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SAT Subject Tests: What You Need to Know


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What are Subject Tests?

SAT Subject Tests are hour-long tests that test students’ ability in subjects that they study in school, such as biology, chemistry, foreign languages, and US history. Unlike the SAT or ACT, Subject Tests only test you on specific subjects of your choosing. Each Subject Test is graded on an 800-point scale.

Do I have to take Subject Tests?

Before registering to take Subject Tests, check with your ESM college coach to make sure that the schools to which you are considering applying either require or recommend taking the Subject Tests. The majority of colleges and universities do not require Subject Tests. In fact, many top-tier schools (even Harvard) list the tests as “recommended” or “considered” rather than required. As a general rule, if you plan to apply to a UC or other top-tier schools across the country, you should plan on taking at least two Subject Tests. Even though Subject Tests are not required, scoring well on them can greatly strengthen your overall application and show dedication to certain areas of study.

When should I take them?

Most students take subjects tests in either May or June of their junior year, as these dates align closely with high school finals. Taking subject tests at the same time or shortly after school finals is highly advantageous, as this is the time when students will have maximized their knowledge of the subject matter. Waiting until the fall, on the other hand, allows for the student to forget things over the summer and can create additional stress to an already busy fall semester of senior year.

While it is generally advantageous to wait until your junior and senior years to take the SAT or the ACT, this is not always the case with Subject Tests. If you are taking a class in your sophomore year (such as biology, chemistry, or pre-calculus) and feel that you are excelling in the class, it may be in your best interests to take the corresponding Subject Test at the end of your sophomore year, as the subject matter tested will overlapped with what you have already learned.  If you don’t plan to take an AP class in that subject, the end of your sophomore year may very well be the point where you retain the most information on that subject.

Additional information on SAT Subject Tests can be found here.