Advice for SAT Subject Tests

By: Katherine Zeng

When it comes to college, many students consider taking an SAT subject test to enhance their application. There are around twenty different SAT subject tests that cover various subjects in history, english, math, science, or language. Each is one hour long and  multiple choice. The lowest possible score is 200 and the full score is 800. Although not all colleges require to take this kind of exam, getting a good score on this test can show your strengths and indicate a preference for your future career.

I suggest that you take a test in a subject you excel in or enjoy, and have learned recently so studying for the SAT subject test would be less painful. Of course, there might be areas that you have not learned before, but it would not be much. If you are not sure whether to take a SAT subject test, a way to test your knowledge is by borrowing the Official College Board SAT Subject Test Study Guide from the library and taking a practice test. The College Board website also includes a list of topics that are going to be tested in the subject test.

If you learned most of the material, but have forgotten some, it is still not too late to study while you still remember some of it. When picking a test date, make sure that you have a few months to study because it is not fun cramming in everything you need to know in a few days. After picking out a test date, preferably in June or August, create a schedule that allows you to study with ease and efficiency. It’s understandable that students tend to procrastinate, and that is okay. However, make sure that you are still able to stay on track of your schedule.

Instead of studying from school notes, I highly recommend studying from workbooks that focus on the SAT subject test such as Barron's and Princeton Review. In many cases, notes from school do not teach what is on the test or might teach things that you do not need to know. Although many people only work with one workbook, I suggest using two. Not only does that solidify your memory, it also allows you to learn things that might not be mentioned in one book and clarify information you are not sure about. Both workbooks have practice problems after each unit, two practice tests, and teach content that will most likely appear on the test. Since both books teach differently, you may end up with a preference over the other. For example, Princeton Review does a great job explaining in detail with diagrams and the language is simpler. However, Barron’s is also a great resource despite being harder to understand because it covers many lessons and begins with a diagnostic test.

When it comes to getting a good score on a test, doing many problems is the key. The book that everyone should at least use is the Official SAT Subject Test Study Guide by College Board because it is created by testmaker and should resemble the test the most. However, the book does not reteach the material and only contains 2 tests. Therefore, I would take it last after studying the workbooks to practice taking the test.

In order to not have short term memory, I highly recommend taking notes of things you don't know as well and separately memorize it. I would read all the material and make sure I have a general understanding of each unit because the test is only one hour long and cannot possibly test everything. I suggest studying almost everyday for a total of a few hours a week. If the material is hard to memorize, try placing post it notes around the house in areas you constantly walk by.

Study methods are very important because one can study for a long time but does not get a good score. First, do not study consecutively for many hours because it will make your brain tired and sluggish. Instead, try taking breaks in between study sessions. Second, according to experts, exercising can improve memory and thinking skills. Therefore, I suggest that you exercise for at least 30 minutes before studying to learn more efficiently. Third, study in the morning, not at night, when your brain is not tired. Fourth, everyone has potential so try your best!

If you studied enough, you should relax on the days before the test and get a good night’s sleep. On the day of the test, eat a good breakfast with protein and don’t be nervous. If you do not do as well on the SAT subject test, so what? Your SAT subject test score certainly does not define you and can be removed. Also, there are about six more chances during the year to retake the exam and you can send your best score to colleges. However, do not spend all of your time studying for the optional SAT subject test in order to get a perfect 800 because your GPA, SAT I, and hobbies are more important.