How to Score Well on the SAT Biology Subject Test
To score well on the SAT Biology subject test, it is important to understand foundational concepts and be able to recall facts and concepts. Moreover, the ability to interpret information presented in graphs and tables will be necessary.
Both the E and M versions of the exam cover the same 60 questions, with 20 specialized to ecological or molecular topics. Therefore, the choice of which test to take should be based on your career aspirations or planned major.
If you have taken a standard high school biology course and have a strong grasp of the material, you should be well-equipped for this test. A one-year introductory AP biology course will also be very helpful for this exam, especially if you have been through a few labs.
This is a multiple-choice exam with 80 questions. It includes 60 “common core” questions covering Cellular and Molecular Biology, Ecology, Classical Genetics, and Organismal Biology, as well as 20 specialized Biology E or M questions. You cannot take both types of questions at the same time; you will choose either E or M on the day of your test.
Questions on this test will often present a scenario and ask you to make deductions or calculations based on the information provided. This will often involve data such as a chart or graph, so it is important to know how to interpret this type of information. It is also important to be efficient, so if you spend too much time on a question and don’t seem to be getting closer to an answer, just move on.
Structure and Function
Unlike most SAT Subject Tests, which feature free-response questions, the Biology Subject Test is a multiple-choice exam that requires an hour to complete 80 questions. Moreover, students can choose to take the Ecology (E) or Molecular (M) section. Both sections cover the same topics, but the M section includes more questions on Cellular and Molecular Biology than the E version.
Regardless of which section you choose, the majority of the questions are designed to assess your ability to make deductions and calculations based on given information. For example, about 70% of the questions present a scenario like a chart or description of a lab procedure and ask you to apply your knowledge of independent and dependent variables. You might also be asked to recall biological facts directly. Questions looking at diagrams can also make up a significant percentage of the Biology Subject Test, including ones on molecular and cell structure or mitochondrial function. Fortunately, there are several resources available to prepare for these kinds of questions.
Observation and Experimentation
The SAT Subject Tests, formerly known as SAT IIs, let you demonstrate your skills on specialized topics. Biology is one of those, and it comes in two variations: ecology (Biology-E) and molecular biology (Biology-M). The test content differs slightly, but both cover the same core concepts.
Most of the questions on the exam are based on interpreting data presented in charts and graphs. These often come paired with a paragraph that describes the experiment, so it’s important to read this information carefully.
You’ll also be asked to apply your knowledge of biological principles and concepts to word problems and math problems. It’s important to be efficient when working on these; if you’re spending more than 30 seconds on a question without getting closer to the right answer, skip it and move on. This will help you manage your time and improve your score. Fortunately, there are some great resources online for practice with these types of questions.
With an SAT Subject Test score, you can give your college applications the extra oomph they need to stand out amongst your competitors. This bonus standardized test not only shows your dedication to your studies, but it also lets you highlight your talents in a specific area of the biological sciences.
To succeed on this exam, you should have a strong understanding of basic biology concepts and be able to recall facts quickly. Most questions on this test ask you to interpret or analyze experimental scenarios and make deductions based on those observations.
The final 20 questions of this test are specialized towards either Ecology (E) or Molecular Biology (M). However, the overall content of this exam is similar enough that your preparation shouldn’t change too much depending on which test you choose.