What Are the SAT Subject Tests?

As if the ACT or SAT were not enough, some colleges also require the SAT Subject Tests. Way back when, these tests were known as the Achievement exams, and if you applied to college in the 1970s or 1980s, you probably took them (you just blocked it out of your consciousness). These one-hour, multiple-choice exams, also created by the College Board, cover material in the following content areas.

Science: Biology, Chemistry, Physics

Math: Level 1 and Level 2

English: Literature

History: United States  and World       History

Languages (Reading Only): Spanish, French, Italian, German, Hebrew, and Latin

Languages (with Reading and Listening): Spanish, French, German, Japanese, Korean, and Chinese

Who Needs to Take These Tests?

If you plan to apply to a highly selective college, like Stanford, Cal-Tech or the Ivy League, then you may need to take at least two SAT Subject tests. Every college decides its own policy requirement for the Subject exams, but every year I compose a list of colleges that currently recommend or require them (but always double-check too!). And there are also several college that will waive this requirement if you take the ACT (a real incentive for taking the ACT!).

Do I Get To Choose Which Test to Take?

Definitely. Remember that many schools do NOT require (or even recommend) these tests. So you will only need to take them if you plan to apply to a highly selective school. And even then, you will get to choose the two or three content areas that you feel you can score highest on. 

Important Tip: Some schools, like UCLA and UC-Berkeley require the students to take the Subject Tests for certain majors, especially sciences, engineering, and math. If you are strong in Math or Sciences, and you are considering majoring in these fields, remember to check to see if the potential major requires these tests.

How Are the SAT Subject Tests Scored?

The scoring for the SAT Subject Tests is similar to the SAT exam, ranging from 200 to 800. So if you got a 620 on the Math portion of the SAT, then you would want to ideally match that score (or even higher) on the Math (or Science) subject tests. Same goes for the English Literature. Ideally, the score should be similar to the SAT Reading or Writing score.

Is There a Guessing Penalty?

Most definitely! Just like the SAT exam (prior to March 2016), these exams will also deduct 1/4 point for every wrong answer (but no deduction for a skipped question). So it is always wise to skip the question rather than random guess. For more information about this issue, read my article: "Guessing Penalty and the SAT".

Math 2 Subject Tests