SAT Tutor: Preparing for SAT Subject Tests

Posted by College Corner on 3/7/13 10:05 AM

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Many high school students choose to take subject tests (aka, SAT IIs) that align with their high school academics, but watch out, the tests sometimes diverge from your in-school curricula. 

Choosing ubject tests in which you already have familiarity is a great way to start because you'll benefit from an existing knowledege base. Doing well on these tests is a great way to strengthen your college admissions application, but don't rely solely on your in-school prowess to do well...

Why? Well, because these tests are "standardized" meaning they aim to test a common core known to students across the United States and around the world.There might be gaps in your knowledge that you aren't aware of. 

Some schools let teachers design courses from scratch, or have insufficient resources to provide a fleshed-out course.  For example, you might end up with a teacher who is obsessed with the constitution and skims over the Revolutionary Way (US History SAT II), or a teacher who finds cell biology to be more interesting then genetics (Bio SAT II). Since every school differs slightly (or a lot!) in its curricula and approach to teaching, this means your high school course may not map on directly to the subject test.

You can get ahead by covering your bases with thorough standardized test preparation. Don't wait until test day to find out that you never learned about irregular verb stems (French SAT II) or stoichemitry (Chemistry SAT II)! 

Here are some ways to make sure that you are well-prepared:

  • Make sure you use official materials to prepare for these tests. These comprehensive books are designed to cover all sections of the tests.
  • Even if you are receiving all As at school, make sure that you have mastered the topics in the books and feel comfortable with the test format.
  • Be planful in your standardized test preparation. Don't wait until the last day to start reading about a totally new topic, because "you are acing your super hard physics class and therefore don't need to study".
  • Work with someone who has taken the test before or who has helped prepare students for the test. He or she will know exactly what you should expect and can help guide and structure your preparation. 

None of this is to say that you high school course is lacking. Keep in mind that standardized exams have to test information in broad strokes so the topics covered are extensive and presented in ways that aim to trick the test taker! 

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