Hey Carnegie Prep, can you tell me more about the Biology E/M SAT Subject Test, and when should I consider taking it?

The Biology E/M SAT Subject Test covers a high school biology curriculum, material that is generally done in freshman year of high school. It is one of the most popular Subject Tests offered by the College Board and the least math-related exam in the “hard sciences.” The majority of 9th grade biology courses provide enough of a foundation for students to take the exam with some additional prep and practice.

Getting one standardized test out of the way at the start of high school can relieve some of the pressure during junior and senior year. Even if you don’t end up submitting your score for the biology test, it is still time and money well-spent. It will help you feel more comfortable as you approach other standardized tests later in your high school career. An additional benefit is that by preparing for the College Board test, you will likely ace your final exam at school.

Some students choose to take the exam after a year in AP Biology. Perhaps they did not know about the opportunity to take the test earlier in their high school career or they just decided to wait. For these students, there are some topics that are not covered, but the labs they covered in AP and the level of critical thinking they have mastered makes the additional prep quite manageable.

When I sign up for the test, should I sign up for E or M?  

The Biology E/M Subject Test differs in the final 20 questions of the exam. This allows students the option to answer more questions in the area in which they feel strongest. There’s no need to worry about E vs. M when signing up. Just register for Biology E/M and then decide which type you’ll take on the actual test date.

On the day of the exam, you will choose either the E questions or the M questions.

So what’s the difference?

Biology E is heavier in Ecology, Evolution, and Taxonomy. It emphasizes critical thinking and reasoning over factual information. This section involves evaluating data and analyzing experiments.

Biology M is more focused on Cellular Structure and Biochemistry. It tends to be more straightforward (the kinds of questions you either do or don’t know) but requires a stronger knowledge of all of the facts in the biology curriculum.

Questions 1-60 on both exams cover biological data and concepts, specifically Biochemistry, Genetics, Plants, Taxonomy, and Body Systems. You will do a significant amount of data interpretation. You should know about both Molecular and Ecological biology regardless of the version of the exam you decide to take.

The test is organized as follows:

  • Questions 1-60: Biology Subject Test same on both
  •  Questions 61-80: Biology E only
  • Questions 81-100: Biology M only

Here’s a breakdown from the College Board:

Which exam will we cover in the Carnegie Prep course?

In the Carnegie Prep Biology SAT Subject Test course, we prepare for both tests with several practice exams. Students also take a test before the class starts to get a baseline so they can see their improvement throughout the prep course. Additionally, students take both sections on all practice exams so they can determine which section they excel in.

Is it too late if I wait until after AP Biology to take the exam?

Since AP Biology is a college class, it focuses on different material than the Subject Test. AP Biology goes deeply into Biochemistry, Genetics, Evolution and Ecology, but spends little time on Body Systems, Plants, or Taxonomy, all of which the Subject Test covers. That said, after a rigorous AP Biology class, it is reasonable to assume that a student can master this additional material in the 3 weeks between the AP and the Subject Tests in June.

Pro Tip: AP Biology students are almost always more suited to the M test.