Chemistry is a subject which has the following effect on 99% of high school students: it causes them to cringe, double over and asphyxiate. Test taking is perhaps the most stressful part of any high school career. Combine the two distasteful elements and you have a compound disaster: the SAT II Chemistry Exam. Taking the SAT Chem. II is no joke, not only does it require that you have a solid understanding of the formulaic, symbolic and graphical structures which compose the sublime (coughcoughstifling) subject of chemistry but also a test taking instinct rivaled only by Bengal tigers. This guide devotes little of its precious few paragraphs refreshing your chemistry knowledge, but rather it ingrains the SAT II format in your soul… Mwahahahaha!
I could call this a step-by-step guide, but “step-by-step” just sounds so boring. So, this a karate-kick-by-karate-kick course. Guess what we’re kicking? This test’s butt!
Karate-Kick #1: Memorize
Ugggh memorization. Its unavoidable. To succeed on this test, you must commit all those icky formulas to memory. “Why?” you ask. Unlike your soft-core high school tests, you will not have the luxury of notes or a calculator on this test! And you’re going to run into a plethora of problems where you will need to know formulas such as Boyle’s Law and the ideal gas equation and if your memory decides to take a vacation during that stressful timed exam, to put it bluntly: you’re screwed.
Now, don’t rush off to your textbook to memorize every page. Memorization is useless if it’s done wrong, and the processes most students use to memorize are worse than useless and often can be harmful because you clog the cognitive cycle with unnecessary information. So, here is a method that often works when approaching material of this quality.
1.Don’t memorize the equation, memorize its underlying logic. Why does the equation or formula work? How is it derived? What do all the variables and symbols mean?
2.Be able to apply the formula or equation to a real situation. Where will you use this segment of knowledge? How do you identify situations where it comes into play?
3.Create a list of the most important formulas/equations/rules you need to know for the test. Prepare it as if you were creating a cheat sheet for the test (you’re not hopefully, because the proctors will not take kindly to that sort of “strategy”). Then revise it continuously in the hours before the test.
4.That way, when you enter the test you will be able to use the last killer strategy: write down all the formulas you might forget on the back of the test booklet. This is not only perfectly legal, it is a wonderful test strategy.
Karate-Kick #2: Time is of the Essence
Bet you’ve heard that one before! In the SAT II Chem. Exam, you really need to find ways to deal with the scarcity of time. This can be accomplished in several ways. The primary method of saving time is to already know the directions. That way you will not have to waste precious time reading about how to apply you’re knowledge and will be able to simply dive into the meat of the test. The directions for question types commonly found on the test (classification questions, “except”-type questions, and “I,II, and III” questions) can be found on the College Board website (http://collegeboard.com) which is a remarkable source of information. They can also be found in a SAT II Chemistry preparation manual, if you want to spend money on that sort of thing. I recommend the Princeton review brand of test preparation guides, they are both pithy and detailed.
Karate-Kick #3: Guesstimating
Another important time saving strategy is guesstimating. One important rule which is fundamental to the success of this particular strategy is carefully reading the question and knowing what it is asking you for! While this may seem obvious, believe me you it is what trips up most test takers. By rounding all or most of the factors in an equation to nice integers, you can gain a pretty good idea of what range your result will bee in. Via this method, you can eliminate the obvious outliers and be left with the correct answer or a 50-50 choice. This greatly decreases the time spent doing tedious painstaking exact calculations which in the end may only lead to more errors.
Karate-Kick #4: The Classification Question Type
The unique classification question portion is a actually a weakness of this particular test as it provides you with five options that apply to more than one question. This means you are more likely to have success using P.O.E. also known as the process of elimination method. This is due to the increased possibility of being able to eliminate at least one or two answer choices immediately for some of the questions due to their extraneous nature. They just won’t seem right. Take advantage of this. Also, while a n answer choice may be used more than once, as stated in the directions, this is a very unlikely circumstance.
Karate-Kick #5: The “Except” Question Type
I personally hate these sort of questions because instead of knowing one thing is right, I have to know four things are right and consequently be able to deduce that the remaining option must be wrong. What most people try to do with this question type is support the various answers with their knowledge. This the exact opposite of what I will recommend that you do. Don’t support answers, find reasons that they could be wrong. Therefore, the answer which seems the most wrong should be your choice.
Karate-Kick #6: The Roman Numeral Question Type
A less acerbic question type which you may encounter on the test is one which presents you with a question, a number of statements answering that question numbered by roman numerals and below five combinations of the roman numerals which could be correct. These questions require aggressive use of the aforementioned P.O.E. (process of elimination) strategy. The success of this strategy against this particular question type is largely due to one factor. If you can find discrepancies between one of the statements and the question/scenario above it, that statement can be eliminated and consequently any options with that statement’s roman numeral in it can be eliminated. Using this strategy, you options will narrow quickly.