SAT Subject Tests: Math 1 vs Math 2


Posted by Alan Zhang

July 19, 2019 at 8:00 AM

SAT subject test math

SAT Subject Test Math 1 vs Math 2: Which one do I take?

Many colleges require students to submit SAT Subject Test scores. If math is a strong subject for you, you’re probably deciding between which SAT Math Subject Test to take. There are two Math SAT Subject Tests: SAT Math 1 and SAT Math 2.

Math 2 is meant for students who have taken more high school math classes, as it covers a broader range of topics than Math 1. Aside from this, both have 50 multiple choice questions to complete in a 60 minute time limit.

See below for topics covered in Math 1, Math 2, similarities and differences, and other general tips.

Topics Covered on SAT Math 1

The SAT Subject Test Math 1 covers topics learned in one year of geometry and two years of algebra. See the list below:

Topics and Subtopics % of Math 1 SAT Subject Test Approximate # of Questions
Number and Operations (Operations, ratio and proportion, complex numbers, counting, elementary number theory, matrices, sequences) 10-14% 5-7
Algebra and Functions (Expressions, equations, inequalities, representation and modelling, properties of functions (linear, polynomial, rational, exponential) 38-42% 19-21
Geometry and Measurement 38-42% 19-21
Plane geometry 18-22% 9-11
Coordinate: Lines, parabolas, circles, symmetry, transformations 8-12% 4-6
Three-dimensional: solids, surface area and volume (cylinders, cones, pyramids, spheres, prisms) 4-6% 2-3
Trigonometry: right triangles and identities 6-8% 3-4
Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability (Mean, median, mode, range, interquartile range, graphs and plots, least squares regression (linear), probability) 8-12% 4-6

As you can see from the table, the majority of questions will cover algebra, functions, or geometry - so this is what you should focus your studying on. In addition, typically around 5 questions on data analysis/statistics/probability will be tested as well.

Topics Covered on SAT Math 2

The SAT Subject Test Math 2 covers the same topics as Math 1 plus precalculus and trigonometry. Something to note: there will be more advanced geometry topics like coordinate- and three-dimensional geometry. See the list below:

Topics and Subtopics % of Math 2 SAT Subject Test Approximate # of Questions
Number and Operations (Operations, ratio and proportion, complex numbers, counting, elementary number theory, matrices, sequences, series, vectors) 10-14% 5-7
Algebra and Functions (Expressions, equations, inequalities, representation and modelling, properties of functions (linear, polynomial, rational, exponential, logarithmic, trigonometric, inverse trigonometric, periodic, piecewise, recursive, parametric) 48-52% 24-26
Geometry and Measurement 28-32% 14-16
Coordinate: lines, parabolas, circles, ellipses, hyperbolas, symmetry, transformations, polar coordinates 10-14% 5-7
Three-dimensional: solids, surface area and volume (cylinders, cones, pyramids, spheres, prisms), coordinates in three dimensions 4-6% 2-3
Trigonometry: right triangles, identities, radians, law of cosines, law of sines, equations, double angle formula 12-16% 6-8
Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability (Mean, median, mode, range, interquartile range, standard deviation, graphs and plots, least squares regression (linear, quadratic, exponential), probability) 8-12% 4-6

Math 2 is weighted heavily towards algebra and functions (about half of the test is made up of these questions). Expect to see a good amount of trigonometry as well.

The most important topic to study for the Math 2 test is the properties of all different types of functions (including trig functions).

SAT SUBJECT TEST MATH 1 VS MATH 2: SIMILARITIES AND DIFFERENCES

Similarities:

Numbers and Operations:

  • Operations: basic multiplication/division/addition/subtraction. Order of operations is important!
  • Ratio and Proportion: Value comparisons and relationships between value comparisons
  • Complex Numbers: Numerical expressions that include imaginary numbers
  • Counting: How many combinations are possible given certain conditions. For example, if there are 8 seats and 8 people, how many orders could they sit in?
  • Elementary Number Theory: Properties of integers, factorization, prime factors, etc.
  • Matrices: Basic operations with number grids
  • Sequences: Number patterns

Geometry

  • Geometry on the coordinate plane: lines, parabolas, circles, symmetry, and transformations. Mainly focused on properties of figures: is this shape symmetrical? What is the length of this line segment?
  • Three-dimensional: Calculating the surface area and volume of cylinders, cones, pyramids, spheres, and prisms
  • Trigonometry: Right triangles, Pythagorean theorem, basic trig identities such as (sine, cosine, tangent)

Algebra

  • Expressions: Mathematical phrases with variables, numbers, and operators (like x + 3 or 2x + 9y − 4). Know how to factor, expand, and manipulate these expressions
  • Equations: Solving equations and systems of equations
  • Inequalities: Expressions set to be greater or less than a value, like x + 3 < 10. Know how to solve these and systems of inequalities
  • Representation and Modeling: Creating equations that model a given scenario. Know how to create and interpret these
  • Properties of Functions: Linear, polynomial, rational, exponential - be able to identify the following kinds of functions and understand how they work, their graphs, and how to factor them. Also know how to identify x- and y-intercepts

Data Analysis, Statistics, and Probability

  • Mean, Median, Mode, Range
  • Interquartile Range: A measure of a data set variability based on the range between data quartiles 3 and 1
  • Graphs and Plots: Creating and interpreting visual representations of data sets
  • Least Squares Regression (Linear): How closely are two variables correlated? How much does the data set resemble a straight line
  • Probability

Topics on Math 1 Only

The only topic on Math 1 that is not on Math 2 is plane geometry, which makes up around 20% of Math 1.

Topics on Math 2 Only

Math 2 contains a fairly large number of topics that aren’t tested on Math 1. The following are some examples:

Numbers and Operations

  • Series: The sum of a sequence.
  • Vectors: Geometric objects with size (length) and direction; you’ll need to be able to do basic operations with vectors.

Geometry

  • Coordinate: Equations and properties of ellipses and hyperbolas in the coordinate plane, polar coordinates
  • Three-Dimensional: Plotting lines and determining distances between points in three dimensions
  • Trigonometry
  • Radian Measure: Know how to convert to and from degrees
  • Law of Cosines and Law of Sines: Know the formulas and how to use them
  • Equations: Know how to identify and solve algebraic equations involving trigonometric identities, like 10 = cos(x + 8)
  • Double Angle Formulas: Formulas that allow you to find information on an angle twice as large as the given angle measure

Algebra

Properties of Functions: Be able to identify the following kinds of functions and understand how they work, how they look when graphed, and how to factor them. You should also be able to identify x- and y-intercepts and any unique characteristics they might have - Logarithmic - Trigonometric Functions - Inverse Trigonometric Functions - Periodic - Piecewise - Recursive - Parametric

Data Analysis, Statistics and Probability

  • Least Squares Regression (quadratic, exponential): How well the points of a data set corresponds to a quadratic or exponential shape

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Posted by Alan Zhang

Alan scored in the 99th percentile on the ACT in high school and is currently studying Economics at The University of Chicago. Interesting Fact #4: Area 51 memes are popping.