When you take the SAT Chemistry test, you’ll want to do everything you can
to make sure you get your best possible score. That means studying right,
building good problem-solving skills, and learning proven test-taking strate-
gies. Here are some tips to help you do your best.
Get to know the format of the exam. Use the practice tests in this book
to familiarize yourself with the test format, which does not change from
year to year. That way, you’ll know exactly what to expect when you see
the real thing on test day.
Get to know the test directions. If you are familiar with the directions
ahead of time, you won’t have to waste valuable test time reading them
and trying to understand them. The format and directions used in the
practice exams in this book are modeled on the ones you’ll see on the ac-
tual SAT Chemistry exam.
Get to know what topics are covered. Get to know what speciﬁc topics
are covered on the exam. You’ll ﬁnd all of them in the review material and
practice exams in this book. The following are the “hot topics” on the SAT
- Structure and theories of the atom
- Periodic trends and the chemical and physical properties of the elements
- Bonding between atoms and molecules
- Molecular geometries
- Nuclear chemistry
- Kinetic molecular theory and the gas laws
- Liquids, solids, and changes of phase
- Solubility and precipitation of compounds
- Electrolytes and conductivity
- Solution chemistry
- Colligative properties
- Redox reactions and reactions of acids and bases
- Mole relationships and Avogadro’s number
- Molecular and empirical formulas
- Percent composition by mass
- Limiting and excess reagents
- Rates of reaction
- Le Châtelier’s Principle
- Equilibrium constant expressions for gases and slightly soluble salts
- Energy in chemical and physical changes
- Hess’s Law
- Entropy and Gibbs free energy
- Organic and environmental chemistry
- Laboratory safety, procedures, skills, and setups
Study hard. If possible, plan to study for at least an hour a day for two
weeks before the test. You should be able to read this entire book and
complete all ﬁve practice exams during that time period. Be sure to write
notes in the margins of the book and paraphrase what you read. Make
study cards from a set of index cards. Those cards can “go where you go”
during the weeks and days before the test. If you are pressed for time, focus
on taking the ﬁve practice exams, reading the explanations, and reviewing
the particular topics that give you the most trouble.
Solve problems in whatever way is easiest for you. There are usually
several ways to solve any problem in chemistry and arrive at the correct
answer. For example, when converting units some students prefer to use
a dimensional analysis whereas others prefer to set up a proportion.
Do what is easiest for you. Remember that the SAT exam is all multiple
choice. That means that no one is going to be checking your work and
judging you by which solution method you chose. So solve the problem
any way you like.
Build good problem-solving skills. When you tackle SAT Chemistry
problems, try following this three-step process:
When you ﬁrst read a question, make a list of the given values and vari-
ables and the units for the variables.
Ask yourself, “What do I have and what do I need to get?” The link between
what you have and what you need to get is either an equation that you
should be familiar with or certain speciﬁc steps to follow to solve partic-
ular types of problems.
Solve the problem and see if the answer makes sense. For example, if you
know that one variable should be much larger than another, make sure
your answer reﬂects that relationship. You’ll see how this works with
many of the problems in this book.
Make sure you know what the question is asking. The questions on the
SAT Chemistry test are not deliberately designed to trick you, but it is still
important that you look closely at each one to make sure you know what
it is asking. If a question asks which compound has the lowest hydrogen
ion concentration, don’t pick the answer choice with the highest concen-
tration. Pay special attention to questions that include the words NOT or
EXCEPT. You may want to circle these words to make sure you take them
into account as you choose your answer.
Answer all the easy problems ﬁrst, then tackle the harder ones. Keep
in mind that the test is only one hour long. There isn’t much time to spend
trying to ﬁgure out the answers to harder problems, so skip them and
come back to them later. There are three reasons why you should do this.
The ﬁrst reason is that every question counts the same in the scoring of
the exam. That means that you are better off spending time answering the
easier questions, where you are sure to pick up points. The second reason
to skip past harder questions is that later on in the test you might come to
a question or a set of answer choices that jogs your memory and helps you
to go back and answer the question you skipped. The third reason is that
by answering the easier questions, you’ll build your conﬁdence and get
into a helpful test-taking rhythm. Then when you go back to a question
you skipped, you may ﬁnd that it isn’t as hard as you ﬁrst thought.
Use the process of elimination. Keep in mind that on the SAT Chemistry
test, like any other multiple-choice test, the answer is right in front of you.
Try eliminating answer choices that you know are incorrect. Often this
can help you select the correct answer.
If you must guess, make an educated guess. The SAT has a one-quarter-
point penalty for wrong answers to discourage random guessing. So if you
have absolutely no idea how to answer a question, you are better off skip-
ping it entirely. However, you may be able to eliminate one or more answer choices.
If you can do that, you can increase your odds of guessing the cor-
rect answer. If you can make this kind of educated guess, go ahead. If you
guess correctly, you’ll earn another point.
Be wary of answer choices that look familiar but are not correct.
Sometimes in the set of answer choices there will be one or more wrong
answers that include familiar expressions or phrases. You might be tempted
to pick one of these choices if you do not work out the problem com-
pletely. That is why it is important to work through each problem thor-
oughly and carefully to make sure that you pick the correct answer choice.
You don’t have to answer every question. If you do not know the an-
swer to a question and cannot eliminate any answer choices, skip it and
go on. It is better to do that than to risk losing one-quarter of a point for
a wrong answer. If you have time at the end of the test, you can return to
skipped questions and try to make an educated guess. But you do not have
to answer every question to get a good score.
TIPS FOR TEST DAY
Don’t panic! Once test day comes, you’re as prepared as you’re ever going
to be, so there is no point in panicking. Use your energy to make sure that
you are extra careful in answering questions and marking the answer
Use your test booklet as scratch paper. Your test booklet is not going
to be reused by anyone when you’re ﬁnished with it, so feel free to mark
it up in whatever way is most helpful to you. Circle important words, un-
derline important points, write your calculations in the margins, and cross
out wrong answer choices.
Be careful when marking your answer sheet. Remember that the an-
swer sheet is scored by a machine, so mark it carefully. Fill in answer ovals
completely, erase thoroughly if you change your mind, and do not make
any stray marks anywhere on the sheet. Also, make sure that the answer
space you are marking matches the number of the question you are an-
swering. If you skip a question, make sure that you skip the correspond-
ing space on the answer sheet. Every 5 or 10 questions, check the question
numbers and make sure that you are marking in the right spot. You may
want to mark your answers in groups of 5 or 10 to make sure that you are
marking the answer sheet correctly.
Be especially careful when marking the answers to Chemistry Test
questions 101–115. On the SAT Chemistry test, questions 101 through
115 comprise a special section. The questions in this section have their
own format. (For more about these questions, see the section of this book
titled “SAT Chemistry Question Types.”) On the answer sheet, you must
mark your answers to these questions in a special section labeled “Chem-
istry” at the lower left corner. Make sure that you locate this answer sheet
section and mark the answers to these questions in the proper place.
Watch the time. Keep track of the time as you work your way through the
test. Try to pace yourself so that you can tackle as many of the 80 ques-
tions as possible within the one-hour time limit. Check yourself at 10- or
15-minute intervals using your watch or a timer.
Don’t panic if time runs out. If you’ve paced yourself carefully, you
should have time to tackle all or most of the questions. But if you do run
out of time, don’t panic. Make sure that you have marked your answer
sheet for all the questions that you have answered so far. Then look ahead
at the questions you have not yet read. Can you answer any of them
quickly, without taking the time to do lengthy calculations? If you can,
mark your answers in the time you have left. Every point counts!
Use extra time to check your work. If you have time left over at the end
of the test, go back and check your work. Make sure that you have marked
the answer sheet correctly. Check any calculations you may have made to
make sure that they are correct. Take another look at any questions you
may have skipped. Can you eliminate one or more answer choices and
make an educated guess? Resist the urge to second-guess too many of
your answers, however, as this may lead you to change an already correct
answer to a wrong one.