The College Board, the creator of the original SAT, has also created SAT IIs, better known as SAT Subject Tests to help students showcase their knowledge in certain subject areas. These Subject Tests are the only national college admissions tests where the students get to choose which subject they want to be tested on.
SAT Subject Tests allow students to set themselves apart from other applicants and send a “send a strong message regarding your readiness to study specific majors or programs in college.” Some colleges require the SAT Subject Tests for admissions, other recommend or accept them for placement into introductory-level courses in college.
There are 20 different Subject Tests in 5 areas: English, History, Languages, Math and Science. The SAT Subject Tests are only one-hour long, so students can register and take up to 3 Subject Tests on one Saturday. Before we discuss which tests to focus on, let’s first examine whether or not your teen needs to even worry about these tests.
The question I hear all the time is: Does my child need to take these SAT Subject Tests?
The answer for most people is NO. There are only about 160 colleges in the US that consider the SAT Subject Tests at all. However, the number of colleges that require them is only about 100. Here is a list of colleges broken down by whether they require, recommend or will consider SAT Subject Tests. This list also provides information on how many Subject Tests are required at each institution.
You should note that most of the colleges requiring or recommending SAT Subject Tests are the most selective colleges. If you are not looking at this type of college, you probably don’t need to worry about the SAT Subject Tests.
If you are considering these selective colleges, then taking and submitting your SAT Subject Tests is highly recommended. My personal recommendation is to do anything and everything that a college recommends or suggests.
Finally, note that many of the colleges that require SAT Subject Tests will waive that requirement if the student has taken the ACT rather than the SAT.
If you have decided that your student does need to take the SAT Subject Tests, the next question is:
When should my child take the SAT Subject Tests?
My suggestion is for sophomores and/or juniors to take the SAT Subject Tests at the end of the school year, either during the May or June test dates. This gives them the opportunity to take the Subject Tests which best align with their current classes. Here is a list of which tests are available on certain test dates.
Seniors who haven’t taken any of the SAT Subject Tests but who find that they need to should take 3 of the tests that correspond with their junior-level courses. They will definitely need to take the online practice tests and prepare since there will be a gap between the subject material in school and the test date.
Please note that SAT Subject Tests are not available during the March test administration. The May test administration will also be during the same time frame as many students’ AP exams at school. Parents should take these into consideration when scheduling tests, along with potential conflicts with proms and graduation dates.
Which of the SAT Subject Tests should my student take?
You can see from the list of Subject Tests that 12 of the 20 available are Language Tests. Students should only take these tests if they are fluent in that language. For the majority of students that leaves the remainder of tests to choose from:
Students should always check the colleges’ requirements about which tests to take. Because most colleges just request a 1 or 2 of the Subject Tests, but don’t specify which ones, many students get to chose from the list of all available Subject Tests.
If the student is going to major in a Math or Science field, he or she should take 3 of the Math or Science Subject Tests. My suggestion is to take: Math Level 2, and 2 of the 3 Science courses.
For students not pursuing a Math or Science degree, I recommend Literature, the History test that corresponds to their course in school, and Math Level 2.
When should we send the SAT Subject Test scores to colleges?
Most students should wait to send their Subject Test scores to colleges until AFTER the test and when they’ve seen the actual scores. During the test registration, parents and students are given the opportunity to send the score reports to colleges. This option should be avoided until after the students’ Score Report is received (usually 2-3 weeks after the test). This gives the parents and student the opportunity to only send the 1 or 2 test scores that are the highest to the colleges.
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