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Chapter One: About the SAT II: Subject Tests
You're serious about going to the college of your choice. You wouldn't have opened this book otherwise. You've made a wise decision, because this book can help you achieve your college admissions goal. It'll show you how to score your best on the SAT II: World History Test. Before you begin to prepare for the World History Test, however, you need some general information about the SAT IIs and how this book will help you prepare. That's what this chapter is about.
Frequently Asked Questions
Before you dive into the specifics of the content of the SAT II: World History Test, check out the following FAQs (frequently asked questions) about SAT II Subject Tests in general. The information here is accurate at the time of publication, but it is a good idea to check the test information on the College Board website at collegeboard.com.
What Are the SAT IIs?
Known until recently as the College Board Achievement Tests, the SAT IIs focus on specific disciplines: English, U.S. History, World History, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, and Foreign Languages. Each Subject Test lasts one hour and consists almost entirely of multiple-choice questions (except for the WritingTest, which has a 20-minute essay section and a 40-minute multiple-choice section).
How Do the SAT IIs Differ from the SAT I?
The SAT I is largely a test of verbal and math skills. True, you need to know some vocabulary and some formulas for the SAT I, but it's designed to measure how well you read and think rather than what you know. SAT IIs are very different. They're designed to measure what you know about specific disciplines. Sure, critical reading and thinking skills play a part on these tests, but their main purpose is to determine exactly what you know about writing, mathematics, history, chemistry, and so on.
How Are the SAT IIs Scored?
Like the SAT I, SAT II Subject Tests are scored on a 200-800 scale.
What Should I Bring to the SAT IIs?
It's a good idea to get your test materials together the day before the tests. You'll need an admission ticket; a form of identification (check the Registration Bulletin to find out what is and what is not permissible); a few sharpened No.2 pencils; a good eraser; and a calculator (for Math Levels IC and IIC). If you'll be registering as a standby, collect the appropriate forms beforehand. Also, make sure that you have good directions to the test center. (We even recommend that you do a dry run getting to the site prior to test day -- it can save you the grief of getting lost!)
SAT II Mastery
Now that you know a little about the SAT II subject tests, it's time to let you in on a few basic test taking skills and strategies that can improve your scoring performance. You should practice these skills and strategies as you prepare for your SAT IIs.
Use the Test Structure to Your Advantage
The SAT II subject tests are different from the tests that you're used to taking. On your high school exams, you probably go through the questions in order. You probably spend more time on hard questions than on easy ones, since hard questions are generally worth more points. And you often show your work since your teachers tell you how you approach questions is as important as getting the right answers.
Well, forget all that! None of this applies to the SAT IIs. You can benefit from moving around within the tests, hard questions are worth the same points as easy ones, and it doesn't matter how you answer the questions or what work you did to get there -- only what your answers are.
The SAT IIs are highly predictable. Because the format and directions of the SAT II subject tests remain unchanged from test to test, you can learn how the tests are set up in advance. On test day, the various question types on the test shouldn't be new to you.
One of the easiest things you can do to help your performance on the SAT IIs is to understand the directions before taking the test. Since the instructions are always the same, there's no reason to waste a lot of time on test day reading them. Learn them beforehand, as you work through this book and study the College Board publications.
Many SAT II questions are arranged by order of difficulty. Not all of the questions on the SAT II are equally difficult. The questions often get harder as you work through different parts of the test. This pattern can work to your benefit. As you work, you should always be aware of where you are in the test.
When working on more basic problems, you can generally trust your first impulse-the obvious answer is likely to be correct. As you get to the end of a test section, you need to be a bit more suspicious. Now the answers probably won't come as quickly and easily. If they do, look again because the obvious answers may be wrong. Watch our for answers that just "look right." They may be distractors -- wrong answer choices deliberately meant to entice you.
You don't need to answer the questions in order. You're allowed to skip around on the SAT II subject tests. High scorers know this fact. They move through the tests efficiently. They don't dwell on any one question, even a hard one, until they've tried every question at least once.
When you run into questions that look tough, circle them in your test booklet and skip them for the time being. Go back and try again after you've answered the more basic ones, if you've got time. On a second look, troublesome questions can turn out to be remarkably simple.
If you've started to answer a question but get confused, quit and go on to the next question. Persistence may pay off in high school, but it usually hurts your SAT II scores. Don't spend so much time answering one hard question that you use up three or four questions' worth of time. That'll cost you points, especially if you don't even get the hard question right.
The SAT IIs have a "guessing penalty" that can actually work in your favor. The College Board likes to talk about the guessing penalty on the SAT IIs. That's a misnomer: It's really a wrong answer penalty. If you guess wrong, you get penalized. If you guess right, you're in great shape.
The fact is, if you can eliminate one or more answer choices as definitely wrong, you'll turn the odds in your favor and actually come out ahead by guessing. The fractional points that you lose are meant to offset the points you might get "accidentally" by guessing the correct answer. With practice, however, you'll see that it's often easy to eliminate several answer choices on some of the questions.
The SAT II answer grid has no heart. It sounds simple, but it's extremely important: Don't make mistakes filling out your answer grid. When time is short, it's easy to get confused going back and forth between your test booklet and your grid. If you know the answers, but misgrid, you won't get the points. Here's how to avoid mistakes.
Always circle the questions you skip. Put a big circle in your test booklet around any question numbers that you skip. When you go back, these questions will be easy to relocate. Also, if you accidentally skip a box on the grid, you can check your grid against your booklet to see where you went wrong.
Always circle the answers you choose. Circling your answers in the test booklet makes it easier to check your grid against your booklet.
Grid five or more answers at once. Don't transfer your answers to the grid after every question. Transfer them after every five questions. That way, you won't keep breaking your concentration to mark the grid. You'll save time and gain accuracy.
A Strategic Approach to SAT II Questions
Apart from knowing the setup of the SAT II subject tests you'll be taking, you've got to have a system for attacking the questions. You wouldn't travel around an unfamiliar city without a map, and you shouldn't approach the SAT IIs without a plan. What follows is the best method for approaching SAT II questions systematically.
Think about the questions before you look at the answers. The College Board loves to put distractors among the answer choices. Distractors are answers that look like they're correct, but aren't. If you jump right into the answer choices without thinking first about what you're looking for, you're much more likely to fall for one of these traps.
Guess -- when you can eliminate at least one answer choice. You already know that the "guessing penalty" can work in your favor. Don't simply skip questions that you can't answer. Spend some time with them in order to see whether you can eliminate any of the answer choices. If you can, it pays for you to guess.
Pace yourself. The SAT II subject tests give you a lot of questions in a short period of time. To get through the tests, you can't spend too much time on any single question. Keep moving through the tests at a good speed. If you run into a hard question, circle it in your test booklet, skip it, and come back to it later if you have time.
You don't have to spend the same amount of time on every question. Ideally, you should be able to work through the more basic questions at a brisk, steady clip, and use a little more time on the harder questions. One word of caution: Don't rush through easier questions just to save time for the harder ones. The basic questions are points in your pocket, and you're better off not getting to some harder questions if it means losing easy points because of careless mistakes. Remember, you don't get extra credit for answering hard questions.
Locate quick points if you're running out of time. Some questions can be done more quickly than others because they require less work or because choices can be eliminated more easily. If you start to run out of time, locate and answer any of the quick points that remain.
Copyright © 2004 by Kaplan, Inc.
Excerpted from Kaplan SAT II World History by Kaplan Educational Centers Copyright © 2004 by Kaplan Educational Centers. Excerpted by permission.
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