Do I Need to Take an SAT Subject Test?
Students nearing the end of their high school careers have the daunting task of figuring out which tests, out of many, they should be taking. There’s the ACT and SAT, which are taken by the majority of students, but students determined to apply to some of the nation’s most elite schools must go the extra mile to set themselves apart from their competition. Enter the SAT Subject Tests. SAT Subject Tests are required by only two schools, but they are strongly recommended, recommended, and considered by 70 schools – most of which are extremely competitive and have very low admission rates. A comprehensive list of these schools and their policy on SAT Subject Tests is found here. Most of these schools require at least two SAT Subject Tests (generally from specific categories), while Georgetown “strongly recommends” three. Please note that some of these schools offer programs which don’t require or consider SAT Subject Tests for admission (such as many Fine Arts programs). In a similar vein, please note that many colleges may require Subject Tests to be considered for specific majors (such as engineering or nursing), while most other students applying to that university are not required to take any SAT Subject Tests.
Some schools will require you to submit SAT Subject Tests with your SAT or ACT scores, but many of these schools will only require you to do so if you apply with an SAT score. Some of them will also recommend or strongly recommend that you submit SAT Subject Tests with an ACT score. While it may seem appealing to just send an ACT score (as it’s easier to achieve a high score on the ACT than on many SAT Subject Tests), keep in mind that students who submit an SAT score along with good SAT Subject Test results may be considered better candidates than candidates who just submit an ACT score, all other things held constant, even to schools that only “consider” the subject tests. We encourage you to narrow your choices down as soon as you can, so you can adequately plan to take a Subject Test if necessary.
Common Schools Our Students Apply to that Recommend, Require, or Consider the SAT Subject Tests:
- MIT – Required
- Brown – Recommended
- Carnegie Mellon – Recommended
- Duke – Recommended Strongly (or ACT)
- Georgetown University – Recommended Strongly
- Harvard – Recommended
- Princeton – Recommended
- Yale – Recommended
- Claremont McKenna – Considered
- Colorado College – Considered
- Columbia – Considered
- Cornell – Considered
- Northwestern – Considered
- Stanford – Considered
- UC Berkeley – Considered
- UC Davis – Considered
- UC Irvine – Considered
- UC Los Angeles – Considered
- UC Merced – Considered
- UC Riverside – Considered
- UC San Diego – Considered
- UC Santa Barbara – Considered
- UC Santa Cruz – Considered
What Kind of Subject Tests Can I Take?
There are a multitude of different subjects to take, including math (Math I and II), multiple fields in science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics), English, World or U.S. History, and many different languages. While you must register for an SAT Subject Test in advance (they take place on the same day as normal SATs), you can pick which subject you want to take on the day of the test. However, you should definitely already know which test you plan on taking and should have studied for that test before you enter the examination center.
SAT Subject Tests are sometimes confused with AP Tests. It’s important to note that, while there is a lot of overlap between an AP Exam and its corresponding SAT counterpart, they are not the same and do not offer the same benefits! AP Exams demonstrate sufficient knowledge of a specific subject to warrant course credits at certain colleges. SAT Subject Tests do not give a student course credits because the content on the test is not necessarily entirely comprehensive for that subject. Both AP Exams and SAT Subject Tests can be considered by colleges, but no college will require an AP Exam for admission. AP results may be considered, but they definitely won’t act as a make-or-break factor in your application.
When Should I Take an SAT Subject Test?
If you are trying to decide when to take a Subject Test, you should pick a date that coincides with the completion of a course related to that subject. For example, if you take AP Biology as a sophomore, you should definitely take the Biology Subject Test immediately after that school year. You’ll be more likely to achieve a higher score than if you waited until the end of your junior year. We recommend trying to target the May and June test dates for this reason. However, because of this reason, those are the most popular SAT Subject Test dates, so be sure to register for them well in advance! Many teachers in AP and Honors classes are well aware of the subject tests and of the fact that many of their students will be taking a few. These teachers may have review planned at the end of the school-year (around the time of the May and June exams) to assist these students. We highly encourage you to reach out to your teachers to see if they plan on having a review of the material covered on the Subject Test.
How Can Mindfish Help Me?
Regardless of which test date you choose, you should never go into a test without having taken a practice test and reviewed the material sufficiently. Some institutions will require you to report ALL SAT Subject Test scores, so you could hurt yourself by taking a test while completely unprepared. However, it is very rare for a former, poor score to invalidate a latter, good score. At Mindfish, we offer SAT Subject Practice Tests for students to take at home as well as SAT Subject Test tutoring.
One Final Note
SAT Subject Tests have begun to disappear from the admission guidelines for many institutions. According to this article, 44 schools required the SAT Subject Tests in 2006, but only five required it by 2017. Now, in 2020, only two require it: MIT and McGill. Parents of juniors and seniors need not worry about the decreasing relevance of SAT Subject Tests as it is very unlikely for there to be big changes overnight; however, parents of students not graduating until 2023 or beyond should be sure to consider any new information that arises considering the SAT Subject Tests when their students are approaching that time in their academic career.