SAT Subject Tests: the Essentials

Are SAT subject test scores required for the colleges you’re pursuing?

December 20, 2013

You should consider taking SAT Subject Tests in a few subjects if they are required or recommended by colleges that you are interested in.
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While looking into the SAT test scores you may need to get into the colleges and universities you’re interested in, you may find a college that requires SAT Subject Tests. These tests, formerly called SAT II tests, are required by certain colleges and universities as supplemental tests to evaluate your skills in specific subjects.

You should consider taking SAT Subject Tests in a few subjects if they are required or recommended by colleges that you are interested in or if you are interested in pursuing certain majors that are offered as subject tests. University admissions is rarely dependent on having taken multiple SAT Subject Tests, but solid test scores can certainly improve your chances of admittance.

Unlike the SAT, which tests critical thinking and reasoning in the areas of mathematics, reading and writing, SAT Subject Tests evaluate specific knowledge in one subject area.

Students attending community college or pursuing online degrees through distance learning programs will usually not be required to take SAT Subject Tests, but it’s still a good idea to take them while the subject matter is fresh in your mind. This allows you the option to transfer to a 4-year college down the line if you choose, and it lets you evaluate your test-taking skills in certain areas, which could help you determine your future choices of careers or schools or even which education path to pursue.


Basic Information About the SAT Subject Tests

  • Each SAT Subject Test is one hour in length. You can take from one to three tests in a single test day. Subjects include literature, math, biology, chemistry, physics, U.S. history, world history, English language proficiency and foreign languages such as French, German, Modern Hebrew, Italian, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Like the standard SAT test, each SAT Subject Test is scored on a 200-800 scale, except for English language proficiency which is scored on a 901-999 scale.
  • SAT Subject Tests are graded by a computer whenever possible. The computer adds up your correct responses and subtracts ¼ of a point for every incorrect response to get a raw score, which is then converted to a scaled score.
  • These tests are offered in October, November, December, January, May and June, although not all tests are offered at all locations on all dates. Check the College Board website for more information on SAT Subject Test dates.
  • Unlike the SAT, which tests critical thinking and reasoning in the areas of mathematics, reading and writing, SAT Subject Tests evaluate specific knowledge in the subject area. Your score in a certain subject test can help a prospective university determine your ability to complete a degree at their school.

Preparing for the SAT Subject Tests


When you do your Campus Explorer college search, note which schools require or recommend SAT Subject Tests. If you find a college that requires specific tests as part of the admissions criteria, you may want to schedule your tests in accordance with when you finish related high school courses.

You’ll do better on SAT Subject Tests when the subject matter is fresh in your mind, so try to take your test as soon after you finish a related course as possible. When deciding which subject tests to study for and take, consider the academic areas you excel in. You’re likely to get a better score in those subjects than others, so you may want to take tests in those areas to pad your college application, regardless of whether you plan to major in that subject. Also consider subject tests related to your prospective major.

Remember that with SAT Subject Tests, colleges are looking more for your specific knowledge of the subject than general reasoning ability. That means that studying is even more crucial for the subject tests than the SAT, which tests a lot of innate knowledge. Be sure to memorize key facts and make sure you have a full understanding of all basic concepts in your subject area.


SAT Subject Tests Tips & Tactics

  • Find practice tests in the College Board’s Subject Test Preparation Center.
  • For help improving your SAT and ACT test scores take a prep course. There are many programs available depending on your budget and time.
  • You don’t need to decide which tests you’re taking until the day of the exam, so prepare to take as many as you can (remember, three tests is the maximum for a given test date) and then take only the tests you feel fully prepared to take.
  • If you’re taking an SAT Subject Test in a subject you haven’t studied in a while, read through your school notebooks, papers and exams for that class to re familiarize yourself with the types of material you may be tested on.

People Who Read This Article Also Read:

SAT: The Essentials
ACT: The Essentials
SAT or ACT: Which Should You Take?
Should You Send All of Your SAT Scores to Colleges?

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