Everything you ever wanted to know about SAT Subject Tests

Here’s everything you’ll ever need to know about SAT Subject Tests:

SAT Subject Tests provide an opportunity for students to demonstrate their knowledge of a specific subject and they help colleges understand different strengths a student might possess. The tests are used in the admissions process by some colleges and universities, in which case they would be required or recommended. Additionally, many colleges use them for placement purposes, i.e., to determine if a student has mastered the basic material and can move into a more advanced class.

There are 20 SAT Subject Tests in five general subject areas: English, history, languages, mathematics and science:

  • Math (Level 1 or Level 2)
  • English Literature
  • History (U.S. or World)
  • Language (Chinese, French, Hebrew, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin or Spanish) These tests can be written only or written with listening.
  • Science (Biology Ecological, Biology Molecular, Chemistry or Physics)

The one-hour tests are all multiple choice and scored on a 200-800 scale. The tests are given on the same day as the SAT and in the same test centers, but not every test is available on every test date and no tests are given during the summer. Students are permitted to take one, two or three tests on any test date. Students are also allowed to add or subtract tests on the test day. Make sure you are aware of specific requirements such as the Language with Listening tests are only offered in November and students must provide their own CD players.

Some of the reasons students take SAT Subject Tests:

  • The most basic reason students take the tests is because certain colleges require or recommend the tests and a student’s application would be considered incomplete without the test scores. You should check directly with each college that is on your college list and you can also check on the CollegeBoard website (collegeboard.org)
  • Strong scores on the SAT Subject Tests can be a way for a student to set themselves apart in the college admissions process by demonstrating a serious interest in an academic area.
  • Some colleges offer college credit or allow students to fulfill distribution requirements for students with scores above a certain benchmark. Colleges publish their specific score requirements on their websites.

When is the best time to take the SAT Subject Tests?

The ideal time to take an SAT Subject Test is directly after finishing the course that is relevant to the exam. Students can still register for the June SAT Subject Tests, the deadline is May 5.


What is the difference between SAT Subject Tests and Advanced Placement Tests?

SAT Subject Tests are designed as high school level tests and as such they reflect the high school curriculum. Advanced Placement (AP) courses and the AP exams are assessing a student’s college-level knowledge, skills and abilities that were covered in their AP course, which is considered a college-level course.


Bierer is an independent college adviser based in Charlotte. Send questions to: lee@collegeadmissionsstrategies.com; www.collegeadmissionsstrategies.com