sherlock_holmes_statueOne of the toughest aspects of the SAT reading section is the Evidence Based question. This is because a standard SAT reading passage will bombard you with a barrage of details and evidences; yet, only a few of these will truly be pertinent to what a question asks for or to the passage’s main idea.  That said, finding these important evidences is essential to doing well on the SAT.

An evidence is essentially any piece of information that proves or disproves something; it provides grounds for a belief. With this perspective let’s demystify what is actually tested on SAT evidence based questions.

Start paying attention to details

Proficient readers look carefully for clues to find the author’s intent. They will analyze the choice of words the author uses . For instance, a lot can be understood when an author uses a certain word, a type of sentence, a telling detail, builds an imagery, or utilizes figure of speech. Just as a good detective knows which clues are significant and which are irrelevant, adept readers know which of these authorial choices reveal deeper meaning upon further analysis.

To master the evidence based question, you must

  1. Observe the details
  2. Pay attention to the question stem
  3. Use your senses to find the correct clue
  4. Eliminate irrelevant details

Let’s look at these steps more closely.

Observe the details

Read with a pencil in hand, and annotate the text. “Annotating” means underlining or highlighting keywords and phrases – anything that strikes you as surprising or significant, or that raises questions – as well as making notes in the margins. When we respond to a text in this way, we not only force ourselves to pay close attention, but also begin to think with the author about the evidence.

Sentences that tell more about the main idea are called facts and details.  Facts and details explain or support the most important idea in the paragraph.

  • Facts and details provide information about the main idea.
  • Facts and details often tell about the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the main idea.

We would have too many details but don’t get distracted by too many details.

Pay attention to the Question stem

This means you should identify the keywords and line references in the question stem. Apply question type strategies as necessary. In a broader sense you would have three types of questions. Global, specific and Inferences. Know more about these in our upcoming blog.

Use your senses to find the right clue

I am sure all the crossword solvers know when and how to use the clues effectively. Right clues are the ones which take yourself closer to the right answer. Sometimes we can take the help of the context clues in a passage to solve the question.However locate the exact context for a question about the same as there is a possibility of falling into trap options.

The other clues are the detour and the straight ahead road signs. Most of the time questions are asked either after the contrast indicator or before and viceversa.

Eliminate irrelevant details

Irrelevant details always distract us from picking up the correct answer.They are always out of the scope of the question. So, for us even if we find a single word which doesn’t match the tone of the author,must be eliminated.


Suresh Daniel has been teaching English for about 15 years now. He is an avid reader and loves to indulge in passionate discussions about philosophy and other abstract subjects. He is extremely fun loving and you can find him having the most fun when he is teaching!


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