Kristen Tracey is a Content Developer at Knewton.
Considering taking an SAT II test in math? You have two different options: Mathematics Level 1 and Mathematics Level 2. They’re both 50 questions and 60 minutes long, but they have some important differences.
While the SAT I is a “Reasoning Test,” the SAT II is a “Subject Test.” The Subject Tests are intended to test your knowledge of mathematics from courses you’ve taken in school. The Level 2 test involves more advanced topics than the Level 1 test, which overlaps more with SAT I subject matter.
Every student is different, so you should focus on which test will best help you to achieve your academic goals. Here are four factors to keep in mind while you’re making your decision, roughly in order of importance:
The simplest way to decide which test to take is to look at the classes you’ve already taken. The College Board tailors the Level 1 test towards students who’ve taken three years of college-preparatory math, which usually means two years of algebra and one of geometry. The Level 2 test is for students who have taken more than three years—generally, those who have taken a pre-calc or trigonometry course, or who have moved on to the really fun stuff like calculus.
Some of the topics that are on the Level 2 test that do not appear on the Level 1 test are series, vectors, more advanced functions, polar coordinates, and trigonometric functions and equations. Meanwhile, the Level 1 test covers plane Euclidean geometry, which does not appear on the Level 2 test.
Research the admissions policies of schools you’re interested in. If you must, go ahead and be that person in your information session who asks questions about seemingly everything! Requirements and recommendations can vary widely from school to school. Obviously, you’ll have to take Level 2 in order to apply to a school that requires it. And if you know that your dream school prefers Level 2, try to plan ahead so you will be prepared to take it.
Many schools recommend or require that you take the Level 2 test if you are applying to their engineering or other science programs. Even at schools that don’t have an explicit preference, taking the Level 2 test (and doing well on it) will particularly help your application if you state an intent to major in a math-related field. If you’re focused on other subjects, taking Level 2 is less critical.
What if you could take either test, but you think you would do much better on Level 1, and you’re planning to major in, say, art history or East Asian languages anyway? If you’ve completed enough coursework for the Level 2 test but received B— or lower grades in the more advanced classes, you should at least consider taking Level 1 instead. Just keep in mind that your most recent math coursework is probably freshest in your mind, and that taking a Level 2 test, if your score is only slightly lower, may still look more impressive on your application.