How to prepare for the Bio SAT Subject Test?

I’m taking the Bio SAT in June. I am currently taking AP Biology right now, and I still have my Barron’s prep book that I bought to review for the AP exam. Would it be useful to use that book, or is it too specific to the AP test that it would not help to use it to prepare for SAT Subjects?

What are some similarities/differences between the Biology SAT and the AP Biology exam as far as what I can expect to see on the tests, the structure of the tests, and how easy/hard the Biology SAT is in comparison to the AP exam?

Thank you! :slight_smile:

I took both the AP Biology test and SAT Biology M test this month (May).

First of all, I bought separate books for the AP and the SAT, but they were both Barrons. I tell you: SAT Biology Barrons prep book has the exact same content as the one in the AP Biology Barrons book, except that the AP Bio Barrons book is much more detailed. The only reason you might want to buy the SAT Bio barrons book is for the practice tests, which are kind of similar to the actual test. But if you only want to study the content, do not buy the book because the AP Bio barrons book has the sufficient information you must know.

Similarities between AP Bio vs. SAT Bio:

  • Both tests cover the important Biology “big ideas” – you must know biochemistry, cell, cell division, evolution, ecology, etc etc for both tests
  • Both tests will assess your ability to interpret labs! Practice this a lot!

Differences between AP Bio vs. SAT Bio:

  • In my opinion, the SAT was more factual based while the AP Bio was more critical reading based. You would probably know what I’m talking about if you took the AP test this month. AP questions tend to give you the basic information about a certain content, and you must use that info to answer the questions. The SAT questions were more of “what is this?” questions, although there were some questions that were similar to the AP ones.
  • The SAT Bio also tests the small details about the animal phyla & characteristics, plants, human body, and etc.
  • The SAT has 5 answer choices and you get points off (penalty) if you get the questions wrong. Therefore, omit any questions you do not know at all. The AP has no penalty and only has 4 answer choices.
  • The SAT Bio has 2 types – M (Molecular) vs. E (Ecology). The SAT Bio test has 60 core questions that both the M and E testers must answer. After taking those 60 questions, there will be 2 special sections - M and E - in which you can choose to take on the day of the test. Each section has 20 questions, making the whole test consist of 80 questions. The M section has lots of questions about DNA, proteins, genetic engineering / biotechnology, cells, and the molecular things. The E section has lots of questions about ecology, as well as evolution, animal body structure, and etc.
  • The SAT Bio has no essays - only MCQ.

From what I’ve heard, if you are going to a Biology or Medical major, it is recommended for you to take the M test. I took the M test for that reason. Otherwise, take the E because that’s easier (in my opinion).

Personally, I think the SAT was easier than the AP because the SAT has questions that are less critical reading-based. I feel like the AP Bio test was more of an English test that tests you how fast you can read the questions and how fast you can interpret the given information. I did bad in AP Bio because of that; I ran out of time.

Some advices for you on taking the SAT:

  • Practice as many questions as you can. Buy more than one prep books if you can and try all of the practice tests.
  • Pace yourself. Be very quick in the first part because there will be long questions in the back of the actual test (you need to interpret a lab result and answer 4 questions on that, for example) like the AP.
  • Keep reviewing!

A good score is + 750.

I hope this helped you :slight_smile:

PS: I got a 760 on the SAT Bio M test… I’m planning to take it one more time to get a 780~800.

Hey swb21ok, I am a soon-to-be junior. I am planning to take the SAT !! Bio (and one other SAT II) my senior year. Just wondering when did you start preparing?

A good score is 700+. I don’t know why CCers think that anything below a 750 isn’t good.


I started preparing for the SAT using the Barrons book 2 months before the test day, but I was also taking the AP Biology course, which made me more prepared. If you are not / have not taken the AP Biology, then I recommend you to prepare for the SAT 3 months ~ 4 months before the test day so that you have time to fully understand and memorize all the necessary content.