What Are the SAT Subject Tests and When Should You Take Them?

Hey all you Juniors!  June 7th, 2014 is probably the best time for you to take SAT Subject Tests on the subjects you are taking this school year.  Why wait until the fall, when you will have had all summer to forget the chemistry, biology, US History, or whatever other classes you are taking right now?

Besides, taking these exams now will allow you to apply early to schools that require Subject tests.  The odds of getting in early decision or early action are often much greater than getting in regular decision. In 2012, the Ivies admitted 22% of early applicants vs. 8% or regular applicants, so it pays to be prepared!

So what are the SAT Subject Tests, and when are they administered?  These are 1 hour long, content based tests.  The subjects tested are:  Literature, Biology, Chemistry, Physics, U.S. History, World History, Math Level 1 or 2, French, German, Spanish, Hebrew, Italian, Latin, Chinese, Japanese, and Korean.  Not all language tests are available on all dates.You can take up to three SAT Subject tests on one test date.  They are offered on the same dates as the SAT, but you cannot take both the SAT and the SAT Subject Tests on the same day.  And what masochist would ever want to do that anyway?

Most top-tier colleges require 2 SAT Subject Tests in subjects of your choosing.  Most top engineering schools require the Math 2 Subject Test, plus either Physics, Chemistry, or Biology.  Check the websites of the schools you are applying to to make sure you are taking the right number and type of test.

These tests are very important!  They make up roughly a third of the all-important “Academic Index” or AI number that top colleges use to rate you academically. Unless you’re a Rockefeller or Gates, this is the single most important piece of information on your entire college application.

All that said, June is a great time to take these tests on subjects you are currently studying.  For those of  you taking an AP exam in May, see if an SAT Subject Test is offered in that subject.  AP tests are much longer and more rigorous than SAT Subject tests.  If you spend all year studying hard and preparing for the AP exam, the SAT Subject Test will likely be a breeze, but not if you wait until the Fall and give yourself all Summer to forget!  Besides this summer you want to be prepping for the October SAT.

AP Tests this year are May 5th-16th.  Pick your three best subjects and spend May 17th – June 6th reviewing the material for these SAT Subject Tests.  You can find free SAT Subject Tests practice exams on the College Board’s website at:  https://sat.collegeboard.org/register/sat-subject-test-dates

As is true for learning anything, you are better off studying for one hour per day than for 7 hours one day.  That’s just not how human being learn well.

There is almost no harm in taking these tests, other than the usual emotional anguish often associated with standardized testing.  Using The College Board’s popular “Score Choice” feature, you can choose which test scores to send to which schools – after you see your score. Many schools will just pick your top 2 tests, but strong scores on 6 Subject Tests will leave a better impression than strong scores on 2 tests.  Think about it like AP tests – would you rather have 10 AP 5s on your record or 2 AP 5s?  Breadth is important!

Be aware that some colleges (e.g., Yale) do NOT accept score choice and will see ALL of your SAT and SAT Subject Tests you ever have taken in your entire life, including that one you took in 8th grade, just for practice…You can read more about Score Choice here: https://professionals.collegeboard.com/testing/sat-reasoning/scores/policy

Best of luck, and register for those June SAT Subject Tests right now!

Plan on taking the SAT soon? We run a free online SAT prep seminar every few weeks. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and Google+, and follow us on Twitter!

By Beau Borrero