SAT Subject Tests: Should You Take Them and When?

SAT ACT test taking   As spring approaches, it is a good time to look into the SAT Subject Tests and determine if they are appropriate for your student this year. Most families know about the SAT, but few have heard of SAT Subject Tests—content-based exams required by some colleges.  Often, highly selective colleges require two or more subject tests for college admission. Students considering these colleges should plan ahead and prepare to take the tests that will best reflect their academic abilities. Often the best time to take an SAT Subject Test is in the spring. In the spring, students are completing courses in science and history that they may not be continuing the following year.  What better time to test on American History or Biology than at the end of a full year of study in that subject? Some families make the mistake of waiting until junior year in high school to start testing at which time some students have had a year – or two—to forget key content for SAT Subject Tests. Here are my SAT Subject Test FAQs:

What Are SAT Subject Tests?

SAT Subject Tests used to be called “SAT IIs,” and before that they were known as Achievement Tests. They are multiple-choice tests that are 50 minutes long and focus on one subject each.  Students can take up to three SAT Subject Tests per test date, but the SAT and SAT Subject Tests may not be taken on the same day.

What Subjects Are Tested?

There are many subjects to choose from: world history, chemistry, biology, Spanish, German, French, literature, U.S. history, math levels 1 and 2, physics, modern Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Chinese, Japanese, or Korean. Because there are many options, students often are given the opportunity to take Subject Tests in their best academic areas. Certain schools or programs may request students take a particular test; for example, engineering programs often request that students submit math and physics Subject Tests.

Why Do College Want SAT Subject Tests?

Colleges find that the additional information from SAT Subject Tests helps them identify which students will be most successful. In addition, colleges making highly selective admissions decisions find additional testing data important because it allows students to demonstrate ability in a subject of their choice (often related to what they intend to major in).  Finally, some colleges use SAT Subject Tests to determine course placement.

When Should Students Take SAT Subject Tests?

Students should take SAT Subject Tests when they will have the best command of the content tested. Typically, students take the SAT sometime their junior year, but there may be reasons to take Subject Tests before junior year. If a student took World History her sophomore year and did well in the course, she might register to take the Subject Test that spring while the information is fresh in her mind. Students who prepare for important tests like Advanced Placement exams also may want to take Subject Tests even if they don’t know if they will apply to colleges requiring the exams.

Should My Child Take Subject Tests?

Like so many things in college admissions, it depends. If you don’t know whether to take SAT Subject Tests or which ones to take, look for information on websites for the colleges you plan to apply to.  Some colleges and degree programs require specific SAT Subject Matter test scores, while others do not. Strong scores on SAT Subject Tests can be a significant factor in your admission to the college or university of your choice, as long as your scores reflect your true academic capabilities.

Are Subject Tests Given Every Time the SAT Is?

Not all SAT Subject Tests are given on every SAT exam date.  The language tests with listening are often given once a year, in November.   Don’t miss a SAT Subject Test you could do well on:  Plan ahead to take your tests when they are offered.]]>

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