SAT Subject Test in United States History

The SAT Subject Test in United States History is the name of a one-hour multiple choice test given on United States History by The College Board. A student chooses whether to take the test depending upon college entrance requirements for the schools in which the student is planning to apply. Until 1994, the SAT Subject Tests were known as Achievement Tests; and from 1995 until January 2005, they were known as SAT IIs. Of all SAT subject tests, United States History is taken the second most, with 119,903 administrations in 2009.[1]


The test has 90 multiple choice questions that are to be answered in one hour.[2] All questions have five answer choices. Students' scores are based entirely on their performance in answering the multiple choice questions.

The questions cover a broad range of topics. Approximately 31–35% of questions focus on political history, 13–17% focus on economic history, 20–24% focus on social history, 13–17% focus on intellectual and cultural history, and 13–17% focus on foreign policy.[2]

The questions also vary with respect to time period; approximately 20% focus on period of the Pre-Columbian era to 1789, 40% focus on the period between 1790 and 1898, and 40% focus on the period between 1899 and the present day.[2]


For each of the multiple choice questions, students receive 1 point for every correct answer, lose 14 of a point for each incorrect answer, and receive 0 points for questions left blank. This creates a raw score, which is then converted into a scaled score. The conversion between these numbers varies depending on the difficulty of a particular test administration. The scaled score is the only score reported to either students or colleges and ranges from 200 to 800, with 800 being the best possible score. The mean and standard deviation of the test scores in 2009 were 599 and 115, respectively.[1]


The College Board suggests as preparation for the test a year-long course in United States History at the college preparatory level.[2] The test requires understanding of historical data and concepts, cause and effect relationships, geography, and the ability to effectively synthesize and interpret data from charts, maps, and other visual media. However, most questions from this test are derived from/similar to the AP US History Multiple Choice questions from 2014 and earlier (the 2015 exam has been revised). By taking an AP class, IB History of the Americas, or a class with similar rigor, the chances at doing well on this test are much improved.

See also


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