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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 World History Level 2 SAT II Test

If you’re a history buff, and want to showcase your skills with a history SAT II Subject Test, you have two options: the U.S. History SAT II, and the World History SAT II. Though the scope of material on the tests obviously differs, both tests measure your ability to show knowledge of facts and terms, understand cause-and-effect relationships, interpret and assess material, and demonstrate an understanding of major historical developments.

Many students take either world or U.S. history in school during junior year, and these tests are a great choice for students thinking about a humanities major in college. However, they do cover a lot of material. It helps if you’ve taken a class in U.S. or world history, but even if you have, chances are you haven’t covered everything that might appear on these tests. For either of these tests, a comprehensive test prep program is absolutely essential.

Format & Scoring

Like all of the SAT II Subject Tests, both the World History SAT II and the U.S. History SAT II are one-hour exams. The World History SAT II features 95 multiple-choice questions; the U.S. History SAT II features 90. Each question has five answer choices. The College Board awards one point for every correct answer, deducts one-quarter point for every incorrect answer, and neither awards nor deducts points for unanswered questions. Like all SAT II Subject Tests, the scores on the history tests range from 200 to 800, with 800 being the highest possible score.

You will find the same types of questions of both tests:

  • straightforward multiple-choice questions dealing with facts—names, dates, events, policies, etc.
  • questions that require you to interpret maps, graphs, charts or cartoons
  • “exception” questions, which include the words “except,” “not,” or “least,” “incorrect,” as in: Which of the following statements about social trends in the United States between 1945 and 1970 is INCORRECT?
  • questions that ask you to identify trends
  • questions that ask you to interpret primary source quotations

World History SAT II Subject Test Percentiles

  • 800: 97th
  • 750: 91st
  • 700: 80th
  • 650: 67th
  • 600: 54rd
  • 550: 39th
  • 500: 26th

U.S. History SAT II Subject Test Percentiles

  • 800: 99th
  • 750: 91st
  • 700: 78th
  • 650: 62nd
  • 600: 47th
  • 550: 34th
  • 500: 21st

World History SAT II Content

Material Covered:

  • Global or comparative 25%
  • Europe 25%
  • Africa 10%
  • Southwest Asia 10%
  • South and Southeast Asia 10%
  • East Asia 10%
  • Americas 10%

Periods Covered:

  • Prehistory and civilizations to 500 C.E.* 25%
  • 500 to 1500 C.E. 20%
  • 1500 to 1900 C.E. 20%
  • Cross-chronological 10%

*The World History Level 2 SAT II test uses the chronological designations B.C.E. (before common era) and C.E. (common era). These labels correspond to B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (anno Domini), which are used in some world history textbooks.

U.S. History SAT II Content

Material Covered:

  • Political history 32-36%
  • Economic history 18-20%
  • Social history 18-22%
  • Intellectual and cultural history 10-12%
  • Foreign policy 13-17%

Periods Covered:

  • Pre-Columbian history to 1789 20%
  • 1790—1898 40%
  • 1899 to the present 40%

CATES Approach

At CATES, we advise our students to take these tests either at the end of their junior year (particularly if they are just finishing up a year-long course in the subject at school, and the material is still fresh in their minds), or at the beginning of their senior year. Again, however, regardless of whether or not you’ll be finishing up a U.S. or world history class in the spring of your junior year (even an AP course), you will need a test prep program that thoroughly prepares you for the particular material these tests cover.

World history is obviously too broad a topic for you to cover everything…that ever happened…anywhere…but not to worry, of course this test doesn’t cover everything either. This test is less specific than the U.S. History SAT II, because it covers a broader sweep of time and geography, so you’ll need to know major historical concepts and developments, and understand how things fit together. It will help to be familiar with major events and timelines—how trends developed in certain regions, and what was going on concurrently in different parts of the world—and to become comfortable with the between these different ages, regions, and events.

The U.S. History SAT II (which is, by the way, much more popular than the World History SAT II—approximately ten times as many students take it) is more detailed, because the span of time and geography is naturally much smaller. Students are required to know more specific information, dates, policies, movements, people, etc., in addition to understanding the major trends and eras in U.S. history, and the relationships between them.

For both U.S. History and World History SAT II Subject Tests, at CATES we begin with a diagnostic test to assess the immediate and long-term content and strategy needs—is there a particular time period a student struggles with, or a particular region? Is there a question type that seems particularly difficult? From there, we devise a customized study plan—complete with specifically chosen test prep materials geared towards the individual student’s needs—and teach the student the content and strategies to maximize their score. Once the student possesses a solid foundation in the material and strategy, our tutor shows the student 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 overcome the particular test-taking challenges the student faces in order to reach their target score.

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