How NOT to Study for the SAT II’s

October’s finally here, and you know what that means: the beginning of SAT season! As you’ve probably learned by now, if you’ve been studying for the SATs, none of us really know how to study for any standardized test; especially the SATs. You can ask as many people as you’d like about how they studied for the SATs but in the end, it’ll come down to you asking yourself this question: “Did you study, or did you procrastinate?”

But don’t worry: it’s a high school student’s nature to procrastinate, and you won’t always know precisely what to do when studying for the SATs. That’s why, rather than scrambling around and looking for the best tips and tricks to ace those SAT Subject Tests, I’m here with a collection of things that you absolutely SHOULDN’T do when you’re studying for those pesky SAT II’s

PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)
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Imagine you’re back in June 2016, and you just finished the AP Chemistry course. You took the AP Chem exam about a month ago, saw that you got a 5 (WOW), and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. In fact, you feel so confident for the upcoming SAT Chemistry Subject Test in October that you think, “Oh, I’ll be fine,” and don’t want to study for the SAT Chem test. So, you catch up with your friends over the summer, get reacquainted with teachers and classes in August, and then BAM – it’s October 1st, and you’re sitting in a classroom with the SAT Chemistry booklet in front of you, no idea what the heck you’re looking at. This is exactly what’ll happen if you don’t practice before the SATs. All of that knowledge from your AP classes disappeared by the first week of summer, so you better make sure you’re buying those SAT Subject Test prep books and completing as many mock tests as you can; trust me, you’ll definitely need the practice.

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This is a pretty similar situation to #1. You’re either pretty confident or you’re completely stressed out and intimidated by the very notion of SAT Subject Tests, and so you neglect starting to study until a couple of weeks before the test date. Two or three weeks is NOT enough time to be where you want to be for the SAT 2’s; plan ahead, set yourself up a week-to-week, even a day-to-day schedule if you want, and make sure you stick to that timetable.

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Oh, you claim you can just use mental math on the SAT Mathematics Level 2 Subject Test? Yeah, good luck solving those 4×4 matrix operations and trigonometric functions. Even if you could somehow work out complex pre-calculus concepts in your head without technological aid, you most definitely will not finish the Math 2C in the time given. In case you didn’t know this about the SAT already; TIME. IS. EVERYTHING. Sure, you might be a genius with IQ level 160; none of that matters when you can’t finish the Math 2C test in time and unnecessarily lose valuable points that you might’ve received if you’d utilized a calculator.



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Well, since time is everything, then you should probably speed through the SAT Subject Tests and try to solve all of the questions as quickly as you can, right? WRONG. Yes, pacing is important, but you don’t want to fall into the trap of rushing through the test and missing key details in the questions. Remember, the SATs are designed to confuse you. Learn how to read questions quickly but carefully, looking for any key points or hints that can steer you in the right direction.

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For those of you who’ve taken APUSH or AP World, you know that if you abandon your textbooks, you’ll be neck-deep in trouble. Even if you haven’t taken these courses, definitely put in the effort to find appropriate resources and actually read the material that you’re going to be tested on. Historical trends and broad ideas are a big part of these tests, but you’ll only be hurting yourself if you neglect to read and understand the small details. After all, you’ve heard those stories about memorizing literally centuries of history for SAT US History, yes? They’re all true. All of them.



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If you want to tire yourself out and study the SATs all the livelong day (and literally, night), then go for it. Just remember; a tired mind almost always performs worse than an alert one. I can guarantee that you’ve heard at the very least once from someone that you should get some sleep before a test. Well, for the SAT Subject Tests, there’s honestly no better advice for test day that exists. You do NOT want to have to sit through an hour of non-stop multiple choice right after you’ve pulled an all-nighter cramming for that test. Chances are, you’ll probably be taking more than one SAT Subject Test on the same day anyway, so a decent amount of sleep is doubly, perhaps even triply important in that case.

Female college student tired from studying
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PC: Crescentia Jung (’19)

What kinds of apps do you have open in front of you right now? I’m not asking about just your laptop, but your phone, your iPad, and any other electronic

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devices you own. If your answers are dominated by social networking or gaming apps, then you’re clearly doing something wrong. While some people can actually multitask and use this skill to their advantage, multitasking when studying for the SATs often isn’t the brightest idea. Still having doubts? Ask yourself this: do you really think that talking with five other people about where you guys are going to go for a trip over the winter will help you with studying Mendelian genetics and the law of cosines? Hopefully, you’ll answer no to that question.

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What if you have a question regarding projectile motion in the SAT Physics Subject Test or Jacksonian democracy in the SAT US History Subject Test? You’ll definitely want to create

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some sort of a study group and get together once in a while to make sure you’re all still on track. Besides, you’ve always heard from teachers that the best way to test whether you know your stuff or not is to see if you can teach others what you’ve learned. Having a study group and holding Q&A sessions every now and then is a great opportunity to do a self-check of where you really are in your SAT studies.

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Let’s say you got three or four questions wrong on a SAT Math 2C practice test. Those few questions may not seem like much, but reviewing what you got wrong will definitely help you in the long run. It’s not like you know how many questions will come out from each topic on the test, so those three or four incorrect questions may turn into eight, nine, or even ten incorrect questions on the actual test if you don’t review your mistakes.

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What is “cheating” when you’re studying for the SAT Subject Tests? In the worst case scenario, you’re partaking in illegal business and actually cheating on the day of the exam. However, cheating when you’re still in the process of ‘properly’ studying for these tests is another story altogether. It may seem like I’m restating the obvious, but when you take

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practice tests, make sure it feels as though you’re taking the real test. Put yourself in a quiet environment, set your timer, and solve away! Make sure you’re not peeking at any answer sheets or study guides when you’re conducting these ‘mock exams’ because that just won’t get you anywhere. All you’ll learn is how to copy answers and fool yourself into thinking that you actually understand the question. But please, for the love of Collegeboard, don’t cheat on testing day; you’ll find that you’re hurting others as much as yourself.

In all seriousness, this list of tips of what not to do when studying for SAT Subject Tests can really assist you when you’re trying to figure out just what kind of a study route you should take that’ll work best for you.

But remember, SATs aren’t everything. If you get a score below of what you had hoped for, so what? You might be a little disappointed, but it’s not the end of the world. So try to relax, don’t stress yourself out too much, and take the process of studying for SAT II’s just one step at a time. With any luck, these tips will help you out and you’ll get those 800’s you’ve always hoped for!

– Daniel Park (’17)

Featured Image: Wikimedia Commons

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