SAT Subject Tests—AKA SAT IIs—are slightly cuter versions of the SAT. Each Subject Test (there are over 20!) is one hour long and corresponds to material taught in high school-level academic courses. If you’re thinking about taking an SAT Subject Test, read on to find out everything you need to know!
1.) Who should take SAT Subject Tests?
You should take SAT Subject Tests if the schools you’re applying to require, recommend, or officially consider them. If you’re not sure where your top choice colleges stand, here is a comprehensive list of all schools that use SAT Subject Tests for admissions decisions.
Keep in mind that colleges vary in the amount of emphasis they place on SAT Subject Tests. Schools that “require” SAT Subject Tests, for example, will not even review an application that comes without them. Other schools, like Stanford and the University of Virginia, do not officially require Subject Tests, but applicants who don’t submit them will be at a sharp disadvantage. If you are applying to any school that “recommends” SAT IIs, you should absolutely take them unless your scores will mar your application.
Still more schools neither require nor recommend SAT IIs, but will consider them if submitted. Such schools treat Subject Tests as supplementary information and use them to form a more complete image of a student. Some schools, like the University of Notre Dame, only consider Subject Tests that enhance an application. Contact admissions representatives at your top-choice schools to find out where they stand.
2.) What Subject Tests can I take?
SAT Subject Tests come in a plethora of shapes and sizes! The College Board offers the following SAT Subject Tests:
— English Literature
— U.S. History
— World History
— Math Level 1
— Math Level 2
— Biology – Ecological
— Biology – Molecular
— French (with or without Listening)
— German (with or without Listening)
— Spanish (with or without Listening)
— Modern Hebrew
— Chinese with Listening
— Japanese with Listening
— Korean with Listening
3.) Are Subject Tests harder than the SAT? What about AP exams?
The SAT Reasoning Test and SAT Subject Tests assess entirely different things. Neither is harder than the other. SAT Subject Tests are designed to measure how much a student knows about a subject. By contrast, the SAT presents basic content in new ways in order to evaluate students’ reasoning skills. In other words, the SAT tests your ability to figure out the best approach to a puzzling question about an elementary topic.
AP exams are much harder than SAT Subject Tests because they test college-level knowledge, whereas SAT IIs measure principles taught in high school-level classes.
4.) When should students take SAT Subject Tests?
In general, students should take Subject Tests immediately after completing coursework in the subject they wish to test in. For many students, this means testing at the end of freshman or sophomore year! Language and Literature Subject Tests should be taken either during the spring of junior year or fall of senior year, as multiple years of coursework in these subjects will benefit exam performance. If you are taking and doing well in an AP course, you should take the same subject’s SAT II as close as possible to the actual AP exam.
Keep in mind that not all Subject Tests are offered for every test date! Language Subject Tests with Listening, for example, are only offered during the November administration. Make sure to review the Subject Test calendar so you don’t miss your opportunity to test!
5.) Which Subject Tests should I take?
Students should take Subject Tests that reflect their academic strengths and interests. It is also a good idea to test in subjects related to one’s prospective major. An applicant to a prestigious nursing school who submits Biology and Chemistry scores would certainly look better than one who submits SAT IIs in Literature and French! Also, keep in mind that some programs and university departments require specific Subject Tests.
6.) How can I get out of taking SAT Subject Tests?
Believe it or not, several schools will waive their Subject Test requirement if a student has taken the ACT with Writing. This is because such schools see the ACT Science and Writing sections as comparable to SAT Subject Tests.
Beware, however, of this foggy path! Most students accepted to the institutions mentioned above do submit SAT Subject Tests. Furthermore, many colleges (including Harvard, Princeton and Columbia) require Subject Tests in addition to the ACT. Also, most colleges that “recommend” or “consider” subject tests want to see them—even if an applicant has taken the ACT.
7.) How should I prepare for SAT Subject Tests?
Sentia Education offers top of the line tutoring for all Subject Tests, but if you’d rather self-study, the following resources will help you get started.
- SparkNotes: SAT Subject Tests – Provides free online review material and practice tests for the Biology, Chemistry, U.S. History, Math Level 1, Math Level 2, and Physics exams.
- Practice Questions from the College Board – Here you will find a bank of practice questions for all 20 Subject Tests.