Ni hao Magooshers! Mr. B here. In the past few years, Chinese (Mandarin) has become one of the most popular languages for American students to learn in high school. China is certainly an exciting country, something I got to discover for myself in the summer of 2013. If you’re a high school student studying Chinese, I sincerely hope that you get to put your Chinese skills to use in a study abroad or work opportunity.
Chinese is a tough language, for sure, but if you know your stuff, you need to flaunt it. It’s time to take the SAT Chinese Subject Test!
In this article I’ll go over the SAT Chinese Subject Test, making sure that you know everything about this important test before you sit down to take it. If you get to the end of the article and still have questions, make sure to check out the official College Board website to learn more!
Should I take it?
Even if you’ve taken Chinese all throughout high school, it’s not likely that you’re fluent. The College Board understands this. That’s why the test is geared to students who have taken 2-4 of years of Chinese in high school. It’s still going to be tough, but it’s not an impossible undertaking.
Also, it’s worth mentioning that one of the hardest parts of Chinese for Americans is speaking Chinese. Fortunately for you, there is no part of the test where you have to speak. Yet there is a listening section. We’ll get to that in a second.
So, in summary, if you’ve been taking Chinese for a few years, and done well in class, the SAT Chinese Subject Test is good idea.
What’s on the test?
As already mentioned, ‘all the Chinese’ is not on the test. But you still need to know your stuff. Let’s take a look at what you’ll encounter on this 60-minute, 75-question test.
Listening Comprehension (Weighted 33%): Yep, you need to bring your CD player. Expect to listen to two different narratives. One will ask you to participate by choosing responses that continue the conversation. The second narrative will have questions in English asking you about what was said.
Usage (Weighted 33%): It’s time to complete some sentences! Fortunately for you, there are four ways for you (someone still learning Chinese) to answer: traditional Chinese, simplified Chinese, Pinyin, and the phonetic alphabet. The College Board has provided these options to cater to both native Chinese speakers and those (like you) who might have learned the written language in a variety of ways.
Reading Comprehension (Weighted 33%): Expect passages presented in both traditional and simplified Chinese, along with questions in English. A great deal of these questions are ‘you know it or you don’t’ type questions, though expect one or two inference questions for each passage you encounter.
When should I take it?
Basically, you have two options. Feel confident in your skills and want the results to be used in college admissions decisions? If so, take the test early on in your senior year of high school. Yet if your goal is to get into a higher level Chinese class in college, take the test at the end of your senior year. This way your Chinese skills will be at their peak.
Though there is a lot to know for the SAT Chinese Subject Test, the test itself is rather straightforward. Even so, get out there and take a few practice tests between now and test day. And don’t forget to enjoy yourself. It is summer, after all. 🙂