To Take or Not to Take: SAT Subject Tests

February 16, 2014

Come springtime, I often get a flood of emails and calls with questions from students and parents asking about SAT Subject Tests--Should I take them? Which tests should I take? Are they required? Do they make a difference in the admissions process?


Although I always recommend students to check directly with each college of interest, as testing requirements often change from year to year, below are tips to help get you started. 


What are SAT Subject Tests?

Subject Tests are multiple choice, hour-long, content-based tests that allow you to showcase achievement in specific subject areas where you excel. 


There are 20 SAT Subject Tests in five general subject areas: English, history, languages, mathematics and science (College Board).


How do colleges use SAT Subject Tests?

Some colleges require or recommend that you take SAT Subject Tests. These scores are used for three main purposes:

  • In combination with the SAT—to add validity to predicting student success

  • To strengthen retention and minimize additional student testing after acceptance

  • To determine course placement—Subject Tests can replace locally administered assessments and ensure that students are placed in courses in which they are most likely to succeed (College Board)


Is there a "best" time to take an SAT Subject Test?

In general, if you are taking a course (particularly an Honors, Advanced Placement, or International Baccalaureate) in sophomore or junior year, then it is recommended to take a similar SAT Subject test at the end of the course (typically in May or June of the sophomore or junior year). For example, if a junior is taking AP US History, he/she is already preparing for the AP exam in May, and should also think about taking a US History SAT Subject Test in May or June.


Which colleges utilize SAT Subject Tests in the admission process?

Application requirements can change every year, so it is best to check directly with each college to which you are applying for current testing requirements; however, as of the 2014-2015 application 160 colleges either require, recommend or will use the SAT Subject Test scores. For a list see:


Should I take SAT Subject Tests if they are not a requirement at the colleges to which I am applying?


Even if they are not required, many colleges still consider Subject Test scores in the admission process. By taking the tests, students can show their:

  • Thorough knowledge of a certain subject

  • Academic interest

  • Determination to succeed (College Board)



To learn more about SAT Subject Tests and to register, visit:


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