SAT subject tests can be a large part of the college application process for students seeking admission to certain schools. Many of the universities who require two or three of these scores request or mandate that one of the tests be in mathematics; this leads to the choice between Mathematics Level 1 (Math I, IC) and Mathematics Level 2 (Math II, IIC). As an individual student, you should consider a few aspects of these tests before deciding which to take.

Mathematics Level 2 Is More Advanced

As one would assume, the Math II exam focuses on more difficult material. The general readiness benchmark for the exam is to have completed a precalculus course with a solid grade. If you didn’t, you may not do as well on the test. Most people who take it are very comfortable with the material, as evidenced by its mean score of a 648. Approximately half the test covers algebraic principles and there are more advanced statistics problems.

Level 1 testers seem to be less comfortable with their material, as the mean is a lower 593. In 2006, less than one percent of test takers scored a perfect 800, as opposed to the eleven percent with that score on the Level 2 exam in 2009.

Gauge Your Comfort Level

If you are not comfortable with your ability to perform on a math subject test, you can take Math 1 on one date and, if you think you can prepare adequately, you can take Math 2 on a later date. By taking the lower level first, you can see how well you work with the more basic material and how much you’ll need to work to improve scores on either test.

Be Honest With Yourself

It’s perfectly okay if you can’t do well on the Math 2 exam. Don’t choose that one because you think you have to just because it’s the hardest test possible. Start with what’s best for you and, if you want to, work up from there. The Math 1 exam exists for a reason though, and colleges will gladly consider it along with your transcripts.

Remember, both are multiple choice tests that last 60 minutes and contain 50 questions. The raw score is derived in the same way as any other College Board exam and then scaled based on its difficulty. Focus on doing your best and make the decision that will help you in the long run.