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SAT II Test Prep

The SAT Subject tests are multiple-choice exams which each focus on a specific subject within the areas of English, math, history, foreign languages, and science.

Overview of the Language SAT II Subject Tests

For students who have grown up with a second language, or who have taken a language for two to three years in high school, a language SAT II can be a smart choice. As technology makes the world smaller, students in a number of majors are recommended, encouraged, or required to possess a working knowledge of a second language. Demonstrating this knowledge with high scores on a language SAT II can translate to admissions success.

There are two types of Language SAT II Subject Tests: regular written tests, and tests “with listening” that include a listening section. In total, there are twelve Language SAT II tests to choose from:

  • French
  • French with Listening
  • Spanish
  • Spanish with Listening
  • German
  • German with Listening
  • Italian
  • Modern Hebrew
  • Latin
  • Chinese with Listening
  • Japanese with Listening
  • Korean with Listening

Format & Scoring

Like all of the SAT II Subject Tests, all of the language tests are one hour long (for the tests with listening, that time is broken up into 20 minutes of listening and 40 minutes of reading). Depending on the test, they feature 70-90 multiple choice questions, with (again, depending on the test) three to four answer choices. The College Board awards one point for every correct answer, deducts one-quarter point for every incorrect answer, and neither awards or deducts points for unanswered questions. Like all SAT II Subject Tests, the scores range from 200 to 800, with 800 being the highest possible score.

Content

These tests measure vocabulary, grammar and structure, usage, and comprehension. Vocabulary and common idioms may be tested implicitly (i.e., you need to know what the words mean to answer the questions), or specifically. Proper usage—the ability to select an appropriate word or expression—requires a knowledge of grammar, structure, and context. Reading comprehension requires an understanding of content, and of such points as main and supporting ideas, themes, and setting of a passage.

In addition to these skills, the tests that include listening also measure listening comprehension. In listening sections, students may be asked to identify the sentence that most accurately describes material presented in a picture or photograph, answer general content questions based on short dialogues or monologues, or answer more specific questions based on longer dialogues or monologues.

Though much of the structure and format of the language tests is consistent, there are, of course, differences between the tests. The Latin SAT II, for one, differs from the other tests in that Latin is written language, so there is a focus on translation and derivatives. Another example has to do with the way some of the languages are represented—for the usage questions on the Korean test, you need to be familiar with Hangul; for the Japanese test, you are given a choice between using Kanji and Furigana, or a type of Romanized Japanese. Bottom line, a comprehensive test prep program is essential to preparing for the kind of questions the test will throw at you, and the type of content you need to know.

CATES Approach to the Language SAT II Subject Tests

At CATES, we advise our students to take these tests either at the end of their junior year, or at the beginning of their senior year. Students should either have studied the language for two to four years (or the equivalent) at the high school level, or have developed a competence in the language outside of regular classes (often as a second language in the home).

As with all of our test prep programs at CATES, we begin with a diagnostic test to assess the immediate and long-term content and strategy needs. If you study a language for which written and listening tests are offered, these diagnostics can help to determine which of the two is the best choice for you. From there, we devise a customized study plan—complete with specifically chosen test prep materials geared towards the individual student’s needs—and teach students the content and strategies to maximize their score. Once a student possesses a solid foundation in the material and strategy, we show them the ins and outs of the exam, how to handle specific question types, how to manage time throughout the subsections of the test, and how to deal with the particular test-taking challenges they must overcome in order to reach their target score.

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