What to Know About the Biology E/M SAT Subject Test

While many high school students take the SAT, not all take SAT subject tests. SAT subject tests pose many benefits to students seeking college admission. These exams are a great way of showing college admissions counselors that you’re interested in at least one specific academic area.

Two popular SAT subject tests are Biology Ecological (E) and Biology Molecular (M). Each of these tests assesses how well you understand important biology principles taught in high school. If you’re interested and knowledgeable about biological communities, populations, and the flow of energy throughout the environment, the Biology-E test might be right for you. If you’re more interested in biochemistry and cell structures and processes, the Biology-M subject test could be the best fit.

When deciding which SAT subject test is right for you, examine the test structure, required skills, and specific prep strategies in an effort to ensure success. Keep reading to learn what to know about the Biology E/M SAT subject test.

Biology E/M SAT subject test structure

The Biology-E and Biology-M subject tests share 60 of the 80 multiple-choice questions asked on each exam. These questions cover fundamental biological topics and principles. There are 20 specialized questions asked on each test that focus on either ecological or molecular biology, depending on which exam you take.

Both tests cover cellular and molecular biology, ecology, genetics, organismal biology, and evolution and diversity, with each exam slightly more focused on their respective topics.

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Skills required for the Biology E/M SAT subject test

For both the Biology E and M SAT subject tests, the College Board, which administers these exams, suggests that students possess the following skills:

  • Understanding of foundational ideas and knowledge about biology, as well as being able to recall facts and concepts (about 30% of the test).

  • Applying principles of biology to solving problems (about 35% of the test).

  • Interpreting questions and new ideas about biology using existing knowledge in order to solve word and math problems (about 35% of the test).

Another useful skill for these exams includes the ability to assess the results of observations or experiments. This can help you come to the right conclusions or inferences about experimental data found in the form of a graph or table (or a combination of both) on the test. You should also have some familiarity with the metric system before taking this exam.

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How to prepare for the Biology E/M SAT subject test

A student who has taken a one-year introductory course in AP Biology would be very well suited to taking the SAT subject test in Biology E/M. Students who have taken standard high school biology courses would also do well on the exam. A one-year course in algebra, as well as laboratory experience, are also helpful when it comes to preparing for these exams.

You should review the practice biology questions offered by the College Board, as well as specific questions for the Biology-E or Biology-M exams on the College Board’s website. You may also want to consider taking SAT subject test practice exams. Chat with your biology teacher if you have questions or need help with topics you’re not very comfortable with. Varsity Tutors also offers SAT subject test in Biology E/M tutoring.

How to take the Biology E/M SAT subject test

Once you’re seated for your test, make your choice of exam clear by filling in the correct circle on your answer sheet. It’s important to remember to mark the correct exam so your test is scored accordingly. While you cannot take both tests on the same exam day, it’s possible to take both tests on separate exam days, should you choose to do so.  

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