During a recent talk with parents of 11th graders, a question was asked about the SAT Subject Test. The parent asked verbatim: What is a subject test? That question reminded me to not take for granted that every parent is familiar with all the varied tests for college admissions.

What is the SAT Subject Test?
The Subject Tests, also called the SAT 2, covers specific subject content knowledge. The SAT 1, which you may already know as the SAT, is s test of verbal and quantitative skills. The SAT 1 and 2 are products of College Board, which also writes the Advanced Placement curriculum and tests. Therefore the subject areas that are tested for SAT 2 are similar to the AP subjects. For example, if your teen is taking AP US History, then they may consider taking the SAT Subject Test in American History as a way to demonstrate their knowledge in this subject area.

The key difference in an AP test and a Subject test, however, is that the Subject Tests are used in college admissions. The AP tests are most often used for college course placement. Again, if your teen is taking AP US History, they will take the AP US History test in May of that school year. If they score a 4 or 5 on the test, they can report that score to the college where they enroll and the History department may allow your student to take a more advanced History class instead of History 101 or they may grant your student college credits for demonstrating strong content knowledge in that subject.

The Subject test on the other hand can be submitted as part of the college application. Some colleges may recommend or require that students take a subject test to show that they are ready for college-level work. The score range for the subject test is the same as the SAT 1 which is 200 to 800.

Who should take the SAT Subject Test?
My students who take the SAT Subject Test are generally…

  • Students have taken an AP course
  • Students interested in majoring in STEM during college
  • Students interested in business major
  • Students who want to present a more competitive college application

When to take the SAT Subject Test?
The best times to take any SAT Subject Test depends on your student’s course schedule.

  1. If taking an AP course, I recommend taking the corresponding SAT Subject Test in May or June
  2. If enrolled in Pre-Calculus, I highly recommend taking the Math II SAT Subject Test soon after completing the course.

With all this said, I’m not a fan of over-testing. Students should consider developing a testing plan prior to the start of junior year, so that they can adequately plan for testing and preparation.

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