When should my child take SAT Subject Tests?

The SAT Subject Tests (formerly called SAT II Subject Tests and SAT Achievement Tests) are one-hour multiple-choice tests in these subjects:

  • Literature
  • US History
  • World History
  • Mathematics Level 1
  • Mathematics Level 2
  • Biology E/M (Ecological/Molecular)
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Reading-only foreign languages tests
    • French
    • German
    • Modern Hebrew
    • Italian
    • Latin
    • Spanish
  • Reading & Listening foreign languages tests
    • Chinese
    • French
    • German
    • Japanese
    • Korean
    • Spanish

A student can take up to three Subject Tests on the same day but cannot take both the SAT and Subject Tests on the same date. The Subject Tests are given on the same dates as the regular SAT, with the exception of the March/April test date when only the SAT is offered. Not all Subject Tests are available on all testing dates, so please check the test dates so as to better plan your test-prep schedule.

Like the SAT, the Subject Tests are owned by the College Board and developed/administered by Educational Testing Service, where Judi Robinovitz, founder of Score At The Top, worked for 23 years.

There are only a few hundred selective colleges that require or recommend 2 or 3 Subject Tests in addition to the SAT or ACT. Of those colleges, at least a dozen will accept the ACT alone in lieu of a combination of the SAT and Subject Tests.

When should my child take SAT Subject Tests?

The SAT Subject Tests are given on the same dates as the regular SAT, with the exception of the March/April test date when only the SAT if offered. A student can take one, two, or three Subject Tests on the same date, but cannot take both the SAT and Subject Tests on the same date.

Before a student decides to take these tests, it's best to verify college admission requirements. For some colleges, the requirements vary based on the academic program to which the student is applying. For example, students seeking double-degree programs in medicine may be required to take SAT Subject Tests, while students who are applying to any other program at that university may not be required to take any SAT Subject Tests at all. Most colleges that require or recommend SAT Subject Tests allow students to select the particular tests they prefer; however, some highly selective colleges require the Math Level 2 test for students applying to their business or engineering programs.

It makes sense to take SAT Subject Tests only if a college requires or recommends them – or if a student feels he or she can post impressive scores, even if a college doesn't require these tests. Also, students applying to the most selective colleges sometimes take more than the required or recommended number of tests, feeling that a score report that showcases more than three impressive scores may give them an edge in admissions.

The best time to take an SAT Subject Test, with few exceptions, is at the end of the school year, after a student has learned as much as possible about a subject in school and can capitalize on his or her AP or IB exam preparation in that subject. However, do not make the mistake of thinking that studying for an AP or IB exam is enough preparation for the corresponding SAT Subject Test. While there is significant overlap in these tests, there are enough differences in content and test-taking strategies so that additional preparation is required for each SAT Subject Test.

Since both SAT Subject Tests in mathematics cover math topics only through pre-calculus, it's best to take one of these tests after a student has completed trigonometry or pre-calculus in high school.

Score At The Top can help guide your decision about which SAT Subject Tests to take – even helping to plan your child's high school curriculum while creating a program specifically to prepare for these tests.

Recommended testing calendar: PSAT, SAT, ACT, SAT Subject Tests
When should my child start SAT Subject Test tutoring, and how much is needed?

Even though the SAT Subject Tests reflect course content taught in high-school classes, it's important to formally prepare for these tests for two reasons:

  1. The course content in your child's school is not likely to have 100% overlap with the Subject Test content, so reviewing all the topics covered by the Subject Test is key to scoring well.
  2. Timing is everything! Many students cannot finish an SAT Subject Test and, therefore, lose valuable points that they could have earned had they practiced with several real tests and learned effective test-taking and timing strategies.

Effective SAT Subject Test tutoring should begin at least 1-2 months before a student takes an actual test. A student can take a Subject Test multiple times as most colleges will use a student's highest score in each specific test. However, he or she should prepare for each Subject Test because some colleges require students to send all their scores. We typically recommend taking a Subject Test only once or twice.

With all the tests your child may be taking in high school – PSAT, SAT, SAT Subject Tests, PLAN, ACT, AP's, and IB's – it is vital to have a game plan, and the earlier it is established, the better. In fact, many families call us early in a student's high-school career to plan an entire test-prep and testing schedule.

When you call Score At The Top, you'll talk to our specially trained director, your personal guide to the test-preparation process at Score At The Top. He or she will suggest a plan of action – private and/or semi-private lessons – with a timeline and program to bring out the best in your child. The action plan may also contain a recommendation for taking the ACT since several selective colleges accept the ACT in place of SAT Subject Tests.

How will Score At The Top work with my child to get a "good" score?

Baseline testing provides us with excellent information about your child's needs; tutor experience brings intuitive understanding of how to help your child obtain the best test results. We carefully select the right tutor, and after measuring your child's baseline test scores, we design a test-preparation program based on a student's goals and our four-pronged approach:

  1. Test familiarity
  2. Test content
  3. Test-taking strategies
  4. Confidence-building

Your child will do an in-depth content review with one of our seasoned test-prep tutors, learn how to avoid making careless errors, capitalize on strengths and reduce weaknesses, master timing and other test-taking strategies, and develop enhanced self-confidence. You'll receive email updates about your child's progress after each tutoring session.

With more than 30 years of experience, we can tell you that test preparation can be tremendously worthwhile. At Score At The Top, we deliver your child to the door of the exam room ready to achieve a personal best, and feeling positive about facing this rite of passage. To us, and to the thousands of parents who have sought us out, this is the essence of scoring at the top!

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