Biology SAT Subject Test Overview: Format and Test Dates
In terms of Biology SAT Subject Tests, you can choose to take either Biology Ecological (Biology-E) or Biology Molecular (Biology-M). According to the College Board’s descriptions of the two SAT Subject Tests, Biology-E “leans more toward biological communities, populations, and energy flow,” whereas Biology-M is more “geared toward biochemistry, cellular structure and processes, such as respiration and photosynthesis.”
Both versions have the same test format and guidelines:
- Total Time: 60 minutes
- Total Number of Questions: 80 multiple-choice questions
- Scoring: Scored on a scale from 200 to 800
- No calculator allowed!
Sixty of the questions are identical for both versions of the test, while the last 20 are specialized to either E or M. Biology E/M is offered on the May, June, August, October, November, and December SAT Subject Test dates.
Should You Take the Biology Subject Test? Which Version?
Now that you understand what the Biology SAT Subject Test entails, should you take it or not?
To help you decide, you need to first find out if any of the schools you’re applying to require or recommend SAT Subject Tests. You can do this by simplylooking at our other article for a full list of schools that ask applicants to send Subject Test scores (we also introduce these schools’ specific requirements).
If you already know that you need to take Subject Tests, there are a few reasons you might look to the Biology test as a viable option.
How to Decide Between the Biology E and Biology M Versions
I gave you a short description of the content of each of these two tests in the previous section, but it probably wasn’t enough information for you to make a decision.
This choice ultimately comes down to whether you’re more comfortable with the macro or micro aspects of biology. SAT Biology-E deals more with large-scale energy flow in ecosystems and changes in the environment over time. By contrast, Biology M focuses more on the chemical elements of biology that occur on a miniscule scale.
If you’re more of a science-oriented student, you’ll probably be better off with Biology-M. If you’re more into subjects like history and English, Biology-E might be a better choice.
Keep in mind that the two tests aren’t completely different. There are only 20 questions out of 80 that are specific to either E or M. For this reason, I wouldn’t stress too much over your choice. If you took a biology class and did reasonably well in it, you shouldn’t have a problem with either version of the test.
Oh, and for anyone who’s wondering—yes, you can take both Biology-E and Biology-M, but you can’t take them both on the same test date (makes sense, considering they’re almost the same test!).
What’s on the Biology SAT II?
Here’s a content overview provided by the College Board that lists the division of topics for each version of the Biology SAT Subject Test:
From the chart, you can see that many more questions are devoted to Cellular and Molecular Biology on the Biology-M test, and many more are devoted to Ecology on the Biology-E test.
Notice that Biology M also has slightly more questions on Genetics, whereas Biology E has slightly more questions on Evolution and Diversity. Both tests have the same number of questions dealing with Organismal Biology. These topics should all be familiar to you if you’ve taken a biology course.
The types of skills tested on both Biology-E and Biology-M include the following:
- Recalling fundamental concepts and specific facts (about 30% of test)
- Applying biological knowledge to practical scenarios presented on the test and solving problems using mathematical relationships (about 35% of test)
- Making inferences and forming conclusions based on qualitative and quantitative data (about 35% of test)
Essentially, 70% of questions will present a scenario and then ask you to make deductions or calculations based on it. The scenario could be a chart of bacteria growth or a description of a lab procedure. It’s important to know the fundamental parts of an experiment (independent and dependent variables) and be able to project your understanding onto unfamiliar situations.
The other 30% of questions just ask you to recall biological facts directly. I’ll provide examples of different types of questions you can expect to see on the test in the next section.