.

An example might be a passage about an individual “ready to explode”. There will be an incorrect choice that defines this to mean a literal explosion. The correct choice will say something along the lines of “The pent-up frustration and stress was getting ready to cause him to lose his temper.”


Questions such as “The author’s attitude towards…” are what we refer to here as “tone” questions. The correct answer will never be too strongly worded. As a result, you can eliminate answer choices such as “lunatic and irrational” and — at a minimum, put our friend Process of Elimination to work on your SAT test score behalf.


These are the most difficult critical reading questions for most of the students that we have helped on the SAT1. You must judge what the author is advocating and what his “agenda” is. Practice and process of elimination should net you at least a few points out of these questions even if inferences and implications are not your forté.

Main Idea

Since all the questions count equally and these questions will take the most time to complete, answer these questions last if you have the time. Examine the opening and ending sentences of each paragraph.

The topic sentences in SAT1 tests are almost always implied. Think proactively as you are reading the opening and ending paragraph sentence, “Who is the passage about?”, “Why is the author making these individual points?”, etc. The main idea will be supported by the arguments. It will never be extraneous to any of the points made in the passage.

Where to go from here:

SAT critical reading practice questions