If you’ve made your way to this article, you’ve at least heard of SAT Subject Tests, but you may not know much about them. SAT Subject Tests, also known as the SAT II's, are administered by the College Board (the same organization that provides the regular SAT.) They assess your ability to demonstrate critical thinking and problem-solving skills in a variety of subjects.
The regular SAT is more focused on content knowledge than it used to be, but it is still not focused in the way that SAT Subject Tests are.
Alongside college interviews, extracurriculars, and a mid-year report, SAT Subject Tests make up one of the discretionary things that can make your student's application even stronger.
Should I Take SAT Subject Tests?
Whether or not you should take SAT Subject Tests depends on your situation regarding college applications.
Some colleges require applicants to take up to two SAT Subject Tests. The strictest admissions offices require students to take particular SAT Subject Tests, generally if you are applying to a certain field of study. For example, Harvey Mudd, an engineering college, requires applicants to take the Math Level 2 Subject Test.
Other colleges require SAT Subject Tests, but allow you to choose the tests you take. Brown University, for example, requires applicants to take the SAT + SAT Subject Tests of their choice, or the ACT with Writing. It's common for colleges to offer a choice like this to applicants.
Finally, many colleges do not require SAT Subject Tests, but will still consider them as part of an application.
Given this range of requirements, you should determine the strictest requirement for SAT Subject Tests among the colleges you are applying to, and take SAT Subject Tests based on that college’s requirement.
Which SAT Subject Tests Should I Take?
The College Board offers SAT Subject Tests in the following subjects:
- Math Level 1
- Math Level 2
- Biology (Ecological)
- Biology (Molecular)
- US History
- World History
- Spanish with Listening
- French with Listening
- Chinese with Listening
- German with Listening
- Modern Hebrew
- Japanese with Listening
- Korean with Listening
How to decide which Subject Tests are right for you
Success on an SAT Subject Test requires you to have prior knowledge not only of the methods of interacting with content in that subject, but also of the content itself. This somewhat different from the regular SAT, which focuses more on processes, problem-solving, and applying knowledge than on demonstrating knowledge of a particular academic subject.
Therefore, you should ask yourself which SAT Subject Tests you would be most likely to succeed on, and use this answer to guide which tests you prepare for and take. You should take the tests that satisfy some combination of the following criteria:
- This is a subject that I am passionate about / that demonstrates what I am interested in
- I am currently studying this subject and therefore my knowledge will be readily accessible on the Subject Test
- I have achieved a high level of proficiency in this subject / have taken advanced classes in this subject
SAT Subject Test Dates
SAT Subject Test dates fall on the same Saturdays as the SAT, with the exception of the March SAT. Listed below are the upcoming Subject Tests:
|SAT Date||Subject Tests Available||Registration Deadline|
|May 6th, 2017||
||April 7th, 2017|
|June 3rd, 2017||
||May 9th, 2017|
|August 26th, 2017||
||July 28th, 2017|
How Should I Prepare For SAT Subject Tests?
Preparing effectively for SAT Subject Tests requires the same steps as preparing for any test: you need to identify what you need to know know for the test, and then out of that material, determine what you do and don’t know. Then you have to work on closing the gap between the two.
Start by taking a practice test
The first step in preparing for any standardized test is to take an official practice test under timed test conditions and analyze your results.
The College Board publishes prep books for some of the SAT Subject Tests, and these guides contain official practice tests. For the remaining tests, they publish a single book.
I recommend picking which tests you are going to take, then purchasing the College Board’s Official Guide for All SAT Subject Tests or, if the tests you’ve chosen have their own guides, purchasing those guides as a starting point. Once you’ve taken your first official practice test, calculate your score.
Determine a goal
After calculating your score on your first practice test, you should come up with a goal score that you’d like to reach by test day. You shouldn’t pull this number out of thin air. Instead, use your confidence in the subject along with the scoring table in the book to identify how much improvement you think you can make, as well as what you’ll need to do to get there.
For example, if you’ve scored a 620 on the US History practice test, but you are confident in US History, you might aim for a 700. Use the scoring process in the book to determine how many more questions you’ll need to get correct to achieve this score. Does it seem reasonable? Do you think you can get more or fewer questions correct next time than this amount?
One important step to reaching your goals is identifying what you don’t know and what your weakest areas are. I recommend grouping the questions you’ve gotten wrong loosely by topic and subject. If these questions are all over the place, it might be harder to improve, but if you identify some trends in what you need to study, it will be easier to see a path to a higher score.
Locate study materials
There is a less robust prep industry for SAT Subject Tests than there is for the SAT itself, so you will have to guide yourself to some extent. The good news is you’re only going to take Subject Tests in areas you’ve extensively studied in school, so you can use a combination of prep book websites and materials from your classes. In addition to the official guide, it is also advisable to browse unofficial guides to get an idea of which ones have a writing style you like and cover sufficient material to help you prepare, based on the areas you need to improve in.
Create a study plan
Now you need to make a plan that will get you to the goal you’ve set. This will involve working on practice questions, determining why you're getting particular questions and concepts wrong, and improving your grasp of those concepts. Any book or website you use is going to have practice questions in it, whether in the form of practice tests or exercises by topic.
I recommend finding a resource that has at least some of its exercises grouped by topic, so that you can organize your studying more easily.
The important thing is that you create a plan and stick to it: studying should be a habit, and it should be spread into smaller chunks. You don’t know want to lump everything into one cram session, because you won’t retain any information. Aim to complete a set number of questions on the same days each week over a period of many weeks, and include review as part of this plan. For example, you might plan to do 20 questions a day, four days a week, while also reviewing your notes and answers for five questions you previously missed.
Finally, the principle guiding all of this should be studying most in the topics that you need to improve in. That’s why you grouped your initial incorrect answers earlier.
There’s not much to this one! Now you have to buckle down and do the work. Set up a calendar with your plan, and set alarms that will remind you to actually do the work. Your prep book will be your primary resource, and you can consult your notes from school as needed.