SAT SUBJECT TESTS
The SAT Subject Tests are one-hour, content-based, multiple-choice exams which are used to showcase your interest and talent in a certain subject area. You can take up to three Subject Tests on the same day. These exams are offered six times a year in the U.S. and five times a year internationally, the same dates as the SAT is offered. Note: you have to choose to take a Subject Test OR the SAT—you cannot take both exams the same day (and would you really want to?).
While the SAT Subject Tests are NOT required by most colleges and only the most selective colleges recommend two or more exams (which means it is best to take them, such as with Georgetown), a great score on these exams is an excellent way to differentiate yourself from the applicant pool, regardless of the college’s exam policy. Here is a list of colleges that require, recommend or consider Subject Tests in their admissions decisions. I strongly recommend that you look on the college’s website directly and/or contact the admissions office for further insight as policies change every year: Harvey Mudd and Caltech just released their most recent changes (talk of the town in the college admissions world).
For students considering majoring in STEM, a combination of Math 2 for an elite program and a Science is recommended. Otherwise, a humanities with one STEM also can reflect your diverse talents. A “fun” Subject Test can also give you an extra edge in setting you apart from what you’ve learned and shown mastery in school.
Since you already should be largely familiar with the content on these exams, I recommend reviewing the practice questions below in order to decide which exam(s) you feel most comfortable with, picking an exam date that works for you, and not studying more than four weeks before the official test date.
Here is a list of topics on the test for each subject as well as sample practice questions from the creators of the exam—our friends, College Board!—so you can start your preparation off on the right foot.
SAT Subject Test Resources
While some students have enjoyed using Barron’s or Princeton Review books for their Subject Test preparation, I recommend that you only stick with questions generated in College Board’s Study Guides. There is only a limited amount of official exam questions that have been released, so review carefully. Your teacher at school should be another helpful resource to review any concepts you are struggling with.
What’s a Good Score on the SAT Subject Test?
If you’re already familiar with scoring on the SAT, you might notice a difference in the score percentiles. For example, only 78% of students score lower than a perfect score on the Math 2 Subject Test (800 points) and 43% score lower than a 700 (which is normally a great score on the SAT Math).
However, don’t be disheartened: a 600+ is acceptable for most schools, and a 700+ is still a great score on any Subject Test. Only colleges that accept <10-15% of applicants are looking for those 760+ scores. Most students who take these exams are top candidates in their field of interest; that is why scores are more competitive than what you are familiar with on the SAT.
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