SAT Subject Tests FAQ

Think your standardized testing career is over after taking the SAT or ACT? Before you throw away your No. 2 pencils and erasers, find out if you should be taking the SAT Subject Tests. Many selective colleges recommend or even require taking SAT Subject Tests (formerly known as SAT II: Subject Tests). Even if the schools on your list don’t require them, a high score is an excellent way to highlight your abilities and strengthen your college application.

Need more info before deciding to take them or not? Here’s an FAQ for those of you considering taking the SAT Subject Tests.


What are the SAT Subject Tests?

SAT Subject Tests are standardized tests given by The College Board, and like the SAT, students usually take these tests as a part of the college admissions process. Each test is multiple-choice, one hour in length, and is scored on a 200-800 point scale. Unlike the SAT, SAT Subject Tests test individual subjects. There are 20 test options in total, including Literature, History (United States and World), Mathematics (Levels I and II), Science (Biology, Chemistry, and Physics) and Languages (nine are available, some with a listening option). You can take one, two, or three tests per test date.

Should I Take the SAT Subject Tests?

There are many reasons to take the SAT Subject Tests. Some schools require or suggest taking them, or others may use your scores to determine course placement or award introductory class credit. The tests are an opportunity to further demonstrate your skills and differentiate yourself. If you are confident in your abilities and think your score will impress the admissions committee, you should consider taking the SAT Subject Tests.

Which Test Should I Take?

In short, you should choose the subject or subjects you think you will do well on. Most colleges don’t require you to submit scores, so only take the tests if there’s a particular subject you excel in. So if you’re dominating your AP Bio class, think about taking the Biology Subject Test. Speak Spanish fluently? Consider the Spanish Subject Test with or without the listening portion.

When Should I take the SAT Subject Tests?

Generally, it’s suggested that you take the SAT Subject Tests when the material being tested is most fresh in your mind. Usually this is after you’ve completed the corresponding course in school, even if you are still in 9th or 10th grade. However, you must base the decision on when to take the exams on your own goals and timeline.

SAT Subject Tests are offered six times per year , but not all subjects are available on every testing date. Click here for a current listing of all the SAT Subject Test dates.

How Do I Prepare?

Just like the SAT and ACT, there are a number of ways you can prepare for the SAT Subject Tests. You can try out real SAT Subject Test questions, purchase practice exams, take an online course, buy prep books, or even get private tutoring. However, keep in mind that SAT Subject Tests usually act as enhancements to your college application and shouldn’t take you away from your time studying for the SAT or ACT, tests that carry more weight on an admissions decision. Also, remember that your corresponding high school courses should be preparing you for the tests. If you don’t think your class is doing an adequate job preparing you for a test, you may want to reconsider taking the test.

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