Strategies for SAT II Chemistry

First step in dealing with SAT II Chemistry is that you must have grip on the contents of the test. You must revise text books thoroughly. Take review of the contents given in this site and take practice questions. Any topic you find difficult must be consider for futher study from other books. Sample practice quizes also important to have deeper concepts. Never go for proof of complex formulae or equations rather go for their application and understanding.
Dont study irrelevant topics not included in the content outline given by the College Board (USA).

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You can’t know the answer until you know the question. This might sound obvious, but many a point has been lost by the careless student who scans the answer choices hastily before properly understanding the question. Take the following example:


Mammalian cell membranes work to maintain a concentration gradient in which there is a high water concentration inside the cell and a high sodium concentration outside the cell. If the cell membrane contains transport channels, these channels would allow sodium to

  1. flow out of the cell by simple diffusion
  2. flow into the cell by simple diffusion
  3. flow out of the cell by facilitated diffusion
  4. flow into the cell through facilitated diffusion
  5. flow into of the cell by phagocytosis

This is not a difficult question. The sodium will move by simple diffusion from a high concentration gradient to a low concentration gradient. But the question is long and contains a great deal of information, so that by the end, a hasty student might have mixed up whether there was a higher concentration of sodium inside or outside the cell. This sort of mix-up might happen to the hasty student on only a few questions, but a few questions are the difference between a 730 and a 680 on the SAT II Chemistry.

To avoid getting confused on any questions, take a moment to understand the question before answering it. Read the question, and then vocalize to yourself what the question is asking and what the pertinent information is. This process should not take more than a second or two. But those brief moments can make all the difference. For this question, once you’ve recognized what you’re dealing with, you will have little trouble in correctly answering C.

We’ve already said that if you can eliminate one answer in a question, the scoring odds are in your favor, and you should guess. This means that you shouldn’t skip a question juts because you realize you don’t know the right answer. Before skipping any question, check to see if you can at least eliminate an answer. For every question, you should go through a checklist of priorities:

  • First priority: Answer the question correctly.
  • Second priority: If you don’t know the answer, try to eliminate answer choices and then guess.
  • Third priority: If you can’t eliminate any answer choices, move on to the next question.

On most questions, there will be at least one or two answer choices you can eliminate. There are also certain styles of question that lend themselves to particular processes of elimination.

The weakness of classification questions is that the same five answer choices apply to several questions. Invariably, some of these answer choices will be tempting for some questions, but not for others.

Questions 1–3 relate to the following molecules:

  1. phospholipid
  2. carbohydrate
  3. protein
  4. DNA
  5. RNA
  1. Contains the nitrogenous base uracil
  2. Acts as storage for long strings of sugars
  3. One side is hydrophilic, while the other is hydrophobic

For instance, you can be pretty sure that uracil doesn’t appear in protein, carbohydrates, or phospholipids, since nitrogenous bases are only found in RNA and DNA.

Another point that may help you guess in a pinch: you’ll rarely find the same answer choice being correct for two different questions. True, the directions for classification questions explicitly state that an answer choice “may be used once, more than once, or not at all,” but on the whole, the ETS people shy away from the “more than once” possibility. This is by no means a sure bet, but if you’re trying to eliminate answers, you might want to eliminate those choices that you’ve already used on other questions in the same set.

If you’re wondering, the answers to the above questions are 1 E, 2 B, and 3 A. Don’t worry if you didn’t know these answers. After reading this book, you will. The same goes for the following example questions.

“EXCEPT” questions are five-choice multiple-choice questions that contain a bunch of right answers and one wrong answer. The questions always contain an all-caps EXCEPT, LEAST, or some other, similar word. Even if you aren’t sure of the answer (which is actually the wrong answer), you should be able to identify one or two of the answer choices as true statements and eliminate them.

Most birds are characterized by all of the following EXCEPT

  1. four-chambered heart
  2. strong, heavy bones
  3. powerful lungs
  4. eggs protected by hard shells
  5. evolved from reptiles

Perhaps you’re not sure which of the five answer choices is wrong. But you should be able to identify that birds do lay eggs protected by shells and that they evolved from dinosaurs. Already, you’ve eliminated two possible answers and can make a pretty good guess from there.

If you’re interested, the answer is B: the bones of birds are extremely light. Heavy bones would make flight much more difficult for birds.

“I, II, and III” questions are multiple-choice questions that provide you with three possible answers, and the five answer choices list different combinations of those three.

A population of animals is split in two by the formation of a river through their territory. The two populations gain different characteristics due to the different natures of their new habitats. When the river disappears, the two populations can no longer interbreed. What has occurred?

  1. Natural selection
  2. Convergent evolution
  3. Speciation

  1. I only
  2. II only
  3. I and III only
  4. II and III only
  5. I, II, and III

There’s an upside and a downside to questions like this. Suppose you know that the scenario described by this question does involve speciation, but you aren’t sure about natural selection or convergent evolution. The downside is that you can’t get the right answer for sure. The upside is that you can eliminate A and B and significantly increase your chance of guessing the right answer. As long as you’re not afraid to guess—and you should never be afraid to guess if you’ve eliminated an answer—these questions shouldn’t be daunting. By the way, the answer is C: changes in organisms’ characteristics due to changes in habitat are a result of natural selection, and the inability of the members of a former population to interbreed after being separated for a long time is speciation.

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