Category: SAT

What Are the SAT Subject Tests?

The SAT Subject Tests, also known as the SAT IIs, are specialized one-hour tests meant to measure a student’s preparedness for college coursework in particular fields. These tests are scored on the same 200-800 point scale as the other sections of the regular SAT, and can be seen as a kind of supplemental exam that can help you demonstrate your strengths. Think of it this way: what do you wish was part of the regular SAT? Do you wish there was a way to show off your knowledge of Latin, incredibly high reading comprehension, or knowledge of molecular biology? Now you can!

Students typically choose to take two SAT subject tests. The areas in which the test are offered are:

  • English Literature,
  • History (U.S. or World)
  • Language (Chinese, French, Hebrew, German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Spanish or German)
  • Math (Level 1 or Level 2)
  • and Science (Biology-Ecological, Biology-Molecular, Chemistry or Physics)

Who Should Take the SAT Subject Tests

If you’re a junior intending to apply to competitive colleges next year, now’s the time to prepare for and take your SAT Subject Tests. SAT IIs are required by a few dozen elite U.S. universities (for example, the Ivy League schools), encouraged by many more, and accepted by virtually all. If you are planning on applying to highly competitive schools, plan on taking SAT Subject Tests. (For a complete list of schools who require these exams, and more information on which exams in particular, click here.) Bear in mind that universities and colleges that “recommend” or “strongly recommend” SAT Subject Tests will probably frown on an application that doesn’t include SAT II scores, so pay close attention to the desires of the admissions office!

What Subject Tests Should I Take?

The most important thing is to play to your strengths, and don’t take an SAT II exam you think you will do poorly in. Most schools expect two SAT Subject Test scores, though some recommend as many as three. If you’re interested in pursuing a degree in a STEM field, you will need to take the Math II exam, and another of your choice.

You’re aiming for a score of at least 650 on your subject tests; bear in mind that submitting a low score can actually hurt your application, so choose wisely, but remember that the test is leniently curved. Mostly importantly, don’t just guess at your strengths–take a few diagnostic tests before the exams to determine what areas you should test in, and what aspects of the exam you should work on.

What’s the Difference Between Math I and Math II?

Math is one of the most commonly taken and recommended SAT Subject Tests because it’s one of the most fundamental skills required for STEM majors. Math I tests basic high school math including algebra and geometry; Math II covers everything addressed in the Math I test, and also includes trigonometry, precalculus, and some calculus. If you’re planning on applying to a STEM major at a competitive college, you will need to take the Math II exam. If you’re unsure which test to take or what your education has really prepared you for, again, we emphasize the importance of taking a diagnostic test beforehand to determine your course of study.

When to Take SAT Subject Tests

High school juniors should take their SAT II exams in May and June before their senior year. This year, the tests are offered on May 7 and June 4, 2016, but be aware that the registration dates are earlier. To view all dates, click here. All foreign language tests with the exceptions of French and Spanish are only offered on the June 4 date.

High school seniors can also take SAT II exams in the fall, though we don’t recommend this. Seniors typically are occupied with college applications, and may have experienced knowledge atrophy over the summer. The fall SAT IIs are, however, a good occasion to re-take the exams you did poorly on the previous spring to hopefully improve your score.

SAT IIs or AP Exams?

The AP exams are administered by the College Board, the same organization that produces the SAT and the SAT Subject test, and as a result the AP exams and SAT IIs are similar tests that are similarly weighted by colleges.

AP exams are taken more often than SAT IIs, partly because a high score on an AP exam can often qualify a student for college credit or allow them to skip introductory courses. Furthermore, most students taking the AP exams have been enrolled in Advanced Placement programs in their high schools, which have the AP exam built into the curriculum. There are more academic subjects covered in the AP exams than in the SAT Subject Tests, though much crossover in content, and the AP exam is scored on a scale of 1-5, meaning that the results are less nuanced than the SAT Subject Test. It’s never a bad idea to take the SAT Subject test most closely related to your AP course as a way of demonstrating unique talent and interest in an area. For example, a score of 5 on your U.S. Government AP exam, coupled with a score of 700 on the U.S. History SAT Subject Test, would position a student extremely well for consideration at a top Political Science department.

With a little help from Sandweiss Test Prep and a lot of studying on your part, we’re confident you’ll be fully prepared for these intensive exams and will have the tools you need to ace them this spring. For more information about private tutoring for any of the SAT Subject Tests, please give Sandweiss Test Prep a call today at 206-417-5050 or contact us here.

A Seattle Times article debuted this week that highlights the changes and challenges presented by the new SAT.

The article focuses on how the new SAT test requires students to rely more heavily than ever on language abilities to succeed. Though the reading portion is roughly the same length as the previous SAT–3,250 words on the new, 3,300 on the old–and about 30 percent of the math problems are still word problems, analysts say that the way words are used on the new test can be confusing for many students.

For example, the article highlights a question on the new SAT that begins, “An anthropologist studies a woman’s femur that was uncovered in Madagascar.” It’s highly probable that many students won’t know the meaning of the words anthropologist, femur, or Madagascar, and yet those words actually have nothing to do with the question, which asks students to find the length of the bone using an algebraic equation.

If you’re one of the many students who is nervous about the new SAT, Sandweiss Test Prep can help! We help students determine whether they should take the SAT or if they’d be better off taking the ACT.  We provide diagnostic testing that enables us to recommend one test or the other, as well as a course or tutoring program for either the SAT or ACT.

Due to the SAT changing this year, however, there are several obstacles in terms of analyzing and comparing the results against the ACT for current juniors.  The new SAT isn’t being administered for the first time until March and those results won’t be available until mid-late May.  Until the new SAT has been administered a few times to weed out the outliers in the data pool, and to provide concrete scoring data, it’s not feasible to make a direct comparison between the SAT and the ACT.  We can of course make an educated guess regarding which test may be better for you, but the only data that has even been made available regarding the new SAT are the PSAT percentiles from earlier this year, and that test is scored on a slightly different scale than the new SAT.  Also, there are many reports indicating that the PSAT percentile scores have been inflated and are unreliable.  Due to these factors, we are generally recommending that current juniors stick with the ACT.  The ACT is accepted everywhere the SAT is accepted and without preference.

Call us today to learn more about how you can help your student excel in college standardized testing!

The SAT has recently undergone a major shift in its design. The SAT has returned to the 1600-point system, made the essay “optional,” and restyled the exam questions to emphasize interpreting evidence and using skills in context. The College Board hopes that these changes will reduce some of the socio-economic bias inherent in standardized testing.

How has the the test changed? In general, it’s been redesigned to more closely resemble the ACT, which has recently surpassed the SAT in popularity for the first time in history. But the easiest way to understand what has changed is to look at what has been added and what’s been removed from the test.

What’s Gone?

  • There are no longer 5 options for multiple choice questions. The reduction to only four options will simplify the test and eliminate students’ potential for confusion.
  • There are no longer quarter-point penalties for incorrect answers, which encourages students to take their best educated guess at questions for which they are not quite certain of the answers.

What’s New?

  • There will be more graphs and charts and a greater emphasis on visual understanding, both for the reading section and the math section.
  • There will be more “great texts,” especially foundational American documents. Though familiarity with these documents isn’t necessary for the comprehension questions, it may reward a strong foundation in those texts.

Deep Focus on Evidence in Language

Above all, the new SAT focuses more strongly on evidence than ever before, and on a student’s ability to gather and interpret that evidence and apply contextual learning.

For the previous essay section of the SAT, students were asked to write an essay expressing an opinion. Now, students are instead asked to analyze a passage from a text in terms of what evidence the author is offering to support a point. This is much more akin to what college students will actually be writing for college courses, and de-emphasizes personal opinion or personal experience.

The vocabulary section also focuses on evidence-based understanding of the words. The vocabulary words in general will be less obscure than before, and replaced with “high utility” words that are used often and in different contexts.


Don’t worry—pretty much everyone is! The new SAT has students, teachers, and admissions officers everywhere buzzing with speculation as to whether the new test is better, easier, harder, fairer, etc. If you’re one of the many who feels confused by these changes, we can help you figure out whether to prepare for the SAT or the ACT, and how to best prepare for either exam. Contact Sandweiss Test Prep today to get started!

Students in the class of 2017 have more options than they can easily navigate. Should they take the old SAT, the new SAT, or the ACT?

There are arguments to be made for each test, and it mostly boils down to the strengths and needs of the individual. Here are a few of the key reasons you might choose each:

Why take the Old/Current SAT?  The SAT has been the standard college exam for many decades, and there is a wealth of preparation materials and strategies out there for how to take and ace this test. If you’re not easily confused by burdened sentence structure and obscure vocabulary, the last administration of this exam – January 23rd – might work in your favor.

Why wait to take the New SAT?  This test will surely have kinks to work out, and there is not a lot of practice material available for students.  There are also many new types of questions that need to be validated over several administrations of the exam.  The norms for scoring have yet to be developed and colleges may find it challenging to interpret the results with the limited sample of students who have taken the exam by next Spring.  In the long run, we are hopeful that this will be a better SAT than the current exam, but we are recommending the ACT for most of the Juniors who work with us this year.

Why take the ACT this year? The ACT has generally been considered to be a very reliable indicator of college readiness and a more straightforward test than the SAT.  It has been accepted equally with the SAT by colleges for many years now.  With the changing SAT, it will be more readily understood by admissions personnel who will already know how it’s scoring relates to their admissions goals and enrollment management needs.

As we’ve mentioned in past blogs, we don’t recommend that students take the new SAT on the first three or so test dates so as to ensure that there is adequate practice material available and they aren’t just the “guinea pigs” of the College Board test designers. For the first few rounds, this new SAT should still be considered a work in progress, but we do believe the result is going to be a much better test, and one that will offer a better potential alternative to the ACT than the current SAT has been.

SAT Subject Tests—also known as the SAT IIs—shouldn’t be a source of anxiety for college-bound high school students. The Subject Tests are actually an opportunity to show off what you know, highlight your skills and strengths, and potentially compensate for any gaps or low marks on your transcript. At Sandweiss Test Prep, we want to encourage students to think of their SAT Subject Tests as an opportunity, and not an obstacle.

What are They?

The SAT Subject Tests are one-hour multiple-choice exams in the subject areas of Literature, U.S. History, World History, Math, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and Foreign Language. These tests are supplemental to the regular SAT and are meant to demonstrate your strength in a particular area. Selective schools—especially selective private schools—often either require, recommend, or consider Subject Tests, usually requesting two tests, at least one of which would be in your intended field of study. For students hoping to major in math or any of the sciences, many schools will require the results of a relevant math or science SAT Subject Test.

Who Needs Them?

You can find a list of the schools that require, recommend, or consider SAT Subject Tests online. Note that some schools will also accept the ACT in lieu of the SAT and two Subject Tests

If you are considering applying to one of the schools on this list, be aware that schools that “recommend” Subject Tests usually expect and desire them, and one should definitely submit SAT Subject Tests if you want your application to be competitive. You can also submit Subject Tests to schools that “consider” them if you’d like to show off a particular strength, or if your grades were low for some reason in a subject you actually understand quite well you can take a Subject Test to demonstrate your comprehension. With the possible exception of a required Math Subject Test for competitive STEM programs, a Subject Test can only help your application and will rarely hurt it.

When Should I Take Them?

SAT Subject Tests should be taken by high school juniors in May or June, or by seniors in October or November.  Since the tests align with AP coursework and AP tests, we recommend taking the Subject Tests after the matching AP test has been, or is almost, completed.  You can take up to three Subject Tests on the same date, although we have found that it is more effective to do no more than two at a time to keep your mind as fresh and limber as possible.

How Can I Prepare?

If you’re applying to schools that recommend or require Subject Tests, or if you’d like to strengthen your application by demonstrating a good knowledge in an area of study, we recommend coming in and taking our diagnostic tests to help determine which Subject Tests may work best with your application, and whether or not supplemental tutoring may be warranted.  For example, we will take a look at 2-4 sets of diagnostic scores and recommend which tests may be most worthwhile for achieving the highest percentile score, as well as how much, if any, tutoring may be beneficial.

For more information about SAT Subject tests, ACT or SAT preparation or any other college application related question, call or email Sandweiss Test Prep!

By now, many people are aware that the SAT is changing.  Starting next March 2016, the redesigned SAT will replace the current SAT for many students in the class of 2017 and beyond.  It will return to its roots of having two main sections:  Math and Verbal, each scored on a 200-800 point scale with the total scoring range between 400-1600.  The essay will be optional and it will be scored separately from the two main sections, similar to the way the ACT essay is scored.  The new SAT will also have another scoring difference from its current version:  There will no longer be a penalty for wrong answers, and there will only be 4 possible answer choices instead of the 5 there are now.

There are several other similarities between the new SAT and the ACT.  The SAT will have science questions, although there won’t be a separate Science section; instead the science questions will be spread throughout the Math and Verbal sections of the new SAT.  There will also be social studies questions throughout the test, including a Reading passage from a U.S. “founding document.”  The ACT has also always had Trigonometry questions in the Math Section, and the new SAT will have them now as well.

So, if students from the Class of 2017 are preparing for these standardized tests early in their junior year, which test should they take?  First of all, we at Sandweiss Test Prep recommend that students take a diagnostic test for the current SAT and the ACT.  We will compare the two sets of scores, and if the SAT is the “better” test, we’ll recommend that the student take the SAT once in the fall and again in the winter, with the goal of completing the SAT prior to March of 2016.  If the ACT is the better test, we’ll still recommend that juniors take the test for the first time as early in the school year as possible, given each student’s after school activities and other time constraints.  For either test, making sure there is adequate time for any necessary preparation is essential for score improvement.

Finally, we generally recommend against taking the new SAT on the first three or so test dates.  This is to insure that there are adequate practice tests available, as well as other practice material.  Also, the questions on the new test have not necessarily been proven to be a reliable indicator of college preparedness as they are generally designed to be.  Instead, students taking the new SAT in the first three test dates will sort of be the guinea pigs of the College Board’s test designers.   Since the new PSAT will be in the new, redesigned format, students will get a chance to sample the new SAT.  If they absolutely need to wait, and must take the SAT or ACT in the Spring of their Junior year, we can use that new PSAT from the fall to compare with the ACT.

The SAT Subject Tests are coming up in May and June. These multiple-choice exams are offered in US History, World History, Literature, Math, Chemistry, Biology, Physics, and about a dozen foreign languages. Juniors planning to apply to highly selective schools should be gearing up to take at least two of the subject tests before they submit their college applications. With a little help from Sandweiss Test Prep and a lot of studying on your part, we’re confident you’ll be fully prepared for these intensive exams and will have the tools you need to ace them later this spring.

While not every student will find benefit from taking the SAT Subject Tests, they’re an important consideration for the more selective institutions. The good news is that unless you’re intending to major in a STEM field, it doesn’t really matter which of the subject tests you take. (Those intending to pursue a major in science, computers, engineering, or math should take the Math 2 exam, as well as one of the science subjects). Students applying to universities such as Stanford, MIT, Claremont, or Georgetown should consider taking at least two SAT Subject Tests and maybe even three. You may take up to three individual tests on a single testing date, so prepare accordingly if that’s your plan.

The scoring on the SAT Subject Tests is on the same scale as the regular SAT, with scores ranging between 200-800. Each test is one hour in length and students should aim for scores of at least 650 or higher. To your benefit, many of the tests are strongly curved, so answering about two-thirds of the questions correctly often translates into a pretty strong score.

Two test dates are scheduled for the remainder of this school year: May 2nd and June 6th. The last opportunities for seniors to take the SAT Subject Tests before college application deadlines are in October or November of 2015.

Sandweiss Test Prep offers guided, private tutoring for all 20 SAT Subject Tests. With free diagnostic exams for each test subject, we can help you assess your current knowledge level and suggest areas for improvement.

For more information about private tutoring for any of the SAT Subject Tests, please give Sandweiss Test Prep a call today at 206-417-5050 or contact us here.

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Chances are that if you’re a junior in high school or are the parent of one, you’re probably starting to seriously consider college options. A great way to be more appealing to college admissions departments is to boost those SAT/ACT scores.

Why take the tests so early? Giving yourself time to get results back and allow for the possibility to retake them again in the spring will only help with your peace of mind and free you up to focus on other activities.

Students that aren’t prepared for either test shouldn’t feel rushed into taking one. Allowing time to prepare and seek any instructional guidance in advance is better than taking a test multiple times hoping that your score will improve.

The next SAT exam dates are December 6th and January 24th. The ACT tests are on December 13th and February 7th. If you’re going to be taking next available test and you haven’t been studying or you don’t feel prepared, consider enrolling in one of our test prep courses. Courses are still available for the ACT sections and we’re currently offering a condensed SAT course starting Saturday, November 1st for the December 6th exam for $499.

All course prices include a textbook and other study materials as well as access to our weekly Study Hall – perfect for a flexible homework help session! And if you’re unsure which test you should take, we offer diagnostic tests for both the SAT and the ACT. From there, you can prepare for the test that’s best for you.

Totally lost? Here’s a video that explains the differences between the SAT and the ACT tests.

Contact Sandweiss today to discuss your test preparation options and get a head start on the upcoming SAT or ACT tests. Don’t put this off until the last available date – these tests are important and could help determine a student’s future.