The SAT II Physics exam is meant to evaluate how proficient you are at high school level physics. The test assumes certain things of the examinee. Namely that you not only know the fundamentals of physics but are also able to apply them to real situations, that you are comfortable with the mathematical mediums required to express physical relationships and solve physics problems, and that you are able to use the metric system of units.
Let’s make one thing clear: there is no substitute for hard work. The only real way to score high on the SAT II Physics exam (short of illicit activities) is, dare I say it assiduously taking to your physics text book. I may even go so far as to say that you will not do well on your SAT II Physics Exam unless you have studied the required material effectively over a long period of time. This guide won’t replace that. What it will do is provide you with a basic study of how the test is divided, how the questions are drafted and how to save time on the test. With that made clear, I’m ready to teach you how to effectively apply and manage those skills to get the highest possible score on the SAT II Physics exam. Below, I have divided most of the information you will need to succeed strategically on this exam into several “Bites of Knowledge.”
Bite of Knowledge #1: Exam Structure
Let’s start with exam structure. Why? Knowing how you get you points will help you reach out and grab more of them. Mechanics (3438%), Electricity and Magnetism (2226%), Waves (1519%), Heat, Kinetic Theory, and Thermodynamic (812%), Modern Physics (812%), and the dreaded Miscellaneous Section (24%).
Another useful bit of information is that you aren’t allowed to use a calculator! But the good news is that you shouldn’t need to. This isn’t a math test, remember? It’s physics. If you have a pencil and a piece of paper, the mathematical complexity of this exam isn’t what is going to trip you up.
There are going to be around 75 questions on the test. That means you have approximately 48 seconds per question (ouch).
Bite of Knowledge #2: Don’t Rush
What do most people do when they’re anxious and facing a timed standardized test? They rush. Bad move. The ETS, the wonderful (coughcough evil) folks responsible for creating this test expect you to rush and have taken every measure to make sure that this “strategy” leaves you in tears. What’s your rush? There are no bonus points for finishing all the questions, but getting most of them wrong will have unhappy consequences. A better strategy is finishing fewer questions but getting more right.
Bite of Knowledge #3: Confidence
Confidence levels always vary among students because you have been either told that you are “a good student” or that you are “bad student.” What does that that have to do with anything? Most of this test isn’t about how much you know, but rather how careful you are. For example if you are overconfident, you are likely to finish question quickly and not check them leaving the possibility of misinterpreting open. If you under confident, you have a propensity to doubt perfectly sound logic. Stay confident (but not over confident) and you are likely to do better on the test.
Bite of Knowledge #4: The Right Bubble
Remember that advantage we talked about in “Bite of Knowledge #1: It’s a Machine,” well I have sad news for you. The fact that you are being judged by a machine can also be a serious disadvantage. Say you screw up and fill in the wrong bubble. Since the machine is not capable of detecting intent, you will hemorrhage points. That doesn’t sound pleasant, does it? So check that you are filling in the right bubble option for the right question!
Bite of Knowledge #5: It is About Knowledge
You have to know be able to regurgitate the information you learned in the aforementioned classes quite quickly, so you aren’t wasting valuable test time fumbling for the right information. So, memorize!
Area (A) of a triangle A = bh
Perimeter (P) of a triangle P = a + b + c
Area (A) of a rectangle A = lw
Perimeter (P) of a rectangle P = 2b + 2h
Area (A) of a circle A = r2
Circumference (C) of a circle C = 2r or C = d
The Pythagorean Theorem: a2 + b2 = c2
Constant Velocity = Change in distance / Change in Time
Constant Acceleration = Change in Velocity / Change in Time
%diff = diff/average x 100%
%error = diff/true x 100%
The scope of this exam is so broad, that covering all the information you need to know for the test would take a whole article. Some great sources of such review information would be the Princeton Review SAT II Physics study guide.