SAT Math I and II Subject Tests: What is the Difference?

The SAT Math Level 1 (Math I) and Math Level 2 (Math II) Subject Tests are taken by applicants to US universities and colleges to showcase their strength, understanding and knowledge of higher-level mathematics for undergraduate studies. Both SAT Math Level I and Math Level 2 tests cover topics in number and operations, elementary algebra, 3-D geometry, coordinate geometry, statistics and basic trigonometry.

In addition to the SAT Math I topics, the SAT Math II test covers more advanced trigonometry and functions beyond pre-calculus. Students should be fairly comfortable with using a scientific or graphing calculator to solve problems on the Math II test. The main differences and overlap between the Math I and the Math II tests are outlined below:

Number and Operations: Math I covers basic operations of complex numbers, while Math II looks at graphing and other properties of complex numbers, including finite and infinite series and sequences, and Euclidean vectors.

Geometry and Measurement: A large portion of the Level 1 test focuses on plane geometry and measurement. However, the Level 2 exam tests the application of Euclidean plane geometry to coordinate and 3-D geometry such as solids (cubes, cylinders, cones, etc). A significant part of the coordinate geometry in Math II deals with lines, distance and conic sections such as parabolas and circles.

Trigonometry: Math I trigonometry mainly covers right triangle trigonometry with use of the laws of sine, cosine and tangent and more basic relationships among trigonometric ratios. Math II includes questions about elliptical and hyperbolic geometry, polar coordinates and 3-D coordinates. Math II trigonometry questions emphasize solving problems related to the properties and graphs of trigonometric functions, trigonometric identities and educations, and reciprocal and inverse functions.

Algebra and Functions: Math I tests the solving of basic algebraic equations and functions that involve working with systems, exponentials, roots, inequalities, and absolute values. Level 2 also contains more advanced equations (binomials, polynomials, quadratics) and logarithmic and trigonometric functions.

Probability, Statistics and Data Analysis: Both SAT Math I and II cover mean, median, mode, range, interquartile range, data interpretation and probability. Math II includes calculating standard deviation as well. Both Math I and II have questions on linear regression, but Math II also includes quadratic and exponential regression. It would be helpful to use a graphing calculator for solving these problems.

When deciding which SAT Subject Math test to write, students should consider what they have studied in school and what is required by the colleges and programs they are interested in applying to. Students should consult their high school math teacher to help them decide. For more information on the SAT Math I and Math II Subject Tests, go to: www.collegeboard.org