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SAT II Test Prep

The SAT Subject tests are multiple-choice exams which each focus on a specific subject within the areas of English, math, history, foreign languages, and science.

Overview of Math Level 1 and Math Level II SAT II Test

The College Board offers two math SAT II tests: Math Level I, and Math Level 2. Everybody takes math in high school, and almost everybody should at least consider taking one of the math SAT IIs, even if you do not plan to pursue math or science at the college level. Some colleges require that you take one of these, or suggest it, but even without that, you’ve seen most, if not all, of his material in school, and a good SAT II test prep program can put you in a great position to score well on a math SAT II.

The Math Level 1 and 2 SAT II tests are excellent tests to take if you can handle the material because half the questions can be answered using the calculator. Think about that. If you know how to use your calculator to plug in the given information, you can break 600 on the Math Level 1. If that’s the case, imagine how well you can do if you really put some work into preparing!

What’s On These Tests?

There’s a lot of overlap between these two tests in terms of content—both cover number operations, algebra and functions, coordinate and three-dimensional geometry, statistics, and some basic trigonometry (trigonometry being the main thing that distinguishes the Math Level 1 SAT II content from the SAT 1 math content). The Math Level 2 SAT II goes into greater depth and difficulty in these subjects, particularly in trigonometry, and also covers vectors. For a specific breakdown of what material you’ll find on these two tests, please check out our Math Level 1 and 2 SAT II content page.

Format & Scoring

Both the Math Level 1 and Math Level 2 are one-hour tests that feature 50 multiple-choice questions, each with five answer choices. The College Board awards one point for every correct answer, deducts one-quarter point for every incorrect answer, and neither awards nor deducts points for unanswered questions. Like all SAT II Subject Tests, the scores range from 200 to 800, with 800 being the highest possible score.

Which Test is Right For Me—Math Level 1 or Math Level 2?

Math Level 1

Normally, CATES suggests students consider the Math Level 1 SAT II if they have completed three years of college-preparatory mathematics, including two years of algebra and one year of geometry. Often this is a test that on which students can post high marks at the end of junior year or the beginning of senior year, especially if they felt prepared and poised handling the SAT I math sections. By then, students have usually had most, if not all, of the content covered by their high school curriculum. There is a bit more content on the Math Level 1 SAT II than on the SAT I, but the strategies and the majority of the content are the same.

Math Level 2

The Math Level 2 may be a particularly strong fit for students looking to major in Mathematics, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and other Math and Science courses and/or students who plan to enter a Pre-Medical, Engineering, and/or Mathematics Program in college. CATES often suggests the Math Level 2 SAT II if a student has completed more than three years of college-preparatory mathematics, including two years of algebra, one year of geometry, and elementary functions (pre-calculus) and/or trigonometry. If you have had preparation in trigonometry and elementary functions and have attained grades of B or better in these courses, then Level 2 is probably a great test for you take, whether or not you want to pursue math in college.

Choosing Which Test to Take

Recently, it’s becoming more fashionable for students who would regularly take the Math Level 1 SAT II test to take the Math Level 2 instead because these students hear that “the curve” on Math 2 is stronger than the curve on Math 1. That is true—in 2009, an 800 on the Math Level 1 meant being in the 99th percentile, and to get an 800 on the Math Level 2, you only needed to be in the 89th percentile. However, it’s also true that many Math Level 1 students who try to take the Math Level 2 find it very difficult and end up scoring much than they would have had on Math Level 1.

“But,” you may ask, “doesn’t it look better to take the Math Level 2 even if your score is lower?” Well, yes…sometimes. There does come a point where the score discrepancy works against you. For example, a 660 on the Math Level 2 may come across stronger than a 680 on Math Level 1. But, a 620 on the Math Level 1 comes across stronger than a 580 on the Math Level 2. It can come down to a numbers – and cosmetic – game. Ultimately, you should take the test on which you can attain the best score to enhance your application.

If you have questions about which test is right for you, CATES can help you answer them. CATES suggest that students take a diagnostic test in both exams (we have real tests from past years) to see which test feels better, and to determine on which test you can make the most improvement. That last part is really important. While a student may score higher on a Math Level 1 diagnostic, knowing how to make the calculator work for you, and (yes) how to leverage the curve, a student who thought she might do better on the Math Level 1 may actually be able to make better gains on the Math Level 2. It’s hard to say until you try both tests and then review them with a tutor who knows both tests well.

To determine which test—Math Level 1 or Math Level 2—is a better fit for you, feel free sign up for a diagnostic at one of our FREE Mock Tests.

The CATES Approach to the Math SAT II Tests

At CATES, we advise our Math Level 1 and Level 2 students to take the test either at the end of their junior year, or (particularly for Math Level 2 students) at the beginning of senior year. While many students in an advanced math course have reviewed most of the material by the end of junior year, at CATES we find students can benefit from using the time over the summer to prepare for the fall (October or November) test dates. The summer allows students time to do more problems and get better acquainted with some of the more obscure material on the test. Furthermore, students taking advanced math courses during junior year usually take a high level calculus course during their senior year. It’s common for these calculus courses to spend the first month of school reviewing the material from junior year. In doing so, the class acts as refresher of the material tested on the Math Level 1 or 2 SAT II tests, which helps prepare the student for an October or November SAT II.

For students taking the Math Level 1 SAT II test, at CATES, we begin with a diagnostic test to assess the immediate and long-term content and strategy needs. From there, we devise a customized study plan—complete with specifically chosen test prep materials geared towards the your individual needs—and teach you the content and the strategies you need to maximize your score.

Once you posses a solid foundation in the material and strategy, your CATES tutor will teach you the ins and outs of the particular exam you’re facing, including how to handle specific question types, how to manage time throughout the test, and the best ways to overcome your particular test-taking challenges in order to reach your target score. In the weeks leading up to the test, you’ll come in for mock tests at the CATES offices, which help you get used to the test, and give you and your tutor information about how you’re progressing and what to work on next.

Material Breakdown

Here’s a specific breakdown of the material tested in the 50 multiple-choice questions you’ll see on the Math Level 1 and Math Level 2 SAT II tests:

Numbers and Operations

Both Level 1 and Level 2
  • Basic Operations: addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
  • Ratios and Proportions
  • Complex Numbers, including imaginary numbers (i)
  • Counting: Permutations and Combinations
  • Elementary Number Theory
  • Matrices: 2x2, 3x3, Addition and Multiplication
  • Sequences: Arithmetic and Geometric
Level 2 only
  • Series: Sum of an Infinite Series, Summation Notation
  • Vectors: Addition and Subtraction

Algebra and Functions

Both Level 1 and Level 2
  • Expressions: Solving for variable
  • Equations: Solving for variable
  • Inequalities: Greater than, Less than
  • Representation and Modeling: Functions as Models for Application
  • Properties of functions
    • Linear
    • Polynomial
    • Rational
    • Exponential
Level 2 only
  • Properties of functions
    • Logarithmic
    • Trigonometric
    • Inverse Trigonometric
    • Periodic
    • Piecewise
    • Recursive
    • Parametric

Geometry and Measurement: Coordinate Plane

Both Level 1 and Level 2

Coordinate Plane:

  • Lines: Slope-Intercept form
  • Parabolas: Standard form
  • Circles: Equation for a circle, Equation for circle with center at origin
  • Symmetry: Rules of symmetry for parabolas
  • Transformations: Linear, Quadratic, and other Polynomial functions

Three Dimensional Shapes:

  • Solids
  • Cylinders
  • Cones
  • Pyramids
  • Spheres
  • Prisms
  • Surface Area: Formula and Solving for Variables
  • Volume: Formula and Solving for Variables
Level 2 only

Coordinate Plane:

  • Ellipses: Equation and Foci
  • Hyperbolas: Equation and Foci
  • Polar Coordinates: Graphing and solving for resultant

Three Dimensional Shapes:

  • Coordinates in three dimensions: Formula and Solving for Variables


Both Level 1 and Level 2
  • Right triangles: Special Right Triangle relationships
  • Identities: Sine, Cosine, Tangent, Secant, Cosecant, Cotangent
Level 2 only
  • Radian measure: Transfer from Radian to Degree measures
  • Law of Cosines: Formula and Solving for Variables
  • Law of Sines: Formula and Solving for Variables
  • Equations: Graphs of Trig functions
  • Double Angle Formulas: Formula and Solving for Variables

Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability

Both Level 1 and Level 2
  • Mean: Arithmetic Average
  • Median: Even and Odd Sets
  • Mode: Sets of Numbers
  • Range: Sets of Numbers
  • Interquartile Range
  • Standard Deviation
  • Graphs and Plots
  • Least-squares Regression
  • Linear
  • Probability: Single and Multiple Events
Level 2 only
  • Least-squares Regression
  • Quadratic
  • Exponential

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