SAT Subject Test in Literature

Information about and links to learning resources for the SAT Literature Test

The SAT Subject Test in Literature: What It Is

The SAT Subject Test in Literature is one of the SAT Subject Tests, a series of hour-long tests that measure high school students’ knowledge and skill in specific subjects. The tests are used by many American colleges and universities as a factor in the admissions process. Some schools consider them, some recommend them, and some require them (usually two subject tests). The College Board maintains a list of the schools that use them here. Students should consult individual schools’ websites regarding the schools’ current policies.

What It Covers

The Subject Test in Literature is 60 minutes long and contains approximately 60 multiple-choice questions testing students’ understanding of English-language literature. The questions are based on brief literary selections from a variety of genres, forms (prose, poetry, drama), and time periods (from the Renaissance through the 20th century). Most selections are prose passages or poems by American or British authors. The choices are based on what most American high school students are likely to have studied in their English courses. The questions cover a number of literary concepts and skills, including basic literary terminology, theme, form, use of language, meanings in context, narrative voice, and characterization.

When It Is Given

The Subject Test in Literature is generally taken by 11th- and 12th-grade students as a step in the college application process. It is offered six times each school year, from late August through early June. Current information about SAT Subject Test testing dates can be found here.

How It Is Scored

Students receive an overall SAT Subject Test score of between 200 and 800. This “scaled score” is based on the “raw score,” which is determined by the following formula:

  • One point is awarded for each correct answer.
  • Since the Literature Test has five answer choices for each question, 1/4 point is deducted from the total for each incorrect answer.
  • No points are deducted for unanswered questions.
  • The total score is rounded to the nearest whole number.

The resulting raw score is then converted to the final scaled score based on a scale that is adjusted to each test version’s level of difficulty.

Note that unlike the current version of the SAT, the scoring system for the Subject Tests DOES penalize incorrect guesses.

For a more detailed discussion of the scoring system and process, see the College Board’s How SAT Subject Tests Are Scored page.

SAT Subject Test in Literature Resources

Literature Subject Test: The main Literature Test page on the College Board website with links to information about more specific topics.

SAT Subject Test Registration: Get information about test dates and registration deadlines, registration fees, where you can take the SAT Subject Tests, and how to register online or by mail.

SAT Subject Tests Student Guide (PDF): An introduction to all of the subject tests. The section on the Literature Test contains a few sample selections and questions. Detailed answer explanations can be found here.

Literature Subject Test Practice: Official test questions on the College Board website. Unfortunately, the College Board has chosen to make very few official test questions available to the public. Here there are only 23 questions, and some of them duplicate the questions in the student guide.

The Official SAT Study Guide for All SAT Subject Tests: A book published by the College Board with information about and practice tests for all of the subject tests. It includes only one official Literature test. It is available at a discounted price on Amazon.

The many resources in the Literature section of Camilla’s English Page are also highly relevant for students preparing for the Literature Subject Test.

Test Preparation Pages




SAT Literature