If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my high school career, it’s that you can be subject to standardized testing in practically anything. Case in point, in addition to the PSAT, SAT, ACT, and AP, here’s another acronym to account for – the SAT II.
What is the SAT II?
The SAT II, also called the Subject SAT, essentially tests your knowledge on high school level subjects. The SAT II offers specialized exams for all sorts of subjects, like French, Biology, Literature, and much more (for a full list click here). Unlike the SAT, the SAT II is not a grueling exam whose main objective is to suck your soul out. Think of the subject SAT like your school midterm or final exams; they require hard work and preparation, but if you study the syllabus, you’ll do amazing.
Why Colleges Care
SAT IIs are great ways of showing colleges how much you already know about a certain subject. Taking a SAT II demonstrates your dedication to the discipline, and keeps you competitive against the slew of admissions hoping for a spot at your school of choice. Interesting in pursuing engineering? Consider taking a math or physics subject test score to give your application an extra edge.
Some colleges (cough cough Georgetown) require SAT II scores for admission. Again, the key is to set the odds in your favor! High school is a whirlwind of activities, and making time to learn three years of biology is not ideal. Stick to what you know, brushing up on main ideas and test-taking techniques.
Now if you’re like me, you want to take every test available because, well, they exist. This is the wrong mentality – it will cause unneeded stress, which will have a negative impact on all your subject test scores.
Acing the SAT IIs
1. Don’t Eat with Your Eyes: Choose a maximum of three subject SATs to take. Remember, just like the SAT, you need to pay for SAT IIs too. Also, keep in mind you can only write three SAT IIs on a day. Figure out which test subjects you’re most comfortable with and will help you in your prospective field.
2. Start Studying Early: At least 3 months before your test, purchase a study book and set aside a time each week to work on it. Go over the course material, supplementing your book with class notes. Make flash cards, study sheets, diagrams, whatever floats your study method.
3. Practice, Practice, Practice: Knowing the material covered on the exam is only half the battle. Subject SAT tests are only 60 minutes long, so getting used to a tight time constraint will help you on test day.
4. Study for the Test: Many people get too focused on relearning the course material they forget to look at the big picture. Let’s be honest; will College Board test you on obscure French vocab like your teacher did? Probably not. Step back from the nitty-gritty and focus on the main topics.
5. Ask for Help: Before writing my Spanish subject test, I approached my teacher for help, and spent some time after school going over grammar with her. Don’t be afraid to ask your teachers or tutors for extra practice, they will appreciate your additional effort.
6. Love the Algebra You’re In: The best way to succeed on the SAT IIs is to genuinely love the topic. If you are taking AP World History and spend your free time Wikipedia-ing Napoleon’s rise to power, you should consider taking the World History subject test. Being motivated and driven about the subject will make studying more enjoyable and easier.
SAT IIs are a necessary evil, but they are completely conquerable. Remember, the main reason for taking subject SATs is to show your interest and knowledge in a certain area, and that can only happen if you truly love the subject. It’s important to not get bogged down in the sea of standardized tests and stress, and just simply enjoy the ride.