Should I Take SAT Subject Tests?

gray clock icon
3 min read

More than 2,000 colleges and universities around the country accept SAT scores. As you begin your search for the perfect university or college, it is imperative to review all of the admission requirements for schools you are interested in attending. You may find that many schools reference additional tests, such as the SAT Subject Tests. (As many as 160 institutions require or recommend submitting an SAT Subject Test score for admission.)

Should you take an SAT Subject Test? Well, that depends on many factors. Here is an overview on the SAT Subject Tests to help you decide whether or not they are truly necessary for your goals.

What are SAT Subject Tests?

SAT Subject Tests are content-based tests that allow you to showcase your skills in a specific subject area. These tests are designed to help you paint yourself as a better candidate for admission. There are 20 SAT Subject Tests covering a variety of subjects, including history, math, science, English, and foreign languages.

Here are a few basics you should know about the SAT Subject Tests:

  • The hour-long tests are entirely multiple-choice.
  • You can take up to three SAT Subject Tests in one sitting.
  • However, students cannot take both the SAT and SAT Subject Tests during the same testing administration.
  • Each test costs $18 (unless you’re taking a foreign language with listening test). However, you will also pay a $26 fee per testing session, so it is cheaper to take more than one test in one session.

These are the only national admission tests where you get to decide which test to take based on your own personal interests or aspirations.

Should I take an SAT Subject Test?

The main benefit of taking SAT Subject Tests is that you can differentiate yourself in the college admissions process. SAT Subject Tests allow you to showcase your depth and breadth of knowledge in a specific area of interest. For example, if you excel in History and English, consider taking the SAT Subject Test in Literature or the SAT Subject Test in U.S. History. However, don’t take an SAT Subject Test just for the sake of doing it—each requires as much preparation and focus as any other exam. In addition, an SAT Subject Test may be required to enroll in a specific program or apply to a college, depending on your school. Check with the admissions office at your prospective college to get more information on application requirements.

Colleges may also use SAT Subject Test scores for purposes beyond admission. For example, a high score on an SAT Subject Test may qualify a student to skip an introductory course or satisfy basic requirements for a particular major.

It is also important to keep in mind that unlike AP courses, which are designed to mimic an introductory college-level course, SAT Subject Tests are based on material a student would learn in a high school classroom. In this way, an SAT Subject Test may be a good alternative for students who would otherwise struggle in an AP course.

How do I prepare for SAT Subject Tests?

Preparing for SAT Subject Tests is not unlike preparing for any other high school final. Acclimate to the test’s level of difficulty by taking online SAT Subject Test practice tests, reviewing concepts that you can expect on the exam, and creating flashcards. The best time to take SAT Subject Tests is at the end of a course, when you’ve been introduced to all of the concepts and the material is still fresh in your head.

In addition, be sure to tailor your test prep to the type of SAT Subject Test you’ll be taking. For example, you may need a different test-day strategy for taking the SAT Subject Test in Literature than you would when taking the Spanish with Listening SAT Subject Test.

At the end of the day, deciding whether or not to take the SAT Subject Tests rests on you (unless your desired college or university requires them for admission). Remember to think of these tests as a way to make you a better applicant for your potential school. If you do decide to take the tests, register online and begin preparing for them as soon as you can.