Preparing for SAT Subject Tests


Like I Need to Take Another Test?

Why is taking SAT Subject Tests a good idea? Because they CAN help your admissions prospects, but they CANNOT hurt them. With the CollegeBoard’s Score Choice policy, you need release to colleges only those scores with which you’re happy. That’s true even if you take three tests on the same day and choose to release none, one, two, or all three.  It’s a bit different for the big SAT exam, but that’s the topic of a different blog (see SAT & ACT Score Reporting: Facts and Fiction). So if you’re on the fence about one or two of these Subject Tests, remember what I always say, “If you really can’t decide, take your doubts and push them aside” (actually, I just made that up).

Should I Bother Studying for the Subject Tests?

There are two basic reasons it’s worth your while to study for the Subject Tests: First, it’s likely you’re going to have a final exam on the same subject around the same time. I personally enjoy killing two academic birds with the same studying stone. And second, unlike the SAT Reasoning Test and the ACT, the Subject Tests are PURE MATERIAL—the test makers are really not out to trick you here; rather, they’re trying to assess how much you actually know about the subject. That’s good news because we can study and, yes, cram that finite body of material! It’s also a really nice way to synthesize a year’s worth of work and to crystallize what you’ve learned in your long-term memory.

The Subject Test Study Plan

There are three main components of a successful SAT Subject Test study plan:

1)  Get a prep book and take written (or typed) notes on the material you don’t already know.  Don’t write everything down—no need to reproduce the book you just bought ;-).  But ACTIVE STUDYING—that is, writing down what you don’t already know or perhaps have forgotten—is a highly effective way to memorize that material.  It wouldn’t hurt to look at these notes, too, on a regular basis between now and the test day. As for which book to buy, I like CollegeBoard books, Princeton Review, McGraw-Hill, and Barron’s, in that order.  See the Links page for my most commonly used prep books.

2) Use Quizlet.com to study from pre-made sets of flashcards. (If you’re unfamiliar with Quizlet, see my post Quizlet.com: Fun, Free, and Effective.) All you have to do is search on SAT and your particular subject (e.g., SAT Chemistry, SAT US History, SAT Literature). I recommend you “Export” the sets and “Reuse these Terms” for two reasons: a) They’ll be in your Dashboard for easy access on return visits and b) you can change and add to any of the terms, i.e., based on your notes from 1) above.

3) Take timed practice tests to see how you’re doing, i.e., scoring, and go over very carefully what you got wrong and left blank. Add that material to your notes and/or Quizlet sets.

Repeat these three steps over and over and over until you’re getting the scores you want!


About CollegePrepExpress

The primary purpose of CollegePrepExpress, LLC is to help students get into their top secondary schools, colleges, and graduate schools and to reduce stress surrounding the entire admissions process.

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