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How to Study for SAT Biology

Updated on July 8, 2012

Exam Structure

  • 80 multiple choice questions
  • 60 core questions
  • 20 area specific questions (molecular/ecological)
  • 1 hour

The SAT biology exam consists of 80 questions. There are two versions M and E, one focused more heavily on molecular biology and another focused more heavily on ecological biology. Both tests share a common core of 60 questions. The last 20 questions are different and have an emphasis on either Molecular or Ecological biology.

You cannot take both tests on the same day. You must choose one at the time of the exam.

Who should take the exam?

Let’s start off with who should be taking this exam. If you’ve just taken the AP course and have legitimately read your textbook and studied for the AP test, then you should DEFINITELY take the SAT biology exam.

However, if you have taken a regular biology course or even an honors course (it really depends on your effort and the level in which you have learned and retained information), you should think twice before taking the SAT biology exam. While the questions are not extremely specific, they do test you on a wide range of topics, some of which might not have been covered in a regular or honors biology course.

These books can easily be bought from or a bookstore.
These books can easily be bought from or a bookstore. | Source

Prep Books

Most people would find prep books indispensable for these types of tests. And I absolutely agree that they are helpful, but only to a certain extent: as a review book. Your performance really depends on how well you retained information from your course throughout the year. It is imperative to be able to apply your knowledge of biology to a real experiment, thus, you have to actually understand the material.

The general favorites among students tend to be Barrons and Princeton Review, with most students saying that Barrons is a tad bit harder than the actual SAT.

Moving on, if you are already sufficiently knowledgeable about biology, you shouldn’t waste your time reading the prep book.

Study Strategy

You should focus on what I believe is the most effective strategy: doing as many practice problems as you can. The general process should go something like this:

· Do a set amount of problems a day (I’d say forty is sufficient)

· Review ALL the answers

· Skim over the questions you answered correctly

· Review the problems you answered incorrectly, study the whole topic in detail and make flashcards

· Constantly review the flashcards (in the car, on the bus, etc.)

I followed this strategy and received both an 800 on the exam. To me, this kind of learning is the most valuable since you are actively seeking knowledge instead of just sitting there passively and reading information that you probably already know

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