SAT Subject Test: Biology/EM

The SAT Subject Tests in Biology (offered as Biology-Ecology-E or Biology-Molecular-M) will assess a student’s comprehension of high school and college preparatory biology courses. The SAT Subject Tests in Biology E/M will allow the student to show proficiency in Biology and may help in gaining admission to colleges with courses requiring special skills in Biology, such as premed, veterinary science, nursing, or pharmacy studies.

In choosing which SAT Subject Test in Biology to take, the student should decide if his or her Biology course expertise is in biological communities and properties along with energy flow (choose Biology-E) or if the student is more familiar with biochemistry, cell structure, photosynthesis, and respiration (Biology-M). The student should confer with his or her high school Biology teacher for advice on which test would be more appropriate or if both should be taken. Students may take both tests, but may not take both tests on the same test day.

The SAT Subject Test in Biology E/M tests the student’s knowledge of Biology curricula generally taught in most high schools. The SAT Subject Test in Biology E/M will not replace any Honors’ or Advanced Placement testing for Biology but will focus specifically on comprehension of high school level and college preparatory Biology courses. Students taking either test should have already completed one year of algebra and one year of college preparatory level Biology course, and should have had good experience in a Biology laboratory.

To register online for the SAT Subject Test in Biology, either E or M, go online to: The registration fees for a Subject Test are $22 (2010-2011 fees). Students may register for an SAT Subject Test by phone ($15, if the student has already registered for a previous test), register late ($26), request to change a test date, a test, or test site ($25). Scores will be posted online at the student’s secure site and/or are mailed for no fee.

The SAT Subject Tests in Biology, either E or M, can be taken at the same testing center where a student would sit for the SAT Exam. The SAT Subject Test in Biology is generally offered in October, November, December, January, May, and June. The SAT General Exam is typically offered on the same dates as the SAT Subject Test in Biology E/M, but the student may not register to take both the SAT Exam and any SAT Subject Test on the same date, nor may the student take the 2 Subject Tests in Biology on the same testing date.

The tests are timed, and the student will be allowed a maximum amount of 60 minutes to complete each test. Each test includes 80 multiple choice questions; 60 of the questions are included in both tests, but 20 questions will be particular to either Molecular or Ecological Biology. Measurements are given using the metric system, and any mathematical problem solving will use simple numeric equations. A calculator is not allowed in the testing center for either of the SAT Subject Tests in Biology E/M.

Both SAT Subject Tests in Biology (E & M) are divided into three sections: application, fundamental concepts and knowledge, and interpretation. Each of these sections comprises about 1/3 of the entire test. The student should show familiarity with the metric system and also the concepts and principals in both algebra (direct and inverse proportions and ratios) and biology. Data may be presented in graphs or tabs, and the student should be able to observe, organize, and draw conclusions using recalled concepts and principals that will solve the problems.

Questions on both tests may include problems referring to Cellular and Molecular Biology, Ecology, Evolution and Diversity, Genetics, and Organismal Biology. The SAT Test in Biology Ecology (E) will have more questions relating to Ecology and less on Molecular Biology; the reverse is true for the SAT Test in Biology Molecular (M). Students should be familiar with concepts such as mitosis, photosynthesis, and enzymes; cellular structure, organization, and respiration; biodiversity, biomes, communities, conservation, ecosystems; meiosis and inheritance patterns; Mendelian, molecular, and population genetics; development, function, and structure of plant and animal organisms; animal behavior; origins and evidence of evolution, including classifications, diversities, speciations, and natural selection in organisms.

When arriving at the testing center, the student must bring an acceptable photo ID, two (2) number 2 pencils, and the printed admission ticket to the SAT Subject Test in Biology E or M. The student may not bring a calculator, computer, laptop, or cell phone calculator into the testing center. Students are not allowed to bring to the testing site any books, notebooks, scratch paper, pens, colored pencils, highlighters, rulers, protractors, compasses, timers, cell phones, PDAs, iPods, BlackBerries, or any digital, electronic equipment or devices. A student may want to bring a silent watch to keep track of elapsed time.

It is recommended that the student begin the test by quickly scanning through all multiple choice questions first, answering those that can be easily answered, followed by continuing with the more difficult questions. Read the questions carefully after the first scan before selecting the correct answer. Eliminate answers that are most obviously incorrect, and use the test booklet to mark these incorrect answers for reference. Mark on the test booklet those questions and/or sections that have already been completed. The student should not take too much time on any one section or question but continue to work steadily, moving on to the next question before too much time has elapsed, particularly if the answer is not known. Make an educated guess and go to the next question.

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by Enoch Morrison | Last Updated: January 9, 2019