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Cracking the SAT II : Physics, 2003-2004 Edition

Cracking the SAT II : Physics, 2003-2004 Edition - 03 edition

ISBN13: 978-0375762994

Cover of Cracking the SAT II : Physics, 2003-2004 Edition 03 (ISBN 978-0375762994)
ISBN13: 978-0375762994
ISBN10: 037576299X
Edition: 03
Copyright: 2003
Publisher: Random House, Inc.
Published: 2003
International: No

Cracking the SAT II : Physics, 2003-2004 Edition - 03 edition

ISBN13: 978-0375762994

Steven A. Leduc

ISBN13: 978-0375762994
ISBN10: 037576299X
Edition: 03
Copyright: 2003
Publisher: Random House, Inc.
Published: 2003
International: No

They are a series of one-hour exams developed and administered by the Educational Testing Service
(ETS) and the College Board. Unlike the SAT I, the SAT II: Subject Tests are designed to measure specifi
c knowledge in specifi c areas. There are many different tests in many different subject areas, such
as biology, history, French, and math. They are scored separately on a 200-800 scale.
Since the tests are given in specifi c areas, colleges use them as another piece of admissions information
and, often, to decide whether an applicant can be exempted from college requirements. For example,
a certain score may excuse you from a basic science class or a foreign language requirement.
About one-third of the colleges that require SAT I scores also require that you take two or three SAT II:
Subject Tests. Your fi rst order of business is to start reading those college catalogs. College guidebooks,
admissions offi ces, and guidance counselors should have this information as well.
As to which tests you should take, the answer is simple. Take those Subject Tests that

  • you will do well on
  • the colleges you are applying to may require you to take

Some colleges have specifi c requirements, others do not. Again, start asking questions before you
start taking tests. Once you fi nd out which tests are required, if any, part of your decision making is
done. The next step is to fi nd out which of the tests will show your particular strengths. Colleges that
require specifi c tests generally suggest the following three:

  • Writing Test
  • Math Level IC or Level IIC Test
  • A third test of your choice

Choosing that third test means having to evaluate your own strengths and skills. Possibilities
range from English literature, U.S. and world history, biology, chemistry, and physics, to a variety of
foreign languages.
As for when, take the tests as close as possible to the corresponding coursework you may be doing.
If you plan to take the SAT II: Physics Subject Test, for example, and you are currently taking physics
in high school, don't postpone the test until next year.
In general, you can take from one to three Subject Tests per test date in October, November, December,
January, May, and June at test sites across the country. Not all subjects are offered at each administration,
so check the dates carefully.
To register by mail, pick up a registration form and Student Bulletin at your guidance offi ce. You can
also register at the College Board website at This site also contains useful
information such as the test dates and fees. If you have questions, you can talk to a representative at
the College Board by calling 1-609-771-7600.
You may have your scores sent to you, to your school, and to four colleges of your choice. Additional
reports will be sent to additional colleges for, you guessed it, additional money. The scores
take about six weeks to arrive.
That's hard to say, exactly. A good score is one that fi ts in the range of scores the college of your choice
usually accepts or looks for. However, if your score falls below the normal score range for Podunk
University, that doesn't mean you won't go to Podunk University. Schools are usually fairly fl exible
in what they are willing to look at as a "good" score for a certain student.
Along with your score, you will also receive a percentile rank. That number tells you how you fi t
in with the other test takers. In other words, a percentile rank of 60 means that 40 percent of the test
takers scored above you and 60 percent scored below you.
The SAT II: Physics Subject Test contains 75 multiple-choice questions, and the time limit is 1 hour.
The topics covered (which are listed below) are those most likely to be studied in a standard, collegeprep
level, high school physics course. The following list includes the major topics covered on the
SAT II: Physics Subject Test, along with the corresponding chapters in this book and an ap prox i mate
percentage of the questions on each.
Major Topic Approximate Percentage
of Questions
Mechanics (Chapters 2-8) 35%
Kinematics, Dynamics, Energy and Momentum,
Circular Motion and Rotation, Vi bra tions and SHM, Gravity
Thermal Physics (Chapter 9) 10%
Temperature and Heat, Kinetic The o ry, Thermodynamics
Electricity and Magnetism (Chapters 10-14) 25%
Electric Fields, Forces, Potentials, Magnetic Fields and Forces,
Electric Circuits, Electromagnetic Induction
Waves (Chapters 15-16) 20%
General Wave Properties, Doppler Effect, Refl ection and
Refraction, Interference, Diffraction, Po lar iza tion, Ray Optics
Modern Physics (Chapter 17) 10%
Quantum Phenomena, Atoms, Nuclear Physics, Relativity,
Contemporary Physics
Since you only have about 45 seconds (on average) to answer each question, you won't be surprised
to fi nd that the math on the SAT II: Physics Subject Test is pretty straightforward; any math e mat i cal
calculations that do come up require no more than basic arithmetic, algebra, and trig o nom e try. The
numbers will be simple, because you are not allowed to use a calculator on the Physics test, and no
formula sheet is given (or can be brought). You also cannot bring scratch paper; all scratch work is
done directly in the test booklet.
Each of the 75 multiple-choice questions is followed by 5 possible responses (A through E), and your
job, of course, is to choose the one best answer. Your raw score is equal to the number of questions
you got right minus a fraction (1/4) of the number of questions you answered wrong, rounded to the
nearest whole number. If you leave a question blank, it's not counted as either right or wrong. For
example, let's say that of the 75 questions, you got 42 right, 26 wrong, and you left 7 blank. They'd
fi gure out your raw score like this:
42 - 1
4 (26) = 35.5 -- round to . raw score = 36
Then, they'd convert this raw score to a scaled score. The SAT II: Subject Test scores are reported on
a 200-to-800 scale (in multiples of 10). So, your raw score of 36 might be converted to a scaled score
of, say, 650. This is the score that's reported to you.
How would this score of 650 measure up? The averages vary slightly from administration to administration,
but the average score on the November 1995 SAT II: Physics Subject Test was 653, and
the average score on the May 2000 test was 635, so a score of 650 would be considered at or above
average. Notice that you can get more than a third of the questions wrong and still get an av er age
score! Naturally, different colleges have different admission criteria, and some may report the average
scores of their entering freshmen. Talk with your school counselor and check with the admissions
offi ces of the colleges you're interested in to see if they release their SAT II averages.
Most students take the SAT II: Physics Subject Test after they've taken a year-long, college-prep course
in physics at their high school. The test is offered in May and in June, so you can take it near the end
of the school year while the material is still fresh. It's offered again in the fall (October, November,
and December) and in January, so you have the option to take it at these times as well.
Naturally, it's important to be familiar with the topics--to understand the basics of the theory, to
know the defi nitions of the fundamental quantities, and to recognize and be able to use the equations.
Then, you should get some practice applying what you've learned to answering questions like
you'll see on the test. This book is illustrated by hundreds of examples to review all of the content
areas covered on the test.
A few sections are preceded by an asterisk (*) to indicate that they contain higher-level discussions;
feel free to skip these sections until you've mastered the basic ones. Each chapter (except the fi rst)
is followed by sample multiple-choice questions. One of the most important aspects of this book is
that answers and explanations are provided for every example and question. You'll learn as much--if not
more--from actively reading the explanations as you will from reading the text and examples.
In addition, two full-length practice tests are provided. These are designed to simulate a real
SAT II: Physics Subject Test and are meant to give you additional practice for the real thing. Again,
a complete solution is provided for every question in both of these sample tests. The diffi culty level
of the examples and questions in this book is at or slightly above SAT II level, so if you have the time
and motivation to attack these questions and learn from the solutions, you should feel confi dent that
you can do your very best on the actual test.
Here are a few simple strategies to follow when you're taking the test: Don't linger over any one
question. Go through the test and answer the questions on the topics you know well, leaving the
tough ones for later when you make another pass through the section. All the questions are worth
the same amount, so you don't want to run out of time and not get to questions you could have
answered because you spent too much time agonizing over a few complex questions. If you're able
to confi dently eliminate one or more wrong answer choices, it is generally to your advantage to take
a guess from the remaining ones and move on. However, if you have no knowledge of a question
and can't eliminate any of the choices, then it's probably best to leave it blank. Remember, no one
is expected to answer all of the questions, and you can get a signifi cant fraction of them wrong and
still get a respectable score, so maximize the number you get right.
Practice test questions are also available directly from the College Board at its website, You can also get a free copy of the College Board's bulletin, Taking the SAT
II, from your school counselor. It contains a description of the tests and some sample questions. The
College Board also publishes a book entitled, Real SAT II: Subject Tests (ISBN 0-87447-5996). It not
only provides detailed information about all the SAT II: Physics Subject Tests, but it also contains
real practice tests, using actual, previously administered test questions. In particular, it contains one
full-length SAT II: Physics Subject Test, along with the list of answers and a raw-score-to-scaled-
score conversion chart. (Explanations to the test questions, however, are not provided.) You can
purchase this book at your local bookstore, through an online bookstore, or through the College
Board's website.
You can also use the website to get information about the SAT II: Physics Subject Test including
test descriptions, test dates, and test centers, and you can register for the SAT II Tests online.
I wish you all the best as you study for the SAT II: Physics Subject Test. Good luck!
--Steve Leduc

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