What to Know About the SAT Subject Test in Physics

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3 min read

Certain colleges and universities recommend that students take at least one SAT Subject Test during their high school career. SAT Subject Tests provide a platform for students to showcase skills in a specific subject to potential institutions.

More than 50,000 high school students took the SAT Subject Test in Physics in 2017, making it one of the most popular subject tests. As with any subject test, the SAT Subject Test in Physics requires practice and preparation. When planning for the SAT Subject Test in Physics, it’s important to know the structure of the exam, the specific concepts to study, and which review strategies suit you best.

If you’re looking to show colleges and universities your physics proficiency, here’s what to know about the SAT Subject Test in Physics:

The structure of the SAT Subject Test in Physics

When starting your review, it’s helpful to understand how the SAT Subject Test in Physics is structured. You can expect to find 75 multiple-choice questions on the test. You’ll have an hour to answer these questions—note that you don’t need to answer every item correctly to earn a perfect score. It’s also important to note that you’re not allowed to use a calculator on this exam.  

[RELATED: How to Succeed on SAT Subject Tests]

What to study for the SAT Subject Test in Physics

Like all high school subjects, it’s likely that you know some topics on the exam better than others. On the SAT Subject Test in Physics, you’ll find questions that focus on:

  • Mechanics
  • Electricity and magnetism.

There are also several questions about waves and optics, heat and thermodynamics, modern physics, and astrophysics. While you can develop the necessary test skills in a high school physics course, it can also help to have practiced algebra and trigonometry and to have lab experience.

If you want to get a feel for what kinds of questions you’ll encounter on the exam, consider taking a practice test. By taking a practice test, you can identify which topics you need to spend the most time on. Varsity Tutors offers practice tests to help you prepare for this important exam.

Test-taking strategies for the SAT Subject Test in Physics

On the SAT Subject Test in Physics, you’ll be expected to employ many common physics formulas. While you can’t bring a formula sheet into the exam with you, many students find it helpful to write down the key formulas as soon as they sit down for the test. This makes it easy to reference formulas during the exam, should you forget some of the formulas you need to know. When studying formulas, make sure to really understand the concepts behind them, which can make it easier to remember the formulas themselves.

Lastly, never rush to answer a question. While the test is not a reading exam, it helps to read closely and carefully. Always make sure you understand exactly what a question is asking before you try to answer it. Keep an eye out for words that emphasize certain points, such as “except,” “but,” “always,” or “never.” Pinpoint specific study strategies that have been successful for you in the past, and incorporate them into your prep.