— How to Study for SAT Subject Tests —
I have great news: studying for the SAT Subject Tests is exactly like studying for pretty much any exam that you take in school. They’re all about material knowledge, and that’s about it. There’s almost zero strategy on any of these tests (with the exception of the Literature exam, which requires the same strategies required for the SAT 1 Critical Reading section that I teach in my online programs).
Getting great SAT Subject Test scores is all about finding the material on these tests and then studying the living bejeezus out of it.
The real trick is in studying the right material to improve your chances of getting a great score.
Before we continue, know this:
You should be able to predict your SAT Subject Test scores within 10 points of your actual scores before you ever walk into the testing center. There are no surprises on these exams.
As I said earlier in this series, the SAT 1 and ACT have a lot of variables at play – strategy, tricky wording, insane section formatting, ludicrous timing requirements, etc. etc. The SAT Subject Tests do not. At all. You know your stuff or you don’t, and that’s honestly all there is to it.
If you want great scores on these tests, you just need to follow these two steps:
1. Find the right materials to study.
2. Study these materials until you have them memorized.
Time to get reading! Here are the books that I highly recommend:
Everyone, For Every SAT Subject Test:
This is the official manual – buy it no matter what you’re taking, and skim through the whole thing. It’ll give you a ton of insights into these tests, their construction, and what you need to study.
Also, if you’re still not sure which one you want to take, this is a perfect way to “shop around” and see what works best. You’ll get quick glimpses of each SAT Subject Test, which should make it easy to figure out which one is right for you (i.e. which one seems easiest to you).
By the way, as a reminder: the best SAT Subject Tests to take are ALWAYS the ones that’ll give you the highest possible scores. There’s no point in taking these exams unless you’re going to do well, so set the odds in your favor and pick the right ones (i.e. the ones that are easiest for you).
Once you pick the test that you want to take, which books give you the best materials?
Rather than give you a list, I’ll make it even easier:
1. Go to Amazon.
2. Type in “SAT [subject you want to take]”
3. Buy all the books with 4+ star reviews.
At the end of the day, it’s best to get as much practice material as you possibly can. The more you study, the better you’ll do. Just be sure that the books are accurate – Amazon reviews will lead the way.
Once you have the materials in hand, there’s one last thing you need to learn:
How to Study Effectively for SAT Subject Tests:
All of these tests are completely different, and test very specific materials. I can’t give you French language tips, literature tips, and Math 2C tips in one article, so instead, I’m going to boil down this entire process to 4 steps:
1. Find out what you DON’T know.
As soon as you can, take a practice SAT Subject Test and figure out everything that seems weird or unfamiliar. Circle it, document it, and make a flashcard out of it.
These tests do one thing: check your knowledge of certain facts and formulas. You know them or you don’t. The first thing you need to do is find out what you don’t know. Once you figure out what your weaknesses are, you can eliminate them. But not until then. Know thy enemy!
2. Read through the books, find as much information as you can, and use answer explanations to help you. If you’re not sure how to conjugate a certain word in Spanish, use your books’ answer explanations and resources to guide you to the light.
You can also use the internet to find these facts. Again, this isn’t rocket science – these are just facts. Google “how to conjugate X in French” and you’ll find it. There isn’t a single fact on these tests that can’t simply be Googled. The material is public access, and the strategy is non-existent.
3. Use your TEACHERS to help you.
I want to point one awesome thing out:
The SAT 1 is a freakishly precise exam that needs to be taught by people familiar with the SAT 1. SAT Subject Tests, however, can be taught by any teacher familiar with the subject material!
Having trouble with a certain chemistry concept? Ask your chemistry teacher. Can’t deal with a certain French verb tense? Ask your French teacher! Your school’s teachers are a huge resource in your mission to get great Subject Test scores. Use them.
4. Practice, practice, practice. Did you think there’d be some magical way of getting better scores? Unfortunately, there isn’t.
Find out what you don’t know. Then learn it.
Most of my personal SAT 1 and ACT clients ask me for help on their SAT Subject Tests – and I always refuse to give it. Why? Because the things they’ll learn from me aren’t worth my time or their money. My knowledge of the SAT 1 and ACT are worth the price – I consistently provide my students with enormous score improvements at a level higher than any other tutor in the industry. But anybody can teach the SAT Subject Tests – all the knowledge within is common knowledge. If you want a tutor, you’d be just as well off hiring a local freshman college student for $15/hour as you would hiring me.
The SAT Subject Tests are just like any other exams that test your ability to regurgitate information; if you have it ready to regurgitate, you can do it. If not, you’re cooked like a turkey.
Every day, set aside 20 minutes and just study your face off.
Remember: consistency is more important than quantity! It doesn’t matter if you study for 10 hours the day before your exam – you won’t remember anything. Take it slow and steady and you’ll remember all the facts you need to.
1. Find out what you don’t know.
2. Document it.
3. Study it repeatedly and consistently until test day.
That’s all there is to it! You know when to take your SAT Subject Tests, you know if you need to take them in the first place, you know which materials you need to study for them, and you know the incredibly simple way of studying for them.
Now get to it!
The sooner you get started, the sooner you’ll have these things out of the way, and the more powerful your college application will become.
Two more quick notes:
1. Your SAT 1 and ACT scores are much more important than your Subject Test scores. Don’t put off your SAT 1 and ACT prep – each day you wait makes the process that much harder. If you’re looking for a good way to get started, I recommend taking a look at my online programs. You can use them wherever, whenever you have the time, and the average student who uses my programs improves by 345+ points on the SAT and 4.66+ points on the ACT.
2. If you want a much more in-depth look at the entire college application process, and even more info on the APs, Subject Tests, and every other imaginable facet of the college admissions game, be sure to check out my book, Why You Get Rejected. You’ll be glad you did!
Thanks for reading! If you have any additional questions, be sure to get in touch using the support box to the bottom right of your screen – my team and I will be happy to help!
Have a great day, and good luck with your prep!
Founder, Green Test Prep