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The SAT subject test in world history covers all historical themes (political and diplomatic, intellectual and cultural, social and economic) from ancient times to the present. Only 11,000 students take the test annually (compared to 110,000+ students for the US history subject test), and taking World History can be an opportunity to demonstrate interest in the subject and differentiate oneself in the college admission process.

Unlike the other Subject Tests that are administered monthly, this test is only administered twice a year; once in December, and once in June. This puts pressure on the applicant, because if the student does poorly, it is difficult to retake it.

Students who score highly on the subject test may be able to pass out of introductory college classes in history, depending on the university’s standards.

This test has exactly 95 questions that are to be answered in one hour. Students will receive one point for a correct answer, will receive zero points for a blank answer, and will lose 1/4 of a point for a wrong answer. There are no sections in this test, and so students will answer 95 multiple choice questions without section breaks or rest periods.

Content on the test is divided in terms of Chronology and Geography. Details are shown below:

Chronology of the Test
Prehistory to 500 C.E. 25%
500-1500 C.E. 20%
1500-1900 C.E 25%
Post-1900 C.E. 20%
Cross-chronological 10%
Geography of the Test
Global or Comparative 25%
Europe 25%
Southwest Asia 10%
Africa 10%
East Asia 10%
South and Southeast Asia 10%
The Americas (excluding the Us) 10%


The types of questions students face include specific recall of facts, events, or historical knowledge. Cause-and-effect questions will be on the test. Students are required to be familiar with terminology, geography and other data necessary for understanding major historical developments, such as modernization and imperialization, and explain these developments through events, cause-and-effect relationships or other circumstances.

Some questions include material on how historians perform historical research and analysis. Students should be able to use historical knowledge in interpreting data in maps, graphs, charts or cartoons. The World History Subject Test uses the chronological designations B.C.E. (before Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era). These labels correspond to B.C. (before Christ) and A.D. (anno Domini), which are used in some world history textbooks. Questions on the World History Subject Test may be presented as separate items or in sets based on quotes, maps, pictures, graphs or tables.

Finally, a very small minority of the questions test historical interpretation of primary source material. These questions tend to be very rare, and a student typically can expect 6-8 at most on this 95-question test.

  1. Recommendations:

    The College Board recommends that students complete a one-year comprehensive course in world history at the college-preparatory level, engage in independent reading or study of historical topics covered on the test, and review world history textbooks, with careful attention to areas of weakness and trends within major periods. Notably, timelines are useful tools for doing this.

  2. Preparation:

    The following websites can help students prepare for the test:

    1. The College Board Getting Ready for the SAT Subject Tests™ practice booklet contains information on all 20 SAT Subject Tests, official sample questions, test-taking tips and approaches and more:
    2. These comprehensive study guides on Sparknotes can be used in tandem with SAT-specific study guides:
    3. This AP World History video on World Religion is also highly applicable to topics on the SAT World History Test:
    4. The video contains extra tips for students interested in acing the test:
  3. Practice
    1. Practice tests are the most effective way to prepare for the SAT, as the student will face questions similar to what he or she would see on the test. Individual practice questions, quizzes, and tests can be found on The College Board website:
    2. Answer Explanations to the World History Practice Questions from the booklet can be found here:
  1. Christians developed the monastic ideal as a means of counteracting

    (A) government interference
    (B) heresy
    (C) competition from Eastern religions
    (D) worldliness
    (E) persecution

  2. “Where it is an absolute question of the welfare of our country, we must admit of no considerations of justice or injustice, or mercy or cruelty, or praise or ignominy, but putting all else aside must adopt whatever course will save its existence and preserve its liberty.”

    (A) Niccolò Machiavelli
    (B) Sir Thomas More
    (C) Desiderius Erasmus
    (D) Dante Alighieri
    (E) John Calvin

  3. In the map above, the numbered dots correspond to cities. In the eighth century, which cities were near the east-west limits of the Islamic world?

    (A) 1 and 7
    (B) 1 and 9
    (C) 2 and 6
    (D) 2 and 8
    (E) 5 and 7

  4. The encomienda system of colonial Spanish America most closely resembled the European practice of

    (A) absolutism
    (B) primogeniture
    (C) patronage
    (D) manorialism
    (E) nepotism

  5. The bronze plaque shown above was created in

    (A) Italy
    (B) Central Asia
    (C) Arabia
    (D) West Africa
    (E) China

  6. In early modern Europe, governments sought to increase national wealth and maintain a favorable balance of trade through government intervention by advocating

    (A) Liberalism
    (B) Capitalism
    (C) Socialism
    (D) Utilitarianism
    (E) Mercantilism

  7. Social Darwinists such as Herbert Spencer argued that

    (A) competition allows individuals to develop their talents and meet their needs
    (B) competition and cooperation are equally important in building a productive and compassionate society
    (C) human societies progress through competition, since the strong survive and the weak perish
    (D) human societies progress through cooperation, a natural instinct that should be encouraged
    (E) God predetermines that some members of society are fated to succeed and some members are fated to fail

  8. Differences between which two religions contributed to violent conflicts in India during and after the struggle for independence in 1947?

    (A) Hinduism and Buddhism
    (B) Islam and Christianity
    (C) Hinduism and Islam
    (D) Islam and Buddhism
    (E) Hinduism and Jainism

  9. Most of the noncitizens currently residing in Western European countries originally came to Western Europe to

    (A) consolidate the European Economic Community agreements
    (B) find employment
    (C) do graduate work in the universities
    (D) participate in the democratic political process
    (E) avoid forced military conscription in their native land

  1. D (5)
  2. A (4)
  3. B (4)
  4. D (3)
  5. D (4)
  6. E (3)
  7. C (2)
  8. C (1)
  9. B (4)
Questions from:
Explanations available at: