It’s fall of your senior year and you’re ready to apply to college. You’ve got your grades set and your dream SAT score locked. But what’s this!? Every school on your list requires SAT Subject tests? And some of them are only offered once a year?! Don’t let this happen to you! Take a second to learn about the SAT Subject tests and see if you need to take them!
What are the SAT Subject Tests?
The SAT Subject tests are multi-choice tests given on a variety of different subjects. Unlike the regular SAT, where the test material is under more general headings like “Math” and “Reading”, these tests are designed to let students demonstrate their skills from a specific area of study. They are meant to test your knowledge of a subject at a high school level (versus the AP exams, which reflect a college level). Below are a list of the 20 currently offered SAT Subject tests:
- Spanish with Listening
- French with Listening
- Chinese with Listening
- German with Listening
- Modern Hebrew
- Japanese with Listening
- Korean with Listening
The eight non-foreign language exams include:
- Math Level 1
- Math Level 2
- Biology – Ecological
- Biology – Molecular
- U.S. History
- World History
Think of these tests more like a final exam given at the end of a semester. They test a student’s knowledge of a specific subject, much closer in style to the tests students take in school than to the SAT itself. Each subject test is an hour long, contains 50-95 multi-choice questions, and is graded on a 200-800 point scale. They are generally offered six times each year, but not every test is offered every time. The language with listening tests, for example, are only offered once a year, usually in November. Use this link to find out which tests are offered when.
Here are the months the SAT Subject Tests are offered:
To register for the SAT subject tests, Collegeboard requires a $26 registration fee plus $18 per each individual test. Students can take one, two, or three tests on a given day but cannot take subject tests the same day they take the normal SAT.
Also, a note on Math Levels 1 & 2: Math Level 1 goes through Algebra 1, Geometry, and Algebra 2, while Math Level 2 pulls content from Precalculus and Trigonometry concepts as well.
Should I take SAT Subject tests?
Well, that depends on what schools you are applying to! Some schools require SAT subject tests (a list of which will be provided in a link at the bottom of this paragraph) while others just encourage them. As a good rule of thumb, Ivy League schools, and schools of comparable academic rigor, strongly suggest students take them. If you are thinking “strongly suggest” means the same as “require” you are right! To have a competitive application at those schools SAT subject tests are a must! Most of those schools want you to have 1 or 2 subject tests but some, like Georgetown University recommend 3! But again, whether you should take them or not really comes down to what schools you are applying to. Most schools at least accept them as a measure of academic achievement, some even offering college course credit for a high enough score!
If you happen to be homeschooled, some colleges do require SAT subject tests where they may not for more traditional high schools, so make sure to double check different colleges’ requirements!
Which SAT subject tests should I take?
That all depends on what subjects in school you feel the most confident in! It comes down to what classes you have taken in school, and which of those classes you have done well in. If you happen to be in an AP course, a lot of the material in those exams overlaps on the SAT subject tests, so it may be a good idea to double up the two in June. Just don’t try to take a subject test you haven’t taken the appropriate class for! Sure, it’s doable in theory to memorize the content necessary for the World History subject test, but a lot more extra work than you likely have time for!
One test recommendation we generally make to most students (especially those looking for tests to take after their junior year) is the Math 1 test. By junior year, the majority of students have taken the necessary courses for it (Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra II). Of course, which tests to take varies student by student so make sure to consult with your college counselor!
Collegeboard offers sample questions on each subject, so try some of those out to see which test might be a good fit for your strengths and skills!
When should I take them?
We recommend taking each subject test as soon as possible after taking the appropriate class in school! Meaning, if you take chemistry this year and want to take the SAT subject test, do it in June! The fresher the material is in your mind, the easier time you will have on the test. What we don’t want to happen is you waiting till summer after your junior year, realizing you need two SAT Subject tests, and then cramming for two subject tests you barely remember the class for! It really depends on your individual course load. If you are a Freshman taking biology, but know junior year you plan on taking AP Bio, it may be better to wait till then!
How many should I take?
Again, that all depends on what schools you are applying to! It might be a good idea to talk with your college counselor as early as freshman year to see if the schools you may apply to require SAT subject tests. As a good rule of thumb, taking at least one is a good plan. That way, you won’t be caught off guard come senior year. And, if the schools you end up applying to don’t need them, at the very least you have another piece of academic achievement for your applications!
How do I prepare?
The best way to prepare for an SAT subject test is, unsurprisingly, practice! We recommend taking at least 2 full practice subject tests to see if a specific subject test is a good fit for you and then what areas within the test you still need work on. Always remember to take the practice tests in the hour time constraint and in one sitting as to best mirror how it will be on test day. Matching up an SAT subject test with an AP exam can also be helpful as much of the material overlaps. For example, if you are taking AP Chemistry this year, it might be good to sign up for the chemistry subject test as the knowledge will be super fresh! Collegeboard offers some free resources, but of course the best prep is found with a great tutor! Schedule a test prep consultation with one of Testive’s Student Success Advisors today!