Written by Chloe Lee, Master Tutor for Enhanced Prep
Part 1: The Why and the What
What are SAT Subject Tests?
The SAT and ACT aren’t the only standardized tests available to high school students. It’s also possible to choose from 20 different SAT subject tests in math, various sciences, foreign languages, humanities, and history.
Each SAT subject test is one hour long; the number of questions on each test ranges from 50 to 100, depending on the subject matter, and each is scored out of a maximum score of 800.
You can find out more about the different SAT subject tests available and what each covers on the College Board’s website.
These tests can be taken on the days when SAT reasoning tests are offered, except for the March test dates. If testing in March, students need to choose between taking their SAT Subject tests or the SAT Reasoning test.
For students who are taking the SAT, instead of the ACT, you must strategically plan out your dates to make sure you are utilizing the SAT dates carefully and maximizing the time you have to prep!
Why Should I Take SAT Subject Tests?
Some schools and programs require or “recommend” that applicants take 2-3 SAT subject tests and submit their scores during the application process.
The Honors Program in Medical Education at the Northwestern university in Evanston, Illinois, for example, asks students to submit SAT Math Level 2 and Chemistry subject test scores.
This competitive direct-admit medical school program lists the average scores as 777 for chemistry and 790 for Math Level 2. Given 800 is the perfect score, this is a competitive score (more on understanding the scores of SAT subject tests later!).
A handful of general undergraduate admissions, like Harvey Mudd, require all applicants to submit the SAT Math 2 test and one additional SAT Subject test of the student’s choice.
While there are definitely many colleges and universities that don’t require students to take SAT subject tests, it can still be a good idea!
Strong SAT subject test scores can strengthen and highlight your academic interests and passions. For example, if you are interested in pursuing engineering, competitive scores in Math Level 2 and Physics (or Chemistry) might add a competitive edge to your application. If you did exceptionally well in your U.S. History course this year, it’s likely a good idea to take the SAT subject test in History to demonstrate your interest for this subject.
SAT subject test scores can also bolster those AP exam scores, especially if you take subject tests in similar areas.
Some schools might state that they “strongly recommend” students take subject tests. In this case, it’s wise to take 2-3 subject tests and submit these scores.
It’s important to note that some home-schooled students may be held to different standards. Please check with undergraduate admissions policies for individual schools to understand what these standards are.