Not all colleges require that you submit scores for a subject test. If you are applying to colleges that do not require the World History SAT Subject test, then there is no need to take the exam outside of doing it for personal satisfaction. Of the Colleges that do require or strongly suggest incoming students take the exam and submit scores, it will be a fantastic way to showcase your understanding and grasp of modern and ancient world history. If you are planning to major in history, then you would likely be encouraged to enroll in the exam as well.

History is a collection of stories that humanity passes on to each successive generation for the purpose of education and insight. It tells of great leaders and the lands they controlled and/or conquered, of how cultures learned and migrated to other regions of the world. History teaches of the struggles and accomplishments of humankind. It is a way of learning about the events and the people who shaped them into what we consider modern-day. This fascinating subject is incredibly rewarding but will only get more and more challenging as time goes on because there will be so much more to remember.

coffee and practice test
Subject tests demonstrate your level of understanding to admissions staff. (Photo Cred Green Chameleon on Upsplash)

Should I take the SAT subject test?

So, you have decided you will be applying to a college which requires you to submit a World History SAT Subject test score. The next thing to learn is what is the school’s acceptable range of scores? Some colleges may require a perfect 800 points but most will not.  More often than not, the range is 650-800 and if that’s the case, you can change how you study. The College Board recommends that you begin preparing 1-3 months before you plan to take the exam. Officially, it is offered only three times per year, so you have your choice of June, August, or December. Since the opportunities to take the test are fairly limited, it is strongly recommended that you register a couple of months in advance so you can ensure a seat.

Once you have registered for the test, now you must think through how much time you have before the test and start developing a study program for yourself. Consider something that will be manageable but also regularly scheduled. If you think this is above your pay grade, there are many companies and private tutors whose entire business revolves around helping a student like you plan and prepare for various SAT exams. When you meet with them, they will walk you through your current schedule and help show you time slots where you can fit in some studying and test prep. Creating a proper schedule is a make or break kind of task. If you have any hopes of scoring well on this test, a schedule is a must.

kid is taking a take home test
You will have 60 minutes to complete 95 multiple-choice questions. (Photo cred Annie Spratt on Upsplash)

How will the Subject Test Look?

Part of your preparation must be to learn about the format of the exam and how it will be structured. You will have 60 minutes to complete 95 multiple-choice questions. SAT world history practice tests are a great way to start learning about the format of the questions and how you do from a time-management standpoint.  Limiting yourself to 30 seconds per question takes practice and practice tests are a no-risk way of learning how to manage your time effectively.

The exam is composed of two sections. One focuses on geography and the other one on chronology. The Chronology section is laid out with 'Prehistory and Civilizations before 500 CE' composing 25%. '500 to 1500 CE' will be 25%, '1500 to 1900 CE' is 25%, 'After 1900 CE' is 20% and the remaining 10% will be in a 'Cross-Chronology'. In this part of the test, you will be asked about how events of a certain era caused or are linked to events of a different time, similar to cause and effect.

The second section of the exam will be aimed at your understanding of geography. Here you will be tested on 'Europe' for 25%, 'Africa' for 10%, 'Southwest Asia' for 10%, 'East Asia' for 10%, and 'The Americas excluding the United States' for the remaining 10%. This can sound very daunting yet in reality you do not need to know what King Louis XIV of Versailles had for breakfast on the morning of September 5, 1644. Instead, think of the big picture.

When you are preparing for the exam, consider a given region and think about the common political ideology of that region. Do factions exist that might be able to alter the important ideologies? In the Arts and Sciences, what are some of the major developments or works of note? When and how has power shifted during this period and into the next century or era? The concepts you want to focus on learning will be mostly overarching themes and not as much the specific facts.

man reads book with map cover
Being familiar with World History can also make you a better traveler, especially when visiting museums abroad! (Photo Cred Adolfo Félix on Upsplash)

Types of Questions You'll See on the Exam

There will be three main types of questions. Identification, Image-based, and Cause and Effect. In the first type, you will be asked to identify statements that accurately describe the ideology or event at a given point in history.  You will be asked why a religious group chose to migrate during a certain period or why two countries decided to engage in war. These will be both fact-oriented and theme-based questions. What happened during this period of time and which answer most accurately represents it?

The second style of questions will be in the form of Cause and Effect. In some prompts, you will be given a couple of events and will need to select which answer links them correctly. Other prompts will discuss an ideology and you will need to choose what resulted from said event.  These types of questions are logic-based. If you understand the era and talking points of what happened, you can often deduce how they are connected and which answer is correct. Timelines are an important concept to remember and focus on when preparing for this exam.

Lastly, the Image-based questions will ask you to determine the regions to which an empire expanded, trade routes between various nations, or areas of the world where significant events occurred. The best way to prepare for these questions is to study a map and learn how it has changed and evolved over the centuries. You can mark down where significant events have happened and how they lead to another upcoming event through history.

bundle of maps on a table
There will be identification, cause and effect, and image-based questions.  (Photo cred Andrew Neel on Upsplash)

Make Your Application Stand Out

SAT subject tests are designed to be challenging which is why more colleges have begun using them as a litmus test to weed out the people unwilling to rise to the occasion. As a high school student, you are in a very competitive environment. More people than any time in the past are applying and going to college. Taking the SAT World History test will make your application stand out. Your goal should be to get yourself to the top of the stack and be noticed right off the bat. An additional perk of the subject test is that often colleges will take that score and use it towards your overall credits toward your diploma. Taking the test could save you from taking an additional class during your academic career. Additionally, taking the test will highlight your interest in the field of study. It will demonstrate to the admissions staff that you are serious about this subject and are ready and capable of more.

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Seth