Cracking the SAT Subject Test in Math 2, 2nd Edition
Book Preface
WHAT IS THE SAT SUBJECT TEST IN MATH 2?
The SAT Subject Test in Math 2 is a standardized test in mathematics. Colleges use this test to assist in admissions decisions and to place incoming students in classes at the right level. This test is written by ETS, a company in the business of writing tests like these. ETS makes money by charging students to take the SAT and SAT Subject Tests, and charging again to send the scores to colleges. You’ll also run into ETS exams if you ever apply to graduate school.
The SAT Subject Test in Math 2 has 50 multiple-choice questions and is one hour long. The test is scored from 200 to 800 points. The SAT Subject Test in Math 2 covers a range of mathematical topics, from basic algebra to trigonometry and statistics.
Many colleges require some SAT Subject Tests (frequently two, but occasionally one or three). The subjects available are varied: two in mathematics, three in science, two in history, one in English, and twelve in foreign languages. Different schools have different preferences and requirements for which tests to take, too. For example, an engineering program may want to see one math and one science. Check each school’s website to determine how many tests you must take and which ones (if any) are preferred.
What’s on the Test? The content of the SAT Subject Test in Math 2 is approximately as follows:
As you can see, the SAT Subject Test in Math 2 focuses on material you learned in your Geometry, Algebra II, and Precalculus classes. When it asks questions about basic concepts, it does so by including the concepts in a more complicated problem. For example, there are no direct questions about plane geometry. However, you will need to be able to apply the concepts of plane geometry to questions about coordinate geometry or spatial geometry.
You may be overwhelmed by the number of different topics which appear on the SAT Subject Test in Math 2. Fear not! The test is written with the expectation that most students have not covered all the material on the test. Furthermore, you can do well on this test even if you haven’t covered everything that may show up on the test.
Math Level 1 or 2? We’d love to say that this decision boils down completely to your comfort level with the material in each course, but the truth is that not every school accepts the Math 1 results. You should therefore base your decision primarily on the admission requirements of the schools that interest you.
Math 2 is appropriate for high school students who have had a year of trigonometry or precalculus and have done well in the class. You should also be comfortable using a scientific or graphing calculator. If you hate math, do poorly on math tests, or have not yet studied Trigonometry or Precalculus, the SAT Subject Test in Math 2 is probably not for you. It’s worth noting, however, that while this test is difficult, the test is scored on a comparatively generous curve. If you find yourself making random (or “silly”) mistakes more than anything else, the Math 2 scoring grid may work in your favor.
Colleges also receive your percentile (comparing you to other test takers), as well as your scaled (200–800) score. For the most part, they pay attention to the scaled score and ignore the percentile. However, to the small extent that percentiles matter, Math 1 has considerably more forgiving percentiles. People who take Math 2 are generally really good at math; about 13% of them get a perfect score! Less than 1% of Math 1 testtakers get a perfect score, though. As a result, a 790 on Math 2 is only in the 85th percentile (about 13% get an 800 and 2% get a 790), while a 790 on Math 1 is still in the 99th percentile. The disparity between the percentiles continues down the entire score range.
If you are very unsure about which test to take, even after working practice questions and taking practice tests, you can take both tests
WHEN SHOULD I TAKE THE SAT SUBJECT TEST IN MATH 2?
The right time to take the SAT Subject Test in Math 2 varies from person to person. Many students take the test at the end of a Precalculus class in school. (Precalculus also goes by many other names, such as Trigonometry, Advanced Functions, or other less recognizable names.) Some students take Math 2 during or at the end of an AP Calculus course.
The SAT Subject Tests are offered six times per year, and no test date is easier or harder than any other test date. The most popular test dates are in May and June, because these are at the end of a school year when the material is freshest in the student’s mind. Whenever you choose to take the test, make sure you have time to do some practice beforehand, so that you can do your best (and not have to take the thing again!).
The Calculator The SAT Subject Test in Math 2 is designed to be taken with the aid of a calculator. Students taking this test should have a scientific or graphing calculator and know how to use it. A “scientific” calculator is one that has keys for the following functions:
• the values of π and e • square roots • raising to an exponent • sine, cosine, and tangent • logarithms
Calculators without these functions will not be as useful. Graphing calculators are allowed. The graphing features on a graphing calculator are helpful on a fairly small number of questions per test, and they are necessary for about 0–1 questions per test. If you’re going to take a graphing calculator to the test, make sure you know how to use it. Fumbling over your calculator trying to figure something out during the test is just not a productive use of your time!
This book is going to focus on the TI-84. If you have another family member of the TI-80 series, know that these comments still apply to you with minor adjustments. Check with your manual for specific key stroke changes. If you have a scientific calculator, we’ll be showing you your key stroke changes in the sidebars throughout the manual.
The ETS Predictor ETS says that for the SAT Subject Test in Math 2, a calculator may be useful or necessary for about 55-65 percent of the questions.
Certain kinds of calculators are not allowed. For example, a calculator with a QWERTY keyboard (like a computer keyboard) is not allowed.
Your calculator must not require a wall outlet for power and must not make noise or produce paper printouts. There will be no replacements at the test center for malfunctioning or forgotten calculators, though you’re welcome to take a spare, as well as spare batteries. Laptops, tablets, and cell phones are also not allowed as calculators.
Bottom line: You need a calculator for this test. Certain things will be easier with a graphing calculator, but it is most important that you are comfortable using your calculator.
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