Know the Pros and Cons Before Taking SAT Subject Tests
Fall is a busy testing season for high school students, and even more so for seniors applying to college. In addition to the ACT or SAT, some students also choose to take SAT Subject Tests as part of their admissions testing. But is it right for you?
What are SAT Subject Tests?
SAT Subject Tests are 1-hour long, multiple-choice exams focused on one subject-area. The College Board administers the tests on the same day as the regular SAT. Students can take up to three subject tests on test-day, and The College Board offers exams in 20 subjects, including math, history, science, foreign language, and more.
Not all subjects are offered on all test-dates, so it’s important to plan ahead and create a testing timeline and plan if you decide to take an SAT Subject Test.
Why Do Some Colleges Request SAT Subject Test Scores?
Scores from SAT Subject Tests are required for admission at some US universities. However, as more and more colleges have become test-optional or test-flexible over the last few years, many colleges are starting to drop or modify their SAT Subject Test requirements. According to NACAC’s annual college admissions report, 23% of colleges place limited importance on SAT Subject Tests, while 63% consider them not important. So if they’re easily expendable, why do some colleges require them in the first place?
For some colleges, SAT Subject Tests are just one more way to evaluate students’ college readiness. For other colleges, it’s just one more piece of the admissions puzzle to provide context for students’ applications. Opinions on SAT Subject Tests vary from school to school, so it’s important to do your research on application requirements when building your balanced college list to determine if SAT Subject Test scores are important for your college application.
Should I Take SAT Subject Tests?
Just like the SAT and ACT, students should only take SAT Subject Tests if it’s a good fit and they’re prepared. If you struggle with standardized testing, submitting average or sub-par subject test scores won’t help your application. Consider your abilities, needs, and goals before taking SAT Subject Tests.
Here’s when you should consider taking SAT Subject Tests:
- It’s required as part of your application. This might seem like a no-brainer, but many students either forget to submit subject test scores as part of their application or just don’t know it’s a requirement for some colleges. If you’re applying to a college that requires, or even recommends, you submit subject test scores as part of your application, do it.
- You want to demonstrate a specialty. In addition to courses and activities, SAT Subject Test scores can be used to demonstrate a specialty, like science, math, history, or other academic area of interest. This can strengthen your application by showing admissions officers you are committed to this academic interest.
- You want to demonstrate an academic strength that might not be apparent in your transcript. Maybe you’re a strong science student, but your high school doesn’t offer many advanced courses in subjects like biology, chemistry, or physics. In addition to self studying for the AP exams or taking courses at a local community college, taking the corresponding SAT Subject Test can be another way to demonstrate your knowledge of that subject and how it relates to your college plans.
How to Prepare for SAT Subject Tests
First, decide whether or not subject testing is a good fit for you. If you have a preliminary list of colleges that require or recommend subject test scores, then you should start putting together a plan as part of your test prep.
Next, decide which tests to take. If you intend to pursue a STEM major, then choose the science or math-related subjects that align best with your intended course of study in college. If you’ve recently taken a chemistry class, consider taking the chemistry subject test, as the information will still be fresh in your memory.
Take a diagnostic of the test to see where you stand and where you need to improve. Then, make a study schedule and timeline, and leave plenty of time to study and prepare before taking the exam.
If you’re struggling with improving your score, seek help from a teacher or tutor. At IvyWise we have a number of tutors who can help you reach your goal score on your SAT Subject Tests.
SAT Subject Tests are just another piece of the college admissions puzzle, and students should carefully consider the benefits and drawbacks to subject tests before deciding to take them as part of their college preparation.