Content of SAT II Physics
Content of SAT II Physics
Math and physics go hand in hand, right? You might be surprised, then, to learn that you aren’t allowed to use a calculator on SAT II Physics. The math required of you never goes beyond simple arithmetic and manipulation of equations. You have, on average, 48 seconds to answer each question, and the people at ETS realize that isn’t enough time to delve into problems involving simultaneous equations or complex trigonometry. They’re more interested in testing your grasp of the basic concepts of physics. If you’ve grasped these concepts, your weakness in math isn’t going to hurt you.
ETS breaks down the concepts you need to know for the test into six categories:
Topic Percentage of the Test
Mechanics 34–38%
Electricity and Magnetism 22–26%
Waves 15–19%
Heat, Kinetic Theory, and Thermodynamics 8–12%
Modern Physics 8–12%
Miscellaneous 2–4%
While these categories are helpful, they are also very broad. You may be a whiz with waves but a loser with lenses, and want to know how much of the waves portion of the test will be devoted to optics. To help you out, we’ve broken the test down even further so that you’ll know exactly where to expect to feel the squeeze. (These figures are only approximations, and may vary from test to test.)
Topic % of the Test Number of Questions
Mechanics 34–38% 25–29
Vectors 2% 1–2
Kinematics 6% 4–5
Dynamics 10% 7–8
Work, Energy, and Power 6% 4–5
Special Problems in Mechanics 5% 3–4
Linear Momentum 2% 1–2
Rotational Motion 1% 0–1
Circular Motion and Gravitation 4% 2–4
Thermal Physics 8–12% 6–10
Heat and Temperature 4% 2–4
Kinetic Theory and Ideal Gas Laws 2–3% 1–2
Laws of Thermodynamics 1% 0–2
Heat Engines 2–3% 1–2
Electricity & Magnetism 22–26% 16–20
Electric Fields, Forces, Potential 10% 7–8
Magnetic Fields and Forces 6% 4–5
Electromagnetic Induction 1% 1
Circuits and Circuit Elements 6% 4–5
Waves 15–19% 11–15
Waves 10% 7–8
Optics 7% 5–6
Modern Physics 8–12% 6–9
Special Relativity 1–2% 1–2
Atomic Models 3% 2–3
Quantum Physics 2% 1–2
Nuclear Physics 3% 2–3
Miscellaneous 2–4% 1–3
Graph Analysis 1–2% 0–2
Equation Manipulation 0.5–1% 0–1
Significant Digits and Lab Skills 0.5–1% 0–1
The chapters of this book are organized according to these categories. If a physics topic is not in this book, you don’t need to know it. Here’s some other helpful information:
You need to know: the formulas expressing physical relationships (such as F = ma), how to manipulate equations, how to read a graph
You don’t need to know: trig identities, calculus, three-dimensional vectors and graphs, physical constants (such as G = 6.6710–11 N·m2 ⁄ kg2)
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