Strategies for SAT II Chemistry

Be Calm

The best way to do poorly on a test is to psych yourself out. If your mind starts thrashing about wildly, it will have a hard time settling on the right answers. There are a number of preventative measures you can take, beginning weeks, or even months, before you take the test. Buying this book was a good start: it’s reassuring to see all the information you’ll need to ace the test in a compact, manageable form. But here are some additional tips to keep in mind:

Study in advance

If you study at regular intervals leading up to the test, rather than cramming the night before, you’ll remember things more easily and feel more confident.

Be well rested

Get a good night’s sleep on the two nights leading up to the test. If you’re frazzled or wired, you’re going to have a harder time buckling down and concentrating when it really counts.

Come up for air

Don’t assume that the best way to take an hour-long test is to spend the full hour nose to nose with the test questions. If you lift your head occasionally, look about you, and take a deep breath, you’ll return to the test with a clearer mind. You’ll lose maybe ten seconds of your total test-taking time and will be all the more focused for the other fifty-nine minutes and fifty seconds.

Pace Yourself

At the very least, aim to at least look at every question on the test. You can’t afford to lose points because you didn’t find the time to look at a question you could have easily answered. You can spend an average of forty-eight seconds on each question, though you’ll probably breeze through some in ten seconds and dwell on others for two minutes. Knowing how to pace yourself is a critical skill—these three guidelines should help:

Don’t dwell on any one question for too long

If you’ve spent a couple of minutes laboring over the question, you might just want to make a note of it and move on. If you feel the answer is on the tip of your tongue, it might come more easily if you just let it rest and come back to it later. Not only is it demoralizing to spend five minutes on a single question, but it also eats up precious time in which you might have answered a number of easier questions.

Nail the easy questions

As we said in the previous chapter, the test questions get progressively harder as you go along. Nonetheless, there will be some tough ones thrown in right at the start, and you’ll be finding gimmes right up until the end. One of the reasons you don’t want to dwell too long on tough questions is to ensure that you get a look at all the questions and snatch up the easy ones. Remember: you get as many points for correctly answering an easy question as a difficult one. You get a lot more points for five quickly answered easy questions than one hard-earned victory.

Skip the unfamiliar

If you encounter a question you can’t make heads or tails of, just skip it. Don’t sweat too hard trying to sort out what’s going on. If you have time at the end, you can come back to it and see if you can make an educated guess. Your first priority should be to get all the easy questions, and your second priority should be to work through the questions you can solve with difficulty. Unfamiliar material should be at the bottom of your list of priorities.

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