What to Know About the U.S. History SAT Subject Test

Are you deciding whether to take the U.S. History SAT Subject Test? You may have prior experience with SAT Subject Tests, or perhaps this is your first one. Either way, what should you know about preparing for the U.S. History SAT Subject Test? You should aim to understand the structure of the exam, complete practice tests, and find a particular study method that works best for you.

Read on to learn more about what to know about the U.S. History SAT Subject Test: 

U.S. History SAT Subject Test Tip #1: Review your past history work

The College Board recommends that you take a college preparatory U.S. History class before you sit for the SAT Subject Test. If you’ve taken that course, then you’re in a great position to potentially excel on the exam. To review for the test, locate your class notes and old exams. Make sure you go over concepts that were challenging for you, as well as any answers you got wrong on the tests. There is no need to practice writing tasks, since this exam is entirely multiple-choice.

U.S. History SAT Subject Test Tip #2: Know what’s going to be on the test

The U.S. History SAT Subject Test is one hour in length, with 90 multiple-choice questions. The largest topic is political history, which composes 31-35% of the exam. Next is social history at 20-24%. Economic history, foreign policy, and intellectual and cultural history each make up 13-17% of the test. Remember too that Pre-Columbian history (up until 1789) is only 20% of the test, while 1790-1898 and 1899 to the present make up 40% of the exam each. You can use these numbers to be strategic about studying.

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U.S. History SAT Subject Test Tip #3: Decide which study tools work for you

As you approach your test date, increase the intensity of your review. Experiment with different study tools to decide which ones you enjoy most. Maybe you’re a fan of flashcards. This technique is especially useful for memorizing key terms from your textbook. On the other hand, you might enjoy working with several trusted classmates who will keep you on task and raise concepts that you may have missed. Breaking the material into periods might be useful, especially for this exam. Whatever tool or tools you choose, practice often.

U.S. History SAT Subject Test Tip #4: Know your cause and effect

Memorizing facts is useful to a point, but this test is particularly interested in the connection between events. When studying a particular time period, notice trends and factors that may have led to the events immediately after that period. Working with a timeline can be helpful in tracking cause and effect. For example, the pre-World War I years are full of political, social, and economic factors that led to the war. Quiz yourself constantly on the connections between moments in history. In short, know why certain political developments occurred.

U.S. History SAT Subject Test Tip #5: Take practice tests

U.S. History practice tests are a great resource. Why? It is always helpful to know what to expect on the exam given time constraints. You will learn about your pacing, and about the areas where you may want to concentrate further. Remember to keep an eye on the time, and to find your watch for test day.

U.S. History SAT Subject Test Tip #6: Finesse your multiple-choice strategy

Since this exam is multiple-choice, brush up on your multiple-choice strategies. For instance, crossing out wrong responses might be useful. It’s also worthwhile to be on the lookout for anything that would eliminate an answer choice. Sometimes, the test creators will include a small detail that will render the answer incorrect.

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Remember—you’ve got this

You’ve done the work. This is your chance to show off that knowledge to colleges. As the College Board reminds you, there might be questions that you’re not familiar with. That’s okay! You don’t have to answer every question correctly to receive an 800 (the highest score). Rest the night before, and wake up ready to rock the exam!


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