SAT Subject Test in Physics

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The SAT Subject Test in Physics, Physics SAT II, or simply the Physics SAT, is a one-hour multiple choice test on physics administered by The College Board in the United States. A high school student generally chooses to take the test to fulfill college entrance requirements for the schools at which the student is planning to apply. Until 1994, the SAT Subject Tests were known as Achievement Tests; until January 2005, they were known as SAT IIs; they are still well known by this name.

The material tested on the Physics SAT is supposed to be equivalent to that taught in a junior- or senior-level high school physics class. It requires critical thinking and test-taking strategies, at which high school freshmen or sophomores may be inexperienced. The Physics SAT tests more than what normal state requirements are; therefore, many students prepare for the Physics SAT using a preparatory book or by taking an AP course in Physics.


The SAT Subject Test in Physics has 75 questions and consists of two parts: Part A and Part B.

Part A:

  • First 12 or 13 questions
  • 4 groups of two to four questions each
  • The questions within any one group all relate to a single situation.
  • Five possible answer choices are given before the question.
  • An answer choice can be used once, more than once, or not at all in each group.

Part B:

  • Last 62 or 63 questions
  • Each question has five possible answer choice with one correct answer.
  • Some questions may be in groups of two or three.


Major Topic % on Test
Mechanics 36–42
Electricity and Magnetism 18–24
Waves 15–19
Heat, Kinetic Theory and Thermodynamics 6–11
Modern Physics 6–11
Miscellaneous 4–9


The test has 75 multiple choice questions that are to be answered in one hour. All questions have five answer choices. Students receive 1 point for every correct answer, lose ¼ of a point for each incorrect answer, and receive 0 points for questions left blank. This score is then converted to a scaled score of 200–800. The mean score for the 2006–07 test administrations was 643 with a standard deviation of 107. Sample percentile ranks for the 2008[1] administrations are available from the College Board.


The College Board's recommended preparation is a one-year college preparatory course in physics, a one-year course in algebra and trigonometry, and experience in the laboratory.


Students taking the SAT Subject Test in Physics are prohibited from using any resources during the test, including textbooks, notes, or formula sheets. Although there are mathematics questions including trigonometry, the use of a calculator is not allowed. All scratch work must be done directly in the test booklet.

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