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SAT Subject Tests - Do you really need them?

Last Updated: Mar 28, 2014 12:00:00 AM

Among the most selective colleges in the country, more than two dozen “recommend” to applicants that they submit not only an SAT or ACT score, but also the results of two or three College Board SAT Subject Tests. Up to three of these hour-long, multiple-choice exams can be taken at one time on any of the seven national testing dates. A student has to plan well in advance, because no one can take both an SAT Reasoning Test (the “SAT”) and Subject Tests on the same day. What are they all about?

As you can see from the list of over twenty SAT Subject Tests below, these 60-minute exams allow a student to demonstrate very specific academic achievement. So, who should take a Subject Test? Think for a moment about the application process.

High school students put their best foot forward when applying to college. The most important information to submit is, of course, the academic record, and by submitting a positive test score associated with a highly successfully school course experience, students can demonstrate both intellectual accomplishment and strong intention regarding a college future. When a school “recommends” that a student submit Subject Test scores, students shouldn’t hesitate! But even in instances when a school mentions no Subject Test requirement, you may want to consider showing your best academic face with a a Subject Test score.

One interesting point about these tests is that certain colleges accept the ACT in place of the combination of SAT and SAT Subject Tests! As we always say, a school’s admissions office is the best source of information about requirements. Admission counselors are standing by – call and find out, because they’ll be happy to clarify. But there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to printed requirements. You should also ask what each college’s “score choice” policy is – that is, must you send all your Subject Test scores when you apply, or can you selectively send these scores?

If you’re interested in a math or history major, you may want to submit Subject Test scores related to your interest. Thinking pre-med or engineering? Science and math results from the appropriate Subject Tests will enhance your application. Some universities have specific Subject Test requirements for particular majors (e.g., for a potential engineering major, Subject Tests in Math 2 and Physics are sometimes required), even though they have general requirements for all other potential majors.

We repeat: plan ahead. Not all SAT Subject Tests are administered on each of the seven national test dates. And in case you change your mind at the last minute about which tests to take, you may make that decision on the very day of the exam!

When to take Subject Tests? Immediately after an AP, IB, or AICE exam. The only exception is a Subject Test in Math: since both Level 1 and Level 2 tests only go through precalculus, take a Math Subject Test as soon after finishing precalculus as possible. And while there is some overlap between AP (or IB or AICE) exam content and the corresponding SAT Subject Test, 30%-40% of the material on the Subject Test will not be tested on an AP (or IB or AICE) exam. So, regardless of how much you prepare for an AP (or IB or AICE) exam, you’ll still have to put in a few weeks of solid preparation for the corresponding SAT Subject Test.

Scored on a 200-800 scale like the SAT, each Subject Test is 60 minutes long. Here’s a list of those currently offered:

  • English Literature
  • U.S. History
  • World History
  • Mathematics Level 1 or 2
  • Biology E/M
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Chinese
  • French
  • German
  • Japanese
  • Korean
  • Spanish
  • Modern Hebrew
  • Italian
  • Latin
  • Chinese with Listening
  • French with Listening
  • German with Listening
  • Japanese with Listening
  • Korean with Listening
  • Spanish with Listening

And here’s a list of some of the colleges that require or recommend SAT Subject Tests:

  • Amherst
  • Barnard
  • Boston College
  • Brown
  • Caltech
  • Carnegie Mellon
  • Columbia
  • Connecticut College
  • Dartmouth
  • Duke
  • Harvard
  • Harvey Mudd
  • Haverford
  • Pomona
  • Princeton
  • Rice
  • St. Thomas
  • Swarthmore
  • Sweet Briar
  • Trinity Christian
  • Tufts
  • U Penn
  • Vassar
  • Wellesley
  • Wesleyan
  • Westminster (MO)
  • Westminster (UT)
  • Williams
  • Yale

Score at The Top will help you sort it out – and prepare you for your Subject Tests. Call us now to begin your preparation.

Topics: Test-Prep Subject Test


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