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SAT Subject Test - Physics

The SAT offers 20 different subject tests in addition to the general SAT exam. These subject tests are offered as a way to demonstrate a student’s proficiency in a specific area of academia and are taken by students depending on their various interests. Colleges could possibly recommend one or multiple tests and some may require a specific test as part of their program prerequisites. It is recommended to take these tests only if you have taken, or are currently taking, courses in the respective subject area. Also, it is recommended that non-native speakers of the English language take one or more of the subject tests depending on the program for which they wish to apply. This allows ESL and international students the opportunity to perform well in subjects that may not fall under the general content of the SAT. Homeschooled students may be recommended to take one or more subject tests so colleges have additional information pertaining to the skills and knowledge they learned outside of the traditional classroom setting.

The subject tests consist of multiple-choice questions and students are allowed one hour per subject test, up to a maximum of three tests at once. For more general information about SAT Subject Tests, click here.

The SAT Subject Test in Physics tests a student’s understanding of skills acquired during one or more years of college preparatory physics as well as reasoning skills acquired from direct experience in the laboratory. It is recommended for any student who wishes to apply to a program area such as science, technology, or engineering. The test consists of 75 multiple-choice questions and students are allowed 60 minutes to complete the entire exam. It is given in January, May, June, October, November, and December each year. Students may not use a calculator on the test.

Students should have the ability to understand major concepts in physics and be able to apply these concepts to solve problems related to general physics. They should have a keen understanding of the metric system and have the ability to apply the lab knowledge acquired to solve problems regarding various issues. There are six subsections on the test and examples of included content is presented below:

Mechanics: kinematics, such as velocity and acceleration; dynamics, such as Newton’s law; energy and momentum, such as work, power, and conservation, circular motion, simple harmonic motion, and gravity.

Electricity and Magnetism: electric fields, forces and potentials, such as Coulomb’s law; capacitance, such as parallel-plate capacitors; circuit elements, including Ohm’s law and Joule’s law; magnetism, including Faraday’s law and Lenz’s law.

Waves and optics: general wave properties, including wave speed, frequency, and wavelength; reflection and refraction, such as Snell’s law; ray optics, such as image formation; physical optics, such as single-slit diffraction.

Heat and thermodynamics: thermal properties, including temperature, heat transfer, and thermal expansion; laws of thermodynamics, such as internal energy.

Modern physics: quantum phenomena, such as photons and photoelectric effect; atomic, such as Rutherford and Bohr models; nuclear and particle physics, such as radioactivity and nuclear reactions; relativity, such as time dilation and length contraction.

Miscellaneous: general physics, including historical questions; analytical skills, such as graphical analysis; contemporary physics, including chaos theory.

For further information and to access practice questions for the SAT Subject Test in Physics, click here.

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