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SAT Strategies: Citing Evidence

Let's set the stage. You sit down on your first SAT and jump into the Reading section. You get a few questions in, then are faced with something that looks like this:

And this question is a pain. All of a sudden, you're flipping back and forth between the question and the passage, checking out all of the lines, seeing which ones fit with your answer to the previous question, and hoping that you got the previous question correct-because if you didn't, then how are you supposed to get this one correct?

And what's worse, these questions are everywhere. It's not something that you see just once or twice; it keeps coming up, time and time again, more frequently than any other question type. The inefficiencies build up, and you end up tight on time for the final passage. You rush the last three to five questions and end up frazzled and worn out going into the Reading section. Sound familiar?


Too many students to count have come to me with poor timing in the Reading section, and Citing Evidence questions are one of the most common causes. They're the most common question type on the SAT, bar none (they show up 8 to 11 times per test, with an average frequency of 9.6), and can contribute 80+ points to your final score.

But the largest issue with Citing Evidence is inefficiency. Many students approach questions one at a time, which slows them down and opens them up to more mistakes. However, by just changing a few parts of our process, we can turn this question type from a burden to a boon.

  • Approach both questions at the same time

One of the first mistakes students make is doing these questions one at a time. Most Citing Evidence questions have an antecedent; a linked question that comes beforehand.

So why shouldn't we do them one at a time? Because the Citing Evidence question is full of hints for the previous question. One of the Citing Evidence answers has to support the correct answer to the antecedent-so you can use that to your advantage and look for a pair of answers that work well together.

  • Underline the answer choices

The second problem caused by Citing Evidence questions is the inefficiency they encourage. Flipping back and forth between pages is a good way to eat up your time-and when you only have 75 seconds per question, you don't have a lot of time to waste!

Simply spend 15 seconds underlining the answer choices, though, and you can easily look back and forth between them. The SAT is a high-stress, high-focus environment; having even one less thing to keep in mind can do a lot to help you choose between answers!


There is, however, a second variant of Citing Evidence that requires slightly different strategies.

This variant skips the "first question" and just leaves you with the task of finding evidence. You might need to provide evidence for an assertion or even find someone's response to an assertion.

This variant is, on the whole, a little bit easier; you don't need to approach two questions at the same time, but underlining the answer choices will still often be helpful for deciding between them.


Students preparing for the Digital SAT might wonder how these questions will work in the new version of the test. The short answer is... they don't! Citing Evidence questions do not show up on the Digital SAT in their current form.

There will be new questions that test a similar skillset. However, they will ask you to form an assertion using specific, provided evidence-the exact opposite of current Citing Evidence questions!

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