Getting 700+ on the SAT Physics Subject Test
When studying for the SATs, time is essential. The more you study, the better your score will be. This is not statistically proven. You can take my word for it. Just sit down and put a timer up to see how much time you have devoted for solid studying. So start studying early. However, as you are reading this, you may be already feeling pressured by the time left until the test day. Here are some guidelines to help you study:
Have a Plan
Physics is big, and different areas don’t weigh equally in the SAT II Physics test. Don’t worry, we’ll use this to our benefit. The SAT II Physics was designed to have differing amount of questions for every field of study. The fields and their persentage on the test are the following:
i. Mechanics (36% - 42%)
ii. Electricity and Magnetism (18% - 24%)
iii. Waves Optics (15% - 19%)
iv. Heat and Thermodynamics (6% - 11%)
v. Modern Physics (6% - 11%)
vi. Miscellaneous (6% - 9%)
So if you perfect your knowledge in Kinematics, and answer all its questions correctly, you can get 40% of the questions right. If you do the same in Electromagnetism, you can only get 20% of the questions right. Keep that in mind, when making your plan.
Don’t forget to allocate more time for studying the areas with greater percentage of the test, that makes for a great study plan. Don’t forget the SAT II Physics has the best curve of all the SAT subject tests, so don’t panic if you didn’t answer all the questions (If you don’t solve anything at all, you may panic). Also, remember to pace yourself, don’t dwell on one question for too long. Remember that all the questions are weighed equally, so get to the easier questions first.
Absorb What You Read
This is very essential to studying physics. Make sure that you understand what you read. If you have read a page, and then flipped it and you’ve already forgotten everything, that’s not a good sign. Instead, take your time to read. It may help to write down the main points of what you read, and the main equations. It is also great to get help from other people. We know that you may be pressured by time, but keep in mind that having solid knowledge in one area, is better than having weak foundation for everything.
Equations are an important part of Physics, and unless you can get a cheat sheet with all the equations written on it, which you can’t, you’ll have to rely on your brain powers. Equations can be of great help to you. They will, of course, help in solving problems. They will also help you with understanding concepts.
Physics can get a bit tricky. Knowing the facts is not enough. It might seem easy, but you need to get used to physics problems. For each lesson you take, take time to practice both answering conceptual questions and solving problems. When you’re faced with a problem, clearly write down all the give information, and the required information. Search in your brain for the best equation to solve the problem and solve it. Of course, understanding the problem is essential, some information might not be stating directly, but might be essential to solving the problem. For example, an object starting from rest has an initial velocity of zero, an object moving on a smooth surface might not be affected by friction, and gravity is always 9.81 m/s^2 (an approximate can sometimes be used).
“I don’t have time to do any of this!!”
If this is your case, well good luck. However, you are studying physics, and there last resort you can depend on.. This should never be your main method of learning, and it is not recommended. It might get you a couple of points, but nothing more. If you’re cornered by time, or if you’ve been devoting much time to fully understand certain areas of physics (good job) and you want to salvage as much information as possible from the remaining fields of physics before the test, you will have to rely on equations. Equations will serve you right in Physics, they summarize whole concepts of physics, and are necessary to answer problem solving questions. Pass over the equations in the remaining chapters, and make sure that you understand the basic idea behind the concept the equation is describing.