Everyone knows about the SAT and ACT and the important role these exams play in gaining admission to highly selective colleges, but all too often, too little attention is paid to the SAT Subject tests. These exams are one-hour, multiple-choice tests that measure knowledge of various academic subjects, including Literature, Math, US and World History, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and several different foreign languages. Scored on the same 200-800 scale as the regular SAT, these subject tests can not only contribute positively to the admissions process, but they can also help students save both time and money once they are admitted to college. At certain schools, high scores on subject tests can be used to bypass introductory level and general education courses and, sometimes, to award college credit, thereby reducing tuition fees.
Most schools that require or “recommend” SAT subject tests want applicants to submit scores for two or three different exams. In most cases, the schools don’t have a preference for which exams you submit, but if you are planning to apply to a math or science-related major, or to an engineering program, you will probably want to submit the Math 2 and one of the science exams. If you plan on majoring in a specific foreign language, you will obviously want to submit the Subject Test for that language. Nearly all Subject Tests are administered in both May and June every year, on the same days that the regular SAT is administered. Students are not allowed to take both the regular SAT and a Subject Test on the same date.
More common than the SAT Subject tests are the Advanced Placement exams. These are administered by the College Board, the same organization that produces the SAT and the Subject Tests. Many students are enrolled in AP classes at their high schools, and these classes are designed to prepare students to take AP exams during the second week of May. AP exams are offered in a wider variety of academic subjects than what is covered by the SAT Subject Tests, but the multiple choice content of the AP exams generally covers the same material as the questions on the Subject Tests. The AP exams are scored on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the top score. Many colleges will allow students who score a 4 or 5 on a particular AP exam to bypass introductory classes in that subject, and in some cases, students can also receive credit toward their degrees.
In both cases, SAT Subject Tests and AP Exams do give admissions officers more information about you that may be pertinent to their evaluation of your academic performance, goals, and interests. For example, if you provide test scores for a US History SAT Subject Test and an AP U.S. Government exam, it reveals to the admissions department what you’re interested in—which in turn indicates what area of their school you may be contributing to. It’s particularly wise to provide these test scores if you’re applying to a specific school or academic program at that institution—like a school of communications, pre-law program, school of business, etc.
Another benefit of providing test scores from specific subjects is to offset an area in which you might not be as strong. For example, if your SAT math score is weak because math is something you genuinely struggle with, it may be worth it to take an SAT Subject Test in an area you excel in and want to pursue in order to show the admissions board that you are committed and strong in a particular academic area.
Sandweiss Test Prep can help you prepare for these exams this spring. We offer both individual and group tutoring for most SAT Subject Test and AP Exam topics. Please contact us today to arrange for diagnostic testing to determine which subject tests you are best suited for, or to obtain more information about our programs.