By Jessica Brondo of The Edge
As US universities become more competitive, more are requiring additional tests other than the SAT. All universities are accepting the SAT and ACT interchangeably now, but some schools are requiring SAT II exams and a lot are “strongly suggesting” several AP exams, when applicable. For some of you, the SAT II might be somewhat of a foreign test since most schools didn’t require it. To clarify, the SAT II exams are subject tests that are knowledge-based rather than logical reasoning-based like the SAT.
There are a variety of different subjects available for SAT IIs, including Math Level 1 & 2, Literature, US History, World History, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and several languages. Most schools will require either two or three if they require them at all. It is always a good idea to take the exam either immediately after completing a school course in the given subject (June exam) or immediately after the summer after completing the course (October exam). For students who missed the June exam date, the October test date is a great time to finalize all of the SAT IIs.
Selecting the Right Test
You want to choose tests that showcase your academic strengths and interests. For example, if you plan to apply as a Pre-Med student, you might want to take a Science and a Math exam; however, ultimately you want to take the tests on which you will score the highest. In general, most students opt to take one Math test, but selecting the appropriate test is important. The Level 2 test is significantly harder than the Level 1 and requires basic Pre-Calculus knowledge, whereas the Level 1 is predominantly focused on trigonometry and linear geometry. An important thing to remember, though, is that the scoring table on the Level 2 test is much more favorable than the Level 1 test in that you can get 2-5 questions wrong and still get a perfect score, while your score on the Level 1 test drops significantly with just one question wrong.
The other tests are pretty straightforward in terms of the subject matter, but there are some nuances you should know. The World History tests knowledge of Ancient civilizations, Chinese, and South American cultures in additional to European history, so AP European History students should definitely supplement their studies. In terms of the Science tests, the Physics tends to be the hardest for most students and the Chemistry is significantly harder than most general chemistry final exams, so it’s best for either Honors or AP Chemistry students. The Biology test has two options: Ecology or Molecular. The Molecular option is much easier for most students as most high school biology courses spend more time on the Molecular subject matter than on the ecological.
Other than that, it’s never too early to start taking these, so if you finish a Trigonometry course in ninth grade, don’t be afraid to take them early.