What are SAT Subject Tests?

College Admissions | SAT Prep

As you start the college Knowledge on Multicolor Puzzle on White Background..jpegapplication process, you may notice that some schools ask for "SAT Subject Tests." Although many students are familiar with the SAT itself, many others are not at all familiar with the SAT's little brother, the Subject Tests.

What are SAT Subject Tests, why should you take them, and who should take them?

What are SAT Subject Tests?

According to the College Board (the organization that writes and administers both the SAT and the SAT Subject Tests):

Subject Tests are hour-long, content-based tests that allow you to showcase achievement in specific subject areas where you excel. These are the only national admission tests where you choose the tests that best showcase your achievements and interests.

SAT Subject Tests allow you to differentiate yourself in the college admission process or send a strong message regarding your readiness to study specific majors or programs in college. In conjunction with your other admission credentials (your high school record, SAT scores, teacher recommendations, etc.), they provide a more complete picture of your academic background and interests.

Some colleges also use Subject Tests to place students into the appropriate courses. Based on your performance on the test(s), you could potentially fulfill basic requirements or receive credit for introductory-level courses.

There are a total of 20 SAT Subject Tests, and they cover a variety of topics, including math, science, English, literature, history, and foreign languages. On the College Board website, you will find a description of each Subject Test, and will also be able to see practice and sample questions for each Subject Test.

Why should  you take SAT Subject Tests?

Students typically take Subject Tests for three reasons:

  1. The college(s) they are applying to require them. Make sure to carefully read each application to make sure you need to or are recommended to submit SAT Subject Test scores.
  2. They want to show mastery in a specific area. Students that want to show a college that they are a history buff, English wiz, or math genius may opt to take Subject Tests in these disciplines to bolster their academic claims.
  3. To get advanced placement in college classes. In some cases, colleges will take your SAT Subject Test results and, depending on your performance, will let you place out of certain introductory courses.

Who should take SAT Subject Tests?

Not everyone needs to or should take SAT Subject Tests. Those who should take them include:

  1. Those who are required to submit SAT Subject Test Scores by the colleges they are applying to.
  2. Those who want to show a mastery of a subject.
  3. Those who want to get advanced placement once they get to college (and have contacted the colleges they are interested in to make sure that they will be given advanced placement based on their Subject Test performance).

The College Board website has a wealth of resources about the SAT Subject Tests, including free practice questions, a practice booklet, and information on why you should take the tests and how to choose which ones to take.

Need more help preparing for college? Check out our College Admissions Consulting.

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