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Articles / Preparing for College / What's the difference between the SAT I and the SAT II?

Feb. 11, 2002

What's the difference between the SAT I and the SAT II?

Question: What's the difference between the SAT I and the SAT II?

I'm sure a lot of people would like to know the difference. The SAT I is the Scholastic Assessment Test that used to be the old Scholastic Aptitude Test. With the name change, there have been other changes.


When the old SAT became the new SAT I, it also changed its format, deleting one type of Verbal questions and adding a new kind of math problems among other details. The scoring formula was also changed. The SAT of today is considerably different than the SAT of several years ago.

Whether or not it can be judged as any better a test or any easier or harder depends on your ability to deal with standardized tests.

The SAT IIs used to be called the Achievement Tests. You would want to take an SAT II if you are going to be applying to some highly competitive colleges or universities that require three

SAT II scores. Usually, the three SAT IIs that are required are Writing, Math, and a science or language of your choice.

The purpose of the SAT II tests is to measure what you've learned over the year about a particular academic subject. The best time to take an SAT II is a the end of the school year, preferably the end of your junior year. Obviously, you're going to have maximum knowledge of subject matter in June rather than in October of your senior year. Check out the application requirements of the colleges you're considering to see if they require the SAT II. If so, try to get them out of the way before the start of your senior year.

Check with your counselor for more details on both of these important tests.

Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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