SATs (Scholastic Assessment Test) are standardized tests students take before college admissions. High schools take SATs to measure students’ readiness for college. Students all over the US prepare for these tests to get the highest possible score to secure an admission in the college of their choice. Unfortunately, if SAT scores don’t meet top colleges’ eligibility criteria, students have to pick colleges with considerably lower standards. Therefore, at the end of high school, all students aim to score as high as possible in SATs in the subject of their choice.

SAT Subject Test, or SAT II, is a standardized form of exam that senior high school students take to test their individual subjects’ knowledge. SATs are taken at the end of high school in the US.

SAT tests are not mandatory. Students choose each SAT subject test as per the field they plan to pursue for their future education.

Students can choose particular SATs such as physics SATs, chemistry SATs, and math SATs to get training for their respective careers as physicists, chemical engineers, or mathematicians.

In this article, Superprof will examine all the topics examined in the physics SAT that will help them if they wish to choose a career in physics.

Work, Energy, And Power

Energy is a separate topic for physics students where they learn about various energy types, such as chemical, magnetic, and kinetic, among others.

Students learn about the conservation of energy and the concept of momentum. They learn that no energy can be created or destroyed. It can only be converted from one form or another.

They learn the laws of conservation. They see that although an isolated physical system evolves, it doesn’t lose its measurable properties.

When energy transfers from one source to another, work is said to be done. To put it in simple words, the energy transferred is work done, and work is measured in joules (J).

Students learn about work, which is a measure of the force applied and the displacement it causes. It ties into the concept of energy.

After that, students learn the concept of power. Power correlates to work and how quickly it is done. The definition of power is the work done divided by time.

connecting power
The different parts of a plug all safely work together to connect appliances and devices to the main electricity. (Source: pixabay)

Electricity And Magnetism

To talk about electric fields and potentials, we must speak of Coulomb’s law, quantifying the force between two charged particles.  This further expands into induced charge and how charged particles behave in electric fields. An induced charge is the charge induced by a charged particle on an uncharged particle.

Students are introduced to capacitance, which covers different types of capacitors, such as parallel-plate capacitors. They also look into the time-varying behaviors of capacitors while charging and discharging.

The second major subtopic deals with circuit components and DC electricity. This topic deals more with circuit components such as resistors, types of circuit networks, and switches.

It also deals with circuit laws, such as Ohm’s law and Joule’s law. Ohm’s law defines a relation between the voltage and current in a circuit, that is, voltage is directly proportional to current. The equation for Ohm’s law states that voltage equals the product of current and resistance in a circuit.

This subject also dwells on the concept of magnetism, which is tied in with electricity. Students learn about Faraday’s law and Lenz’s law and how magnets affect electric currents and fields.

A magnet has a magnetic field that creates magnetism. Each magnet has two poles on each end, and this field is the strongest, specifically at the poles. It is pertinent to note that like poles are always repelling one another while unlike poles, have an attraction. Two north poles will always repel one another. South and north poles will be attracted to one another.

Students learn of the two types of magnets. One is known as permanent, while the other is induced. As their names suggest, a permanent magnet always has a magnetic field around it. An induced magnet has to come in contact with a magnetic field. They lose their magnetism shortly after they are taken out of the field.

As per the SAT subject test requirements, topics like the motor effect, the basis of electromagnets Fleming’s left-hand rule are all discussed in detail.

For further SAT prep, students study how magnetism and electromagnetism work by explaining the direction and movement of the current of induced potential.

induced and permanent magnets
Permanent magnets always have a magnetic field that cannot be turned off. (Source: pixabay)


Students had already learned about energy in their previous physics lessons. Now they are introduced to waves, which are among the many ways for the transfer of energy. They learn about the different properties of waves, such as their amplitude, wavelength, and frequency.

There are two types of waves: transverse and longitudinal. Examples of longitudinal waves include sound and ultrasound waves. Transverse waves are microwaves, radio waves, and other electromagnetic waves.

Students are also taught about reflection and refraction. Some everyday examples of reflection are sound echoes, and reflection of light allows you to see yourself in the mirror. Refraction is a change in the direction of a wave when transmitting through two different materials.

The physics lessons on this topic further delve into ray optics, lenses, mirrors, and pinholes. If you do not find enough prep resources on this topic, you can follow the GCSE section’s waves topic.

Vectors, Kinematics And Dynamics

The topic of forces is very important in physics SAT. Students acquire learning on important topics such as kinematic, vector forces, and dynamics.

Students learn to differentiate between two kinds of physical quantities that are scalar and vector.

Some interesting subtopics in this include motion, statics, and friction. Students get to learn about the equations of Newton and how to measure gravitational field strength. Newton’s three laws of motion are discussed along with topics such as terminal velocity.

Kinematics delves into aspects of motion in the absence of any forces and mass. Dynamics, on the other hand, deals with motion with relation to forces and its effects.

Linear Momentum, Rotational And Circular Motion
In classical mechanics, there are two types of momentum known as linear and angular momentum. SAT II Physics syllabus only covers the concept of linear momentum, which deals with objects that move in a straight line.

Furthermore, circular and rotational motion, which is the motion of an object traveling circularly, is also discussed. It takes into account measurements, such as radii and angular acceleration, which do not feature linear motion calculations.

Rotational and circular motion differ in that rotational motion is such that the body’s center of mass remains fixed. Simply put, it is the circular movement of a body within a fixed axis. Circular motion is broader and covers all kinds of motion along a circular path.

Heat And Thermodynamics

Lessons for the SAT physics subject test delve further into heat and thermodynamics. Students are introduced to topics such as heat transfer, specific and latent heats, and thermal expansion.

There are three ways heat is transferred: radiation, convection, and conduction. For their physics exam, students have to learn the mechanism of each heat transfer method.

In their SAT prep, students are introduced to the concepts of specific and thermal heat and the equations to measure them. This topic has to do with the transition between different stages of matter, from liquid to solid and solid to gas. Specific and latent heat has a large part in the melting and boiling points of different materials.

Furthermore, the physics exam prep also deals with the thermodynamics laws and introduces students to entropy and enthalpy. They are given physics problems to calculate the enthalpy using the first and second laws of thermodynamics.

Modern Physics

This particular topic in the SAT prep syllabus deals with quantum and particle physics. It is common knowledge that all matter has particles. This time around, the physics lessons branch off towards atoms.

All matter is made of atoms, which are very small in size. You cannot see them with the naked eye. As small as they are, atoms have a nucleus filled with neutrons and protons. Around this nucleus, there are electrons.

Students will be introduced to the Rutherford and Bohr models. These are models used to describe the atomic structure. The Rutherford-Bohr model stipulates that electrons move in circular orbits around the nucleus.

Among all other particles in an atom, protons and neutrons are known to be the heaviest, and together they constitute the nucleon or mass number.

Furthermore, isotopes that are a separate species of an atom are also part of the subject. A common example of isotopes would be hydrogen and deuterium, commonly known as hard water.

Students also learn about radioactive decay, which happens when a nucleus breaks down into small atoms.

They give off radiation in different forms, which has several implications in nuclear science.

The topic of gravity makes a foray here because planetary bodies exert their gravitational forces. Students may be asked to calculate the gravitational forces between two planets as practice physics problems.

For the best exam prep for any SAT subject test, sign up with Superprof now! Enter the subject you want to learn, put in your location, and start your lessons right away with the best teachers available in town.

ions, isotopes and atoms
Protons and neutrons are the heaviest particles in an atom. (Source: Pixabay)
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