What are the SAT Subject Tests?

  • SAT Subject Tests (formerly known as SAT II: Subject Tests) are subject-specific standardized tests that are required by many colleges.
  • Up until this year, the U.C. schools required two subject tests (in different subjects) for admissions. Although this is no longer a requirement for admission, most UCs (except Davis) will consider excellent SAT Subject Test scores as part of your admissions profile. The California State schools do not require SAT Subject Tests for admission.
  • Many private schools still require these tests for admissions. Some Ivy League schools require three SAT Subject Tests while other schools may not require any. All schools post admissions requirements on their websites.
  • There are tests for a variety of subjects including math, biology, chemistry, physics, foreign languages, history, and English.

When should students take the tests?

  • June is the best time to take the SAT Subject Tests if you are just finishing a relevant course (e.g. A.P. U.S. History students can take the U.S. History test).
  • You should look for opportunities to take SAT Subject Tests at the end of your Sophomore and/or Junior years.
  • You can take SAT Subject Tests as late as fall of your senior year and still have the results included in your college applications.

How do I choose SAT Subject Test subjects?

It is always important to research the colleges that interest you when selecting subjects. Each school has its own policy including the specific subjects that they accept and the number of tests required (if any). Here are a few guidelines:

  • It is important to take the tests in your strongest subjects, preferably an AP or Honors course. The scores are curved and many students taking the tests will have completed an AP or Honors course in the particular subject.
  • The College Board puts out the Official Study Guide for the SAT Subject Tests book. This is a must purchase for anyone considering these tests because the practice tests will help you identify your best subjects.

What if I’m not an AP or Honors student?

Here’s a brief story to illustrate this situation: Johnny Junior didn’t think about the SAT Subject Tests until late April of his junior year. Johnny is not in any AP or Honors classes and hates math. Fortunately, Johnny is strong in English so he is going to take the SAT Literature test in June (after some preparation). Johnny does not have an obvious 2nd subject today but he absolutely loved chemistry as a sophomore, and he aced the class. Ideally, Johnny should have taken this test at the end of his Sophomore year or at the beginning of his junior year. Now Johnny has to do a ton of chemistry prep over the summer so he can take the SAT Chemistry test in October.

Here are a few SAT Subject Test alternatives for you to consider:

  • Math IIC — Appropriate for “A” students who are beyond the Honors Alg 2/Trig level (in Lamorinda) or have completed Honors PreCalc/Trig (in the San Ramon Valley school district).
  • Literature — Avid readers with excellent literary and reading comprehension skills. This test is very difficult.
  • Physics or Biology — Students who earned strong “A’s” in the regular classes and will prep extensively for a fall test over the summer. Again, this is important to consider if you’re not on the Honors or AP track.
  • U.S. History — Students who just finished this class and will prep over the summer for a fall test. This is one of the best alternatives, especially if you did well in “regular” U.S. History.

Which schools require the SAT Subject Tests for Admission?

  • Many schools require the SAT Subject Tests and admission policies change from time to time. Almost every school will provide you with this information on their website. It is important to obtain current information because many schools changed their policies after the SAT test was expanded to include the writing and grammar section.
  • Again, the University of California no longer requires SAT Subject Tests for admission. Still, high SAT Subject Test scores will bolster your admission profile at most U.C. schools (all but U.C. Davis when we last checked).
  • California State schools do not require the SAT Subject Tests.

We offer Private Tutoring for the SAT Subject Tests and this year we’re introducing SAT Subject Tests Exam Cram. Feel free to contact us with any additional questions.