SAT Literature Subject Test

Part I

Overview

1    The Route to College

2    Approaching the SAT Subject Tests

Chapter 1

The Route to College

WHERE DO STANDARDIZED TESTS COME FROM?

If you’ve purchased this book, you are probably preparing to apply to college. Part of the long and arduous college admissions process will almost certainly include some standardized tests. For most of you, these tests will come from a company called the College Board. This company has hired the Educational Testing Service, or ETS, to administer and grade its exams.

WHAT IS THE PRINCETON REVIEW?

The Princeton Review is a test-preparation company. We have branches all over the United States and abroad. We’ve developed the techniques you’ll find our books, courses, and online resources by analyzing several years’ worth of actual exams. We’ve seen the effectiveness of our techniques in action with thousands of our students.

Tick Tock

We don’t waste your time. 
We tell you what you 
need to know and, more 
importantly, what you 
don’t need to know.

Our approach is what makes our techniques unique. We base our principles on those used by the people who write the test. We don’t want to waste your time with information that you don’t need to know. We know you’re busy. We’re not going to teach you “How to Appreciate Fine English Literature” (although that’s a wonderful thing to know), but rather the information you’ll need to get great score improvements on this test. You’ll learn to recognize and comprehend the relatively small amount of information that’s actually tested. You’ll also learn to avoid common traps, to think like the test writers, to find answers to challenging questions.

You need to do only three things: trust the techniques, practice them, and then practice some more.

WHAT IS THE SAT?

The SAT is a three-hour-and-forty-five-minute, multiple-choice exam used by colleges to provide a standard measure of high school students around the country. There are three separate scores generated by the SAT: a critical reading score (on a scale of 200–800), a writing score (on a scale of 200–800, which combines separate essay and grammar scores), and a math score (also on a 200–800 scale).

Not an IQ Test

The SAT is not a measure 
of your intelligence. It is a 
measure only of your 
ability to take a 
standardized test.

What Does the SAT Measure?

Precious little: some vocabulary, some reading skills, some grammar, some basic math. What it’s designed to measure—taken in context with your high school grades—is what your college grades will be. Primarily, it measures your ability to take standardized tests.

What Are the SAT Subject Tests?

These are a series of one-hour exams administered by ETS. Unlike the SAT,  the SAT Subject Tests are designed to measure specific knowledge in specific areas. There are tests in many subject areas, such as biology, history, French, and math. They are each scored separately on the familiar 200–800 scale.

Should I Take the SAT Subject Tests?

According to the College Board (which, since it sells you the tests, really has an interest in inflating these numbers) only 160 institutions require or recommend that you take (usually two) SAT Subject Tests. Of course, these are widely considered to be the most selective institutions in the nation. Many schools will waive the requirement if a student takes the ACT with writing in lieu of the SAT Reasoning test. If you are applying to an engineering program, you will usually be asked to take two tests: Math (generally level 2) and a science (you usually have the option of Chemistry or Physics). Your first order of business is to visit the websites of the colleges you’re interested in, which have the most up-to-date information about their individual policies.

How Are the SAT Subject Tests Used by College Admissions?

Since the University of California stopped requiring two SAT Subject Tests for admission, there’s almost no data publicly available. Engineering programs tend to find subject test scores a more reliable indicator of a future student’s performance than the SAT Reasoning Test, so they take the scores very seriously. At the other end of the spectrum are schools that ignore the scores altogether in the admissions process, and simply use them for placement purposes (usually in foreign language and math) when a student arrives on campus. To find out exactly how the colleges you are considering will use the scores, visit their websites, or contact their admissions offices via phone or e-mail.

SAT Subject Tests are not just used for college admission and placement. For example, if you live in New York State, you may be able to use SAT Subject Test scores to substitute for a Regents examination score. Speak with your counselor or teacher to see if this might be appropriate for you. In addition, some colleges allow you to use SAT Subject Test scores to meet minimum subject-based requirements to be eligible to apply for admission (e.g., University of California’s a-g requirements, Arizona State University’s subject competency requirements).

Score Choice is Back!

Since February 2009, you have been able to choose which SAT Subject Test scores you want colleges to see. This is great news! For one thing, if you take more than one SAT Subject Test on a given test date, you’ll be able to choose which tests from that date you’d like to submit to colleges. So if, for example, you take the French test followed by the Chemistry test, but don’t think the Chemistry test went very well, you can simply opt to have that Chemistry score withheld from the schools to which you are applying. However, before you start testing haphazardly, remember that many colleges request that you submit your entire testing record. (Again, contact the specific colleges that interest you—policies are constantly changing.) You are on the honor system to submit your full record, but we advise that you provide colleges the information they request.

The new score reporting policy, as it’s being called, will be optional for students. This means that you aren’t required to opt in and actively choose which specific scores you would like sent to colleges. If you decide not to use the new score-reporting feature, then all of the scores on file will automatically be sent when you request score reports.

For more information about the new score-reporting policy, go to the College Board website at www.collegeboard.com.