Literary Excerpt passages may sound daunting but they're simply page long selections from novels and short stories.
Remember to read the ITALICS! Here's an example:
This passage is from Henry James's 1897 novel "What Maisie Knew", set in late nineteenth-century England. Here, Beale and Ida are in the midst of a quarrel regarding their young daughter Maisie.
Many students skip the italics that precede literary excerpts the same way they skip the test's directions, but the difference is that the italicized remarks actually serve a purpose: to give you a clarifying sneak preview of what you're about to read. In the sample above, for instance, we're given the setting, time period, and names of the main characters.
Even more importantly, we're given the relationship among the characters and a hint of the conflict - i.e. plot - that we're about to read. Not all of the SAT's italics are as forthcoming, but most of them reveal the setting, time period, and characters, which at the very least gives you a leg up on comprehending passages that feature challengingly antiquated language!