Everyone with college admissions on their minds knows about the SAT and ACT. Unfortunately, far fewer of us think about SAT Subject Tests when planning which tests to take and when. Considering how many colleges require, recommend, or consider Subject Tests in admissions, such an oversight can be costly.
The College Board offers SAT Subject Tests across a variety of subjects: English, two levels of Math, two areas of History, three sciences, and lots of languages. Think carefully about which SAT Subject Tests are right for you. Students sitting for these tests should consider testing in the subjects they excel in and hope to pursue in college. Either Math Level 1 or Level 2 is usually expected, but students on a math or science track should sit for Level 2.
The question for many students, especially those targeting competitive schools is not if they should take SAT Subject Tests, but when. Subject Tests are offered on most but not all of the dates the standard SAT is offered. Students cannot take both the SAT and Subject Tests on the same day, but may take up to three Subject Tests in one sitting.
All important tests deserve preparation, but careful planning can minimize the amount of work a diligent student needs to do to get ready to score well on the SAT Subject Tests. And make no mistake, you must score exceedingly well for these tests to make a difference in your application.
Consequently, you should plan to take SAT Subject Tests when you are already at the peak of preparation in the subjects you are testing in. This typically means May or June testing, since most high school courses end naturally in late spring. Deciding on May or June can be tricky. Optimal timing depends on whether you are taking AP classes.
- If you are planning to take SAT Subject Tests in subjects you are studying for APs, schedule your Subject Tests in May. Since APs are in May, you will be most prepared leading up to those tests.
- If you are planning to take SAT Subject Tests in subjects you are NOT studying for APs, schedule your Subject Tests in June. Since finals are in June, you will be most prepared leading up to those tests.
- If you are planning to take SAT Subject Tests in both AP and non-AP subjects, schedule your Subject Tests in May. Since students tend to take AP classes in history and science, they’ll want to take those Subject Tests when the content knowledge is freshest in their minds.
Taking Subject Tests at the optimal time puts you in position to earn your very best scores. Of course, you should never walk in to tests like these cold. Learn what each test covers in advance. The minimum preparation any serious student should do involves taking practice tests out of The Official Study Guide for ALL SAT Subject Tests, 2nd Edition at least a week or two in advance. Manage your SAT Subject Tests right, and you’ll be one step closer to your dream school!