Introduction to SAT Subject Tests

Student, The High School of Performing and Visual Arts

Feb   2016



What? There are extra SATs?! What more do you want from me?!?!

Yes, there are more SAT tests, the SAT Subject Tests that test one specific subject each. You may not need or want to take them, but if you do, you get to choose what academic subject test you take. So you can show off your skills in that field.

Why should I take SAT Subject Tests?

Some colleges (usually super selective ones) require SAT Subject Tests—they might ask for as many as three Subject Tests and maybe even a specific one too, like math. So you might have to take them. But even if you don’t have to, you might want to for a few reasons:

  • For some schools, how well you do on the Subject Tests can determine what classes you are placed in or credit you are eligible for. If you do well enough, some universities might place you out of an introductory class or award you credit—that means you don’t have to take the class and you can save money!
  • Some colleges “strongly recommend” sending in Subject Tests so they can get a better idea of your academic skills.
  • If you get a good score on a Subject Test, it can make your overall application look better or maybe make up for some weakness (like if you didn’t get a great grade in a history class but you did get a good score on an SAT Subject Test in history).
  • A good score can also show how dedicated you are to a particular major/subject, which might be helpful if you’re applying to a tough program.

Then again, a lot of colleges don’t really care. It varies, so you will have to research your schools’ requirements.

How do I choose which tests to take?

There are 20 SAT Subject Test subjects you can take in five different areas: English, history, language, mathematics, and science. (Here’s a link to all of them.) You should take the tests only in subjects you excel in or want to pursue in college. Whatever gives college admission a better glimpse into your brilliant mind!

How are the tests scored?

Unlike the regular SAT, the Subject Tests are based on a 200–800 scale. Every question is worth one point, and there is a quarter-point deduction for every incorrect answer, so don’t rely on guessing.

When should I take the Subject Tests?

The latest you should take the Subject Tests is the end of junior year. You cannot take them over the summer break, and it’s best to take the tests once you have finished the course and the material is still fresh in your mind.

Deep breaths. You’ve got this!

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About Cathleen Freedman

Cathleen attends the High School of Performing and Visual Arts where she is preparing in the best possible way for college. She would also have to say writing in third person is as fun as you think.