Introduction to the SAT II Chemistry Test
The best way to do well on the SAT II Chemistry test is to be really good at chemistry. For that, there is no substitute.
But the chemistry geek who spends the night before taking the SAT II cramming all of the nuances of crystal-field
theory and coordination compounds probably won’t fare any better on the test than the average student who reviews
this book carefully. Why? Because the SAT II Chemistry test doesn’t cover crystal-field theory and coordination
Happy? Good. This chapter will tell you precisely what the SAT II Chemistry test willtest you on, how the test breaks
down, and what format the questions will take. Take this information to heart and base your study plan around it.
There’s no use spending hours on end studying topics you won’t be tested on.
Format of the SAT II Chemistry Test
The 85 multiple-choice-type questions that make up the SAT II Chemistry exam fall into three types, and according to
the College Board Web site, these types test three types of skill.
Skill Being Tested
Approximate % of
test that this
question type makes
Approximate no. of
questions of this
type that you’ll see
Recall of knowledge: remembering
fundamental concepts and specific
information; demonstrating familiarity
Application of knowledge: Applying a
single principle to unfamiliar and/or
practical situations to obtain a qualitative
result or solve a quantitative problem
Synthesis of knowledge: Inferring and
deducing from qualitative and/or
quantitative data; integrating two or more
relationships to draw conclusions or
As you can see, the SAT II test tests your knowledge of chemistry in three different ways. This test also contains three
different types of questions: classification questions, relationship-analysis questions, and five-choice completion
questions. Next we’ll talk about exactly what these three types of questions look like.
Classification questions are basically reverse-multiple-choice questions. They consist of five answer choices followed
by a string of three to five questions. To make things more confusing, the answer choices may be used once, more
than once, or not at all—so although a classification question often looks like simple matching, it isn’t!
The level of difficulty in any one set of classification questions is generally pretty random: you can’t expect the first
question in a set to be easier than the last. However, in the test as a whole, each set of classification questions is
generally a bit harder than the one that came before.
Familiarize yourself with the following set of directions—if you read and understand them now, you won’t waste
precious time on test day.
Directions: Each set of lettered choices below refers to the numbered questions or statements immediately following it.
Select the one lettered choice that best answers each question or best fits each statement and then fill in the corresponding
oval on the answer sheet. A choice may be used once, more than once, or not at all in each set.
A highly electronegative element
Forms colored solutions when dissolved in water
Normally exists as a diatomic molecule but can react to form a 2-ion
You can usually answer classification questions a bit more quickly than the standard five-choice completion questions
since you need to review only one set of answer choices to answer a series of questions. The answer to number 1 is E.
Electronegativity is a measure of the ability of an atom in a chemical bond to attract electrons to itself; in chapter 4
you’ll learn how to use your periodic table to answer questions like this one. The answer to number 2 is D, copper.
Copper often forms green/blue solutions. The answer to number 3 is A, zinc. Also in chapter 4, you’ll learn to predict
what ions certain elements will form and in what state they are normally found in nature. Don’t worry if you don’t
know the answers to these questions right now. This example is meant mainly to show you how a classification
question is formatted.
Relationship-analysis questions consist of a specific statement, statement I, followed by another statement, statement
II. To answer these questions, you must determine first whether statement I is true or false and then whether
statement II is true or false. Next you must decide whether the second statement is the reason for the first statement
being true. These questions may appear intimidating to you since they’re probably unfamiliar, but after taking the
practice exams in this book, you should feel as comfortable with them as you do with the other question types.
One more thing about this question type: strangely enough, on the SAT II Chemistry test, the section containing
relationship-analysis questions is always numbered starting with 101. There will be one section of these on each of the
tests, and they also get their own special section on your answer sheet—also beginning with number 101. There are
usually about 16 or 17 questions of this type on the SAT II Chemistry exam. Again, take the time to familiarize yourself
with these directions so you won’t have to even look at them on test day.
Directions: Each question below consists of two statements, statement I in the left-hand column and statement II in the right-
hand column. For each question, determine whether statement I is true or false and whether statement II is true or false and
fill in the corresponding T or F ovals on your answer sheet. Fill in oval CE only if statement II is a correct explanation of
A 1.0 M solution of HCl has a low pH.
HCl contains chlorine.
An atom of chlorine is smaller than an atom of
Chlorine has a greater effective nuclear charge than
Look at question 101. Statement I is true: HCl is an acid, which is a substance that’s capable of donating H+ ions in
solution. Acids have a pH that’s lower than 7, while bases have a pH above 7. Statement II is also true: HCl is made up
of a hydrogen atom and a chlorine atom. Now do the final step—is the pH of HCl directly related to the concentration
of the chlorine ions in solution? No, it is directly related to the number of H+ ions given off by HCl in solution—you
would not fill in the bubble marked CE(correct explanation).
Now the answer to question 102. Statement I is true. Statement II is true. As you’ll learn in “The Structure of Matter,”
atomic radius decreases from left to right across the periodic table because the more protons in the nucleus of the
atom, the more tightly and more closely held are the atom’s electrons. This is an example of another way you can use
the periodic table while taking the test. If you understand periodic trends, you won’t have to memorize the atomic
radii of all of the elements. The CE, for “correct explanation,” should be bubbled in.
Five-Choice Completion Questions
These are the multiple-choice questions we all know and love, and which are the lifeblood of any multiple-choice
exam. You know the drill: they ask a question and give you five possible answer choices, and you pick the best one.
This will be the third and final part of the exam.
Here are the directions you’ll see on the exam:
Directions: Each of the questions or incomplete statements below is followed by five suggested answers or completions. For
each question, select the one choice that is the best answer to the question and then fill in the corresponding oval on the
Which of the following molecules does not match its geometric shape?
V shape (bent)
The answer is E—the shape of this compound is irregular tetrahedron (also known as trigonal pyramid). You’ll learn
rules for predicting molecular structures in chapter 4. Now, the above question is a straightforward multiple choice,
but there’s another type of five-choice completion question on the test, and it looks like the question below:
Which of the following statements correctly describe the information necessary for finding the concentration of an
unknown monoprotic acid by titration with KOH?
I. The concentration of the base
II. The total starting volume of acid
III. The volume of the base used to reach the equivalence point
I and II only
I and III only
I, II, and III
Let’s analyze it. To find the concentration of the unknown acid, you’ll need to know the molarity of the base used in
the titration or, put in simpler language, the moles of base per liter of solution. So, statement I is necessary. We’ll also
need the information in statements II and III, as you’ll learn in “Laboratory.” The correct answer is E.
While knowing your chemistry inside and out is the best way to ensure that you’ll do well on this test, it will also help
you on test day if you’ve developed a strategy that enables you to answer all the questions that test you on chemistry
you feel confident about and to guess intelligently on the questions on areas in which you feel less confident. We will
talk about some strategies for how to deal with these harder questions in the next chapter.
Scoring the SAT II Chemistry
Scoring on the SAT II Chemistry is the same as scoring for all other SAT II tests. For every right answer, you earn one
point. For every wrong answer, you lose 1 /4 of a point. For each question you leave blank, you earn zero points. These
points combined equal your raw score. ETS converts your raw score to a scaled score using a curve tailored to the
particular test you take. We’ve included a raw-to-scaled conversion chart below so you can translate your raw score on
a practice test into scaled scores.